Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

7 Ways to Use QR Codes on Your Logo Items (and 7 Items to Use Them On)

Marketers are going QR-code crazy lately; you can find black-and-white squares on everything from cereal boxes to billboards. So what can you do to use this scanning trend to your advantage? How do you make the most of QR codes for your giveaway items?

You can’t simply slap a code onto any personalized product and expect it to yield results; you have to strategize first. But take a deep breath and relax. This may be new technology, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Here are seven practical ways to use QR codes in your promotional efforts:

  1. Create a code that calls your business when it’s scanned. This eliminates a step or two for customers and makes it easier for them to contact you.
  2. Allow trade show attendees to scan a QR to be automatically entered in a drawing. They’ve just gotten a chance to win the prize, and you’ve gained their contact information. Just don’t abuse it!
  3. Heading out to do some on-the-go marketing or PR? Put a code somewhere on your employees (via clothing or temporary tattoo), accompanied with an intriguing message, and pique people’s interest in your brand.
  4. Directly link your code to your company’s Facebook or Twitter account to encourage interaction. Look into setting it up to auto-tweet about your company or like your brand’s page once it’s scanned. Make sure you test the codes before printing them, though. Social media URLs can be tricky!
  5. Create separate codes for special offers or coupons you’re offering. This allows you to target giveaways to corresponding offers and lets you track the popularity of each.
  6. Send interested customers to a video demonstration that specifically discusses the product or service you’re promoting.
  7. Build your email subscription list by generating a QR that links to your subscription box. Try offering a valuable perk in exchange for the signup, like an additional discount or a free e-book.

Are you on the fence about how or where your code should direct people? Create a QR code that directly links to your website. This is an obvious choice but it’s also the most popular. Just make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices.

Now, on to the giveaway suggestions! First, know that some promotional items work better for QR codes than others. Since a flat surface is required in order for scanners to pick it up, it’s not wise to print on products like pens or perfectly round stress balls. Also, think of big-picture stuff; different products use different printing methods and receive more wear-and-tear than others. Consider products that will hold up to repeated use, because QR codes won’t work properly once the imprint has worn away.

Here are seven types of logo items I’d recommend for printing your codes:

    • Collapsible can koozies: Believe it or not, koozies make excellent vehicles for your QR codes! The fold-up variety works the best for the imprint, and it allows for a generously-sized code for easy scanning.
    • Tote bags: Personalized totes are most commonly associated with grocery stores, but they’re not exclusive to that industry. Print a scannable special offer on your bags and get people to keep coming back.
    • Frisbees: Flying discs are a logical choice because of the flat surface area, but they also provide a fun edge to your giveaways.
    • Keychains: Keytags go everywhere your customers go, so they’ll be able to contact you no matter where they are.
    • Magnets: Whether you prefer the simple, flat magnets or dual-purpose magnets like clips or bottle openers, these are a good choice for your codes.
    • T-shirts: Clothing may be a bit pricier, but it is one of those long-lasting giveaways that’s worth the extra cost. There are tons of creative campaigns to target when people actually wear your QR codes!
  • Stress balls: Keep in mind that not all stress balls are ideal for QR codes; a flat surface is always ideal for scanning purposes. However, since there are so many stress shapes available, your options are still diverse if you choose to go this route. Don’t feel as if you’re limited to only cube-shaped stress relievers, though. Scope out squeezies that have a flat area somewhere on them, such as the star stress ball or the puzzle piece shape. Even an odd shape like the foot stress ball would work, because it has a flat surface at the top.

Of course, there are hundreds of other options when it comes to QR codes and your promotional products. The giveaway item you select heavily relies on the event you’re promoting, the tastes of the recipients, and the overall budget you have to work with. If you’re ever in doubt about a specific item in regard to printing codes, then simply ask us before placing your order. We’re always happy to assist you!

Have you seen any other promo items that worked well for QR codes? Can you think of any more creative ways to use this technology in your giveaways?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. LK

    Great tips Jill!!

    QR Codes are really popping up EVERYWHERE! I opened a bottle of wine last night and there was a QR code on the label of the bottle. I didn’t get a chance to scan it though and it didn’t hint you as to what it was for, so I’m not sure where it took you, but I’m curious because I didn’t expect to see one on a bottle of wine!

    • Jill Tooley

      It’s funny that you should mention wine bottles, because I read an article the other day that talked about the potential of QRs for wineries. Many wineries are putting them on their bottles so that people can easily find their online store if they like what they’ve tasted in a local restaurant. They’re targeting their codes to automatically send people to their site for more info on the winery itself as well as prices, bulk discounts, and shipping details. I thought this was a novel idea because there have been so many times where I’ve jotted down a wine I liked from a restaurant and then lost it in my bottomless pit of a purse! πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, Lauren!

      • amy

        Using QR codes is an excellent idea for wineries or breweries. I never would’ve thought that, but it makes sense. I’ve done the same thing where I’ll write down a wine or a local beer that I want to see which retailers carry them. Low and behold, that piece of paper is never to be seen again.

        The list of promotional products you suggested I think would make any trade show a success. I especially like the idea of using a t-shirt, since the designs are cool looking on their own, why not incorporate it somehow? Great ideas Jill!

        • Jill Tooley

          Thanks, Amy! I’ve only seen a couple of snazzy t-shirts with QRs on them, but I thought it was such a cool concept. Think of all the potential for printing a scannable code on someone’s t-shirt…if it was accompanied by a clever enough slogan I’d bet people would be intrigued. πŸ™‚

  2. Jenna

    It is so true that QR codes are popping up everywhere! Now that I’ve read so much about them I’ve been seeing them everywhere I go — but I still have yet to actually download a scanner app and scan one. I just don’t care enough about any given product to “learn more” or view their contact information immediately.

    I think that QR codes make more sense for smaller businesses whose company name is maybe not as memorable as a giant corporation that could be easily Googled. I also think that using a QR code on a promotional product rather than just on a product label, flyer, or business card is a great idea. For me the QR code either has to offer me something creative that I can’t find on Google in 15 seconds, or some sort of discount. I’m also not too into the concept of just slapping a QR code on everything without a description of what I’ll find when I scan it.

    I guess overall I am not a big fan of QR codes, but maybe I would like them more if they were given to me via free stuff! Great post, Jill! πŸ™‚

    • Jill Tooley

      Unfortunately, my iPhone doesn’t support the QR code scanner app, so I’ll have to wait a bit to have that capability. And I agree – smaller businesses do have an advantage with QR codes for that reason. But bigger companies are doing super creative things with their codes, such as the automatic sign-ups and contest entries. There is a nice range of basic and advanced strategies for QRs, which is why they’re taking off as much as they are.

      I definitely see what you mean about the reluctance to scan unless you know what you’re getting into – it’s the “what’s in it for me?” mentality. If customers aren’t getting anything out of the deal, then they’re not going to bother scanning anything. That’s the question that marketers have to answer before setting up their QR codes!

      Did you read the article about QRs being put on gravestones? The idea was to give interested people the ability to scan once and find out everything they wanted to know about the person who passed. Although that’s a somewhat creepy way to use a code, it’s a good example of what the codes’ purpose is: to put relevant information directly in front of the person so they don’t have to hunt for it. As you mentioned, if the customer could find that same info in 15 seconds, then there may be a better way to set up your strategy! πŸ™‚

    • Amanda

      I see what you’re saying here Jenna. Not that I have a smart phone that can scan QR codes, but if I did, I couldn’t see myself scanning a whole lot. But you give me a coupon for something, and I’d be all over that! =) Great point.

  3. Roxanne Krause

    Great article! QR codes are still fairly new to majority of South Africa, and being in the promotional product and marketing industry myself I have been doing so much research on this. This is a great article as it’s answered so many questions for me. Personally what I do for my company is print the code on the back of my business card, with a small catch phrase “I dare you to like us” – it leads them direct to my facebook fanpage and they can like us from there. We’ve had great results so far with that. Cant wait for more advertisers to cotton on to the idea and understand it better. Everybody thinks im a complete fruit loop when I talk about these “black and white” squares!! haha!

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Roxanne! That’s a great way to drive new traffic to your social sites. πŸ™‚ Ultimately it’s going to be the more creative uses that see the best results! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Ness

    I think businesses should link up the QR codes to something hidden that isn’t so obvious like their website. I think companies should offer secret QR code coupons, free samples, etc. to reward customers for being curious.

    I think it could also be a neat idea for bands to have the QR codes link to free/unreleased/demo songs that their fans can’t normally find on their website! πŸ™‚

    • Jill Tooley

      I think that linking to the general website is a common trend right now because people are still testing the waters. We’ll probably see more creative uses once brands figure out what works the best for their audience. As for the band promo idea you mentioned, if they linked to free/unreleased/demo songs then they should put the QR in a strategic place (kind of like an Easter egg on a DVD). Otherwise it wouldn’t be so secret and it may lose some of its appeal.That’s a really cool idea, though! Definitely some food for thought. It’ll be interesting to see what local bands and smaller businesses come up with!

  5. Amanda

    I love the practical approach you took with this post Jill. Giving people ideas of what kind of promo items you could put your QR codes on, helps them to visualize really using them. It makes QR codes less futuristic and much more realistic and usable. Great job! =)

    • Jill Tooley

      Many thanks, Amanda! Going to the ASI show really helped me test the various QR-code-printed products and pick out the best ones for the job. I never would have considered printing one on a koozie, but it scans perfectly and the imprint is extra durable. There are so many options on our site that I couldn’t mention here…maybe there will be a sequel post someday! πŸ™‚

  6. Jen

    I think QR codes are a great idea, but sadly I don’t have a smart phone…so i don’t use them. To be honest I probably wouldn’t use them anyway. I remember trying to scan one with my fiances phone and it just wouldn’t work. After that we really just didn’t give them another try.

    Great Post Jill! I didn’t realize how great of a promotional tool these QR codes really are. Maybe I will give them another try…if i get a smart phone that is πŸ˜‰

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Jen! I have a feeling that I’m going to go insane with the scanning once I get my new phone. Wine bottles? Sure. Cereal boxes? Why not. Who knows, there could be an unbeatable deal just a scan away…

  7. Joseph Giorgi

    Honestly, I’d be a lot more excited about QR codes if I owned a smartphone like all the cool kids. Until that day comes, I’ll just have to be content reading about all the clever new uses of this technology.

    Nice suggestions, by the way. Here’s my fave:

    “Send interested customers to a video demonstration that specifically discusses the product or service you’re promoting.”

    QLP needs to jump on this. I support it 157% — naturally. πŸ˜‰

  8. Mandy Kilinskis

    Great article, Jill!

    I am QR code happy: I will scan just about anything with a QR code. I’ve run across tons of different brands and deals because of my QR code obsession. And I know that I can’t be the only person overly-enthused with this new technology. Brands should really take advantage of the QR craze and find new people (like myself) through the codes.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Mandy! If I could scan with my phone I’d be the same way. I’m always curious about what is hiding behind those codes. Coupons? Freebies? There’s only one way to find out… πŸ˜‰

  9. Amy Clouse

    Hey Jill,
    I just imprint QR codes on several promotional products. A tote bag as was recommended above and a non-woven poly lunch bag. The QR codes are not working on either product. I followed all the recommended QR code specifications – black or white ink for contrast, larger that 1″ x 1″, and clean crisp artwork. My client is very unhappy and returning them. The only products they did work on were paper (note or memo pad) or flat plastic items (flower highlighter). I would not recommend imprinting the QR code on anything porous.
    In addition, the technology is so new most plants have little to no experience and can’t advise whether the QR codes will work on their items.

    • Jill Tooley

      Hi, Amy, thanks for your comment! I’m sorry to hear about that. I own several koozies and tote bags with different QR codes printed on them, and I’ve never had any issues getting them to scan. πŸ™

      I’ll make a note of this for a follow-up post. Thanks again for letting me know.

  10. Cassie

    “”Allow trade show attendees to scan a QR to be automatically entered in a drawing. They’ve just gotten a chance to win the prize, and you’ve gained their contact information. Just don’t abuse it! ”

    How can you do this? Is there a special software you have to have in order to make a qr code that auto enters attendees of an event into a giveaway?


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