There’s a solid chance if you weren’t familiar or didn’t use QR codes prior to the past few years, you are now. (And if not, you’re in the right place!)
Reducing contact points in public quickly became an important focus and QR codes turned into a go-to for businesses looking for a simple, user-friendly way to share information.
Plot twist — that’s not where the utility of QR codes ends. These neat little tools have tons of uses when it comes to product labels. Read on to learn more about how, when, and why QR codes are super useful in label printing.
HOW DO QR CODES *ACTUALLY* WORK?
Spoiler alert — if you like the idea of QR codes being pure wizardry and don’t want that notion to be dashed, skip to the next section!
QR codes work similarly to barcodes — they might all look the same at first glance, but they’re unique. The blocks and dots that make up a QR code carry information that translates into an action when it’s scanned with a camera app on a smartphone. The most common action is to open a website.
When you create a QR code, you include a destination URL. This is how each QR code goes to a certain website. (More on how to create QR codes further down…)
LET'S TALK DYNAMIC QR CODEDS
A common reservation about using QR codes on product labels is “What happens if the website the QR code directs to changes?” Fair point. You don’t want to print a whole run of labels that end up with a defunct element, right?
Enter, the dynamic QR code. When you create this type of QR code, you’re not locked into one destination URL. You can go back into the QR code generator you used and edit the website the code directs to in a couple of easy clicks. Problem solved!
Further down, we’ll give you a fast, step-by-step tutorial on how to create QR codes for your labels.
WHAT CAN YOU USE QR CODES FOR ON LABELS?
Now that you know more about what happens behind the QR code curtain, let’s talk about different ways you can use them on your product labels to give your marketing an extra edge.
A popular way to incorporate QR codes into your label design is to use them to open a webpage that gives your audience more information on your product or company than you would be able to fit on your label.
This is a perfect solution when you want to provide easy access to extended ingredient info, brand differentiators, or anything else you can dream up.
For example, a nutraceutical company might use QR codes on their labels to encourage their audience to learn more about the benefits of each ingredient in that product. Instead of feeling like you can’t get into all the valuable details and your audience might be missing out, you give them an easy path to learn more.
REDUCING DESIGN CLUTTER
There’s a long-running push and pull between how much information is beneficial to include on labels and how much is too much, resulting in an overly busy design.
Using QR codes helps to solve this problem. While the codes themselves are distinctive-looking, they’re also often a better option than long blocks of text to streamline your label design.
Health and beauty products are a great example of where a clean, crisp logo can be important to the overall branding. By removing blocks of tiny text, your audience still has access to all the key info and your label design stays tight.
We often see QR codes with the standard, black-on-white design. If that doesn’t jive with your branding — don’t worry. You can use colours in your QR code design!
Craft breweries can leverage this in label printing by coming up with innovative, on-brand ways to customize QR codes to print on beer can labels. It’s a fantastic way to showcase your brand without excluding important info.
There is an important factor to keep in mind when you’re planning to incorporate colours into a QR code to print on labels. For the code to scan reliably, there needs to be contrast between the colours you use and the background that the QR code will be on.
When you’re brainstorming ways to boost awareness of more products in your lineup, QR codes are a great option to consider.
By including a QR code that links to a webpage showcasing your other products, you’re putting a simple way to inform your audience right in their hands.
As an owner of a food and beverage company, for example, it can be tricky to decide when to increase your product lineup in a retail location. Printing a QR code that links to your full product line on a flagship product and monitoring the website traffic from that QR code can help you gain valuable insight into how much interest there is around other products you offer.
Giveaways are a popular way to build your marketing reach. Using a QR code to incentivize people to go to your giveaway landing page gives them a quick way to enter on the go.
WHEN NOT TO USE QR CODES ON LABELS
QR codes have many useful applications for your custom labels, however, there are some situations where they’re not the right option.
IF THERE ARE REGULATORY ISSUES
Certain industries, like cannabis, for example, have stringent requirements on what must be included (and where) on each label. Not only that, there are also restrictions on what branding elements can be used.
Make sure you’re in the clear regarding industry regulations before you commit to printing product labels with QR codes to avoid any headaches.
IF YOUR LABEL IS REALLY SMALL
The best practice for using QR codes is to ensure that they’re at least 1 inch wide when printed.
If they’re smaller than that, it becomes more likely that a smartphone camera will have trouble scanning them.
A great alternative to check out if your labels are too small for QR codes (or regulations say you can’t use them) is extended content labels, like peel-backs. These options give you double, or even triple, the design space with the same size label.
HOW TO CREATE A QR CODE FOR YOUR PRODUCT LABEL
If you’re thinking, “Love the idea, but how do I actually get a QR code?” — don’t worry, we have you covered.
The steps below will take you all the way from the word “go” to downloading your QR code file, ready to be incorporated into your label design:
- Choose an online platform that generates QR codes. There are lots of choices — we like this one.
- Sign up for an account (there are free and paid options). Using an account lets you track the codes you’ve created, download them again, and edit dynamic QR codes.
- Make sure you choose the dynamic QR code option at the start if that’s the option you want.
- Follow the prompts to fill in the destination URL, upload your logo, etc.
- Once your info is in, hit the button to create your QR code.
- Next up, download your shiny new code! *For label printing, download a vector file.
- Send that vector file to your designer, who will find the perfect place in your artwork file for a QR code, and you’re off to the races!
LET'S SUM(MIT) UP
Here are the key things to take away when it comes to incorporating QR codes into your label printing:
- Dynamic QR codes are the way to go. (Even if you don’t think you’ll need to change the destination URL, having the option can save the day.)
- Be sure to double-check that you’re not removing any mandatory info from your label.
- You can absolutely use colours in your QR codes. Just make sure there’s contrast with the area behind and directly around the code so that it scans properly.
- Embellishments like foil stamping or high-build UV gloss are amazing ways to level up your labels, however, we don’t advise using them for your QR codes. We love metallic embellishments — in this case, reflections can make it tricky for cameras to scan a QR code.
- Create an account with your chosen QR code generator and bookmark it! (You’ll thank us later.)
Questions about how you can incorporate QR codes into your label printing? That’s what we’re here for. Give us a shout and we’d be happy to talk with you about creating a bespoke labelling solution for your business.