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QR Codes on food packaging – Two basic rules to follow

While walking through the aisles of your local supermarket, you may notice a growing number of QR Codes on food packaging. Additionally, you will notice many people shopping around with mobile phones in their hands. That’s why placing QR Codes on food packaging is an excellent idea. If they are implemented correctly, QR Codes can provide an additional layer of information to the customer and a positive, interactive connection between that customer and your product.

While many company’s marketers created very nice packages, the implementation of the QR Codes was unsuccessful. These marketers should have heeded the expression “the package is the product”. The implementation of the following QR Codes is a disservice to the product they are trying to sell.
Here is another take on QR Codes for marketing purposes focused on QR Codes on food packaging.

Two basic rules for QR Codes on food packaging

A few weeks ago we presented a set of QR Codes best practices. Let’s look at the two most relevant in terms of food packaging.

  1. ALWAYS lead the customer to a mobile optimized landing page. No excuses. Customers will scan your QR Code with a mobile device 100% of the time. Therefore you MUST lead them to a mobile optimized page.
  2. Provide quick and relevant information that can help your customer make the desired decision: to purchase your product. There is no point in sending the customer to your home page. Nobody will start browsing your site on a mobile device while pushing a shopping cart around. Remember the three pillars of relevancy in mobile information: immediacy, convenience and context.

Examples of good QR Codes on food packaging:

  • These are some good examples for QR Codes on food packaging. The QR Codes can link to:
  • Additional food facts.
  • More nutritional values.
  • A short YouTube video.
  • Recipes.
  • Pairings with other foods or products.
  • Comparisons with competitors’ products.
  • Information on other flavors.
  • Fun facts.
  • Discount coupons.
  • Social media sites.
  • Any additional information that can help the customer make a decision that will keep your product in their shopping cart.How Cello Cheese could improve their QR Codes on food packaging usage

Examples of bad QR Codes on food packaging:

With the plethora of positive places a QR Code can link to, there is no reason to lead the customer to:

  • Your company homepage.
  • General information.
  • Information that doesn’t provide any immediate value to the customer.
  • Information that is out of context.
  • ANY type of non-mobile landing page (the ultimate QR code sin).

How Cello Cheese packages could improve their QR Code usage

The picture above shows Cello Parmesan Cheese packaging with a QR Code imprinted on the bottom.
Note the following:

  1. The QR Code invites the customer to check out “exciting recipes”.
  2. If you scan the QR Code, it takes you to http://cellochesse.com/scan . It is clear there was an intention to send the customer to a specific page and that the customer lands on that page after scanning a QR Code i.e. using a mobile device.
  3. The landing page is not mobile optimized, defying the whole purpose of that QR Code. The picture below on the left side shows the actual Cello Cheese home page. Note that nothing can be read.
  4. The landing page forwards the customer to the Cello Cheese home page. In order to find the recipes the customer needs to start zooming-in on the page and browsing a non-mobile site. This creates a poor customer experience.

In contrast with the picture on the left, the image on the right shows our mockup of a possible landing page for this product.

How Cello Cheese landing page can improve

LEFT PIC: Actual Cello landing – RIGHT PIC: our mockup of a possible landing page

How to improve the QR Codes on food packaging for this product:

  1. Sends the customer to different landing pages (one per cheese).
  2. EVERY single page must be mobile optimized.
  3. Create a landing page with a specific purpose. In the mockup we created a landing page for Pairing Suggestions.
  4. Include information that is easily accessible and provides an immediate value to the customer. relevant
  5. If the page is for a recipe, create basic instructions and offer to send the full recipe by email. This has the double benefit of the customer receiving the recipe by email and the brand collecting an email database of customers. Convenient

How National Watermelon Promotion Board could improve their QR Code usage

The picture below shows a large watermelon container with a National Watermelon Promotion Board QR Code inviting people to learn more about their product.

QR Codes on Food Packaging - National Watermelon promotion board

Note the following:

  1. You cannot take the box home. Therefore you need to scan it there or keep the URL in your history.
  2. The print specifically says to “Use your smartphone to scan…” That is why it is a complete mystery that they would send their customers to a page that cannot be read on their mobile devices!

How to improve the QR Codes on food packaging for this product:

  1. Have a mobile landing page.
  2. Provide immediate and useful information. For example give one of the following: the 10 most important facts about watermelons, 10 fun facts about watermelons, a photo gallery of carved watermelons, health and nutritional information, or many others.

The National Watermelon Promotion Board has an incredible amount of information on their website. Their misconception is to think that their customers will consume all of that information in the middle of the supermarket. No customer will browse the full watermelon website in a supermarket. Define one objective or key takeaways and include only those in a MOBILE landing page.

How Sunset Produce could improve their QR Code usage

The picture below belongs to a One Sweet Pepper bag from Sunset Produce. On the back of the bag there are 3 QR Codes with an invitation to check out recipes.
Note the following:Sunset Produce QR codes on food packaging simplified

  1. The material of the bag is quite shiny making QR Code reading very difficult.
  2. The QR Code coding uses a high error correction factor, making the QR Code very complex and hard to read. A shortened version of the URL plus a lower correction factor would have made an easier to read QR Code. The pictures on the right show the original QR Code and a simplified version that leads to the same result.
  3. The landing pages are not mobile optimized making it impossible to read the recipes on the spot. They are also too long to read in the supermarket aisle.

QR codes on food packaging Sunset Produce

How to improve the QR Codes on food packaging for this product:

  1. Have a mobile landing page.
  2. Create basic recipe instructions that are easy to understand and read in one view. Offer the possibility of sending the full recipe by email. This has the double benefit of the customer receiving the recipe by email and collecting an email database of customers.
  3. Simplify the QR Code encoding to make it simpler to read.
  4. Create short-codes and tracking URLs to measure the effectiveness of the campaign.
  5. If possible, print the QR Codes with opaque ink or try to put the QR Codes on a surface that is not too shiny.

QR Codes on food packaging – lessons learned

The American singer-songwriter Dar Williams once said, “sometimes life sends us lessons in ridiculous packaging.” While she wasn’t referring to this type of packaging, we can still heed her advice and learn lessons from these basic mistakes.
If a package includes a QR Code it is important that the customer knows what will happen when it’s scanned. At the end of the day, a customer will pick up your product and scan that QR Code. The only question you need to ask is if the image on the customer’s smartphone conveys your company in the best possible light. Just food for thought (pun intended).

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About Claudio Schapsis

Claudio Schapsis is a market driven technology evangelist integrating cutting-edge technologies into marketing strategies, particularly in areas of digital/mobile marketing, Location Based Marketing, and Location Based Services (LBS). For his pioneering approach to the mobile marketing practice and the integration of new technologies Schapsis has been invited to speak in more than 20 professional conferences and universities such as Columbia University, Pace University, Fordham University, Howe School of Technology Management, and others. Follow Claudio Schapsis on Twitter: @schapsis

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