MNI Blog  /  5 minute read

Why QR Codes Are Making a Comeback

QR codes made a comeback in 2020 and are here to stay in the current 2021 touchless world. Learn about the benefits of QR Codes in magazine advertising.

Timing is everything. 2020 was a moment for QR codes to shine. Without over stating, these codes keep businesses and consumers connected. Like so much that shifted during the pandemic, QR are now the new normal.

Rapid Adoption of QR Codes In A New, Touchless World

In the last three months, 45% of U.S. consumers have used a QR code related to marketing, advertising, or promotional offers.

  • Additionally, Juniper Research reports that by 2022:
    • 3 billion QR code coupons will be redeemed by smartphones
    • 1 billion smartphones will access QR codes. Beaconstac, 2020
  • According to the MRI Starch Ad Readership Study 2021, over 20% of respondents scanned a QR Code in a magazine. This is a 60% increase from 2019.
  • Meredith brands have seen roughly +20% YOY in total QR Code Scans.

GettyImages-1303505949 CroppedThe pandemic has educated the masses about the embedded QR Code reader, the first step in QR Code adoption. In fact, 75% of US respondents say they plan on using QR codes moving forward. New QR Code technology—including customizability of the design and dynamic, real-time editability of its function, as well as overall improvements to internet speed and mass smartphone adoption—is seamless and more powerful. This new technology is drastically increasing the scan rate and improving the perception of QR Codes.

The Benefits of QR Codes in Magazine Advertising

We live in a physical world obsessed and saturated with digital technology. Applying actionable QR Codes allows magazine advertisers to benefit from the inherent qualities of both physical and digital mediums, while combining them to boost overall campaign performance. The future of magazines may be linked to the QR Code, what it can do, and the benefits it provides magazine brands and advertisers.

Here are the top 5 benefits of using QR Codes in magazine advertising:


GettyImages-526116437 Color Correction

1. Tying attribution to magazine ads

In a digitally dominated advertising world where reporting campaign effectiveness is crucial, the question of how to track magazine ads comes up frequently. The methods of the past like using unique URLs, contact numbers, coupons or trackable promo codes work, but data capture and analysis can be a daunting task. Large scale campaign ROI can be analyzed using Brand Study surveys pre- and post-campaign, which historically have proven the effectiveness of in-book magazine advertising. First-party MNI data has shown positive metrics throughout the purchase funnel in these cases.

Publishers like Meredith have even offered Magazine Advertising Guarantees to advertisers willing to meet certain campaign requirements. But not every brand can or wants to invest that heavily in the print component of their campaign to capture print ROI. Thus, by incorporating a QR Code with a strong call to action into their magazine ad, marketers have the ability to capture attribution and engagement data—from unique scans and actions taken, to when and where the magazine reader scanned the ad—and export a report from a visual dashboard environment in real-time.

2. Increased strategic ad campaign applications

MNI has implemented various innovative magazine ad executions using physical high impact units like Post-it Notes, scented/metallic/textural inks, mini-booklets, repositionable stickers, and more. These executions drastically boosted ad engagement, recall and creative appeal, but were not easily trackable. Sometimes, it can be impossible to execute the campaign strategy or creative concept tied to the page physically, such as providing product samples or attaching booklets that are too thick for production lines.

Using a QR Code to drive these promotions allows the brand to blend the benefits of the printed magazine ad, like improved brand perception and trustworthiness, with the flexibility of digital mobile. With dynamic QR Codes, brands can more easily implement strategies and modify them throughout the campaign as needed.

New QR Code technology allows for a more robust experience – in both 2D and 3D environments. MNI’s turnkey solution comes with a 2D, customizable, mobile-optimized menu page allowing for multiple action buttons. Or you can add on a layer of innovation and creativity by launching a 3D Augmented Reality experience and incorporating conversion buttons in a more interactive and engaging way.

Here’s just a sample of actions that can be used within either AR print or QR Code executions:

  • eNewsletter sign up
  • Event registrations or calendars
  • App downloads
  • Product purchase pageFor example, brands can create a cover wrap, which is a small catalog with multiple QR codes, bound to the exterior of a magazine for maximum impact.
  • Donate
  • Launch a virtual tour
  • Click to text, call, email, follow
  • Coupon redemption


3. Seamless integration of Augmented Reality

The race to be the first company to successfully deliver a mass-adopted set of AR enabled smart glasses in underway. There are quotes from Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg outlining just how important smart glasses are to the future of their companies. But this is not just a technology of the future. Augmented Reality is already being used by some of the biggest brands out there, and consumers are on board as well. In the U.S., 93.3 million people, or roughly 30% of the population, will use AR at least once per month in 2021. Forbes coverage of the recent Snap Inc.’s Spectacles release included the following statistics and statement:
  • More than 3 in 4 of all consumers believe AR technology will play a role in how people shop in the next five years. In fact, 57% claim they will increase their use of AR post-pandemic. 
  • More than half of consumers actively search for AR experiences.
  • “Branded AR experiences can positively impact the shopper journey and influence consumers during distinct moments — from inspiration to purchase to post-purchase — providing multiple high-impact touchpoints for brands. These learnings underscore the value of AR in every marketing campaign, no matter the objective.”

If you’ve never seen an AR Portal, check it out here.

4. ‘Superintender-consumer’ data capture

A typical question with QR Codes or Augmented Reality is what type of engagement rate can be expected. The results vary drastically, but there’s a lot of promising data surrounding QR Codes incorporated with print components like catalogs, direct mail, and product labels/packaging. And there is pre-COVID, first-party data from Meredith Corporation showing an engagement rate around .2-.5%, much higher than a standard digital CTR. Some titles at that time saw their editorial content scans increase 150%, and now that virtually all consumers know about their phone’s native QR reader (thanks to the pandemic), QR Code scan rates will continue to grow.

With the right strategy, you can capture the name and contact information for these magazine consumers who have taken the extra step of engaging with your brand and showing great intent. Magazine consumers are a valuable, affluent audience that brands need to connect with – here’s a chance to do it at an even greater level and capture their data to be able to reconnect with them.

5. Greater ad engagement

Impressions are great – they’re the first step in brand awareness. As The Attention Council and Managing Director of Lumen Research Mike Follett recently said, magazines provide a higher quality of attention than other mediums. Ad engagement is where AR can take it to the next level, which is why 7 out of 10 media planners want to use AR to boost advertising and customer engagement. Studies have shown that marketers that employ AR see engagement time increased 10x, boosting ad retention and effectiveness. If you haven’t considered using AR in your marketing, now’s the time to dive in.

The Future of Marketing Campaigns: Touchless QR Codes

It all starts with the QR Code – the link to digital from the printed world. What once was a pixel-looking graphic that people hated, has now found its time and place. If one of the keys to successful marketing campaigns is establishing multiple touchpoints, then QR Codes are worth adding to the mix. Brands are reimagining magazines and their staying power in our lives regardless of age. By being creative with QR Codes and Augmented Reality, the opportunities to bring your brand to life, engage target audiences and forge relationships with consumers are endless.


About the Author

Aron Caruso is Director of Magazine Sales at MNI Targeted Media (MNI). Specializing in strategic, targeted, and innovative applications of magazine advertising, Aron has been instrumental in educating marketing professionals around the country to the power of magazines, as well as bringing MNI’s integrated QR Code and Augmented Reality solutions to market. With a background in marketing and creative design, and a passion towards magazines built over his 15 years in the industry, he brings a unique perspective to the space and wants to make sure brands and advertisers understand how magazines fit in today’s media mix.