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Andrew Kamphuis
April 12, 2011 | Marketing | Andrew Kamphuis

Wine Marketing: QR Codes Reach The Main Stream?

Even though QR codes have been around for more than 15 years, it seems like they are just now starting to reach main stream.  In the wine industry, I've seen QR codes on wine labels, tasting sheets, and shelf talkers. It wouldn't surprise me if they were being used throughout a winery (like a self tour).  Pamela Heiligenthal of Enobytes and predicted that in 2011 QR Wine codes would be all the rage

Quite a few vendors in the wine space have embraced QR codes in their products.  Our friends at Cruvee have a novel implementation of QR codes in their wine syndication product.  Winergy has recently launched QR HarvesterHelloVino has a webinar on QR codes today which should be interesting.  A company I've never heard of before QR4Wine has recently launched.  And of course, at Vin65, we have recently added the ability to generate QR codes for any product, page, wine club, etc inside our tools.

From a marketing perspective: 

Who is the audience?  Does the audience have access to a smart phone and the web?  (I recently heard of a QR code campaign launched in a subway - the problem is there was no internet accessibility in the subway where the QR codes were being scanned).  Less than 1/2 the population currently has a smart phone, so be mindful of your audience.

"What's in it for me?"  How are you going to entice your customers to scan your code? Why should they use 15 seconds of their time to take out their phone, open an app, and scan your code?  I recommend spelling out why your customer should scan your code. 

What content are you going to deliver? At the end of the day it's still about the content and if your customer scans your code, visits your link, and doesn't find what they are looking for, there is a possibility they will not scan your next QR code.

QR Codes aren't magical. There are a lot of basic applications (such as tasting sheets, labels, shelf talkers, coupons, etc) for QR codes. There are some really creative applications as well (HelloVino and Cruvee might better expand on that). Done correctly, the QR code can be used to deliver information that is both useful and meaningful to the consumer and drive a deeper connection.

From a technical perspective:

Are you able to track your QR code?  If you can't measure it, how will you know the impact?

Which URLs do you drive them to? Is there a mobile website in place (you know that most applications for QR Codes involve a customer using a smart phone)?.  If you put the QR Code on your wine label that can be a 3+ year commitment - do you own the URL behind the QR Code?  (For short term promotions, the ownership of the URL might not matter, but for a wine label or a longer commitment it really matters).


Like other new technologies, I'd encourage you to experiment, monitor, and analyze the results.  Learn early (it's easier to fail when it's early in the game).  My personal opinion is that I wouldn't over-commit, but I would experiment.  QR codes may continue to takeoff (we are seeing QR code apps preinstalled on a lot of new phones), or they maybe overtaken by some newer technologies like NFC (Near Field Communication) or better photo recognition.


Thomas Hansen's Gravatar
Thomas Hansen
@ Apr 12, 2011 at 11:21 AM
Thx for the shout out Andrew :)

This was a very good blogpost, and I've got few comments ...

Ref; "I recently heard of a QR code campaign launched in a subway"

In Norway, the best coverage we have is at our subway system in Oslo, I think they've done it intentionally because that's where people read news on their way to work/home ...

Though you do have a very good point here. I went to a conference about a week ago, where the room was too dark, there was no 3G, and the QR Code contained about 2KB of data, so it was very 'complex' and demanded extreme conditions to be scannable in the first place. [PS! The Norwegian subways also have *great* lightning ... ;) ]

... however, these are all points one needs to consider ...

1. Is there internet where you're going to use it? 2. Are there good lightning conditions? 3. Where do you bring people?

The last one is especially interesting, and ties into one of your next points, ref; "I recommend spelling out why your customer should scan your code".

Agree insanely, we encourage our customers to put 'Rate our Wine' or something similar above the QR Code, since we allow people to rate products using these ...

Ref; "Less than 1/2 the population currently has a smart phone"

That's true, i fact in the US it's even less than 1/2, it's about 60 million people. However, this number is virtually doubling every year, and Q4 2010 was the first time there was sold more Smart Phones than computers in US.

That's why 2011 is 'the year of QR Codes', because we're finally experiencing tipping point in regards to adoption ... [Smart Phones]

In less than 5 years, 'everyone' will have Smart Phones, unless one has wine bottles out at that time, one is loosing out a lot of potential ... ;)

Ref; "Done correctly, the QR code can be used to deliver information that is both useful and meaningful to the consumer and drive a deeper connection"

This is where I disagree *strongly* with you. QR Codes are not for 'entertaining customers', they're for initiating dialogue and creating relationships! Too many Wine Marketeers are too much focused on 'entertainment' and have too little focus on 'selling wine', the way I see it ... :(

Unless one have the 'right app' QR Codes are nothing but 'fancy hyperlinks'. I've joked for laughs about how I could zip my spam folder earlier, if people 'need links'. This is where you'll see the most 'hype factor' in the future, because all most marketeers are doing, is sending their consumers to their main website, which is really ridiculous, and probably serves no effect at all.

There's nothing 'magically' about QR Codes, if all you do is stick a link on your bottles, you might just as well save the trouble. You need *the right app* or to said in a different way; "Unless you can somehow sell more wine, why bother ...?"

Unless you're 'in it to sell wine', you might just as well not do it ...

Ref; "do you own the URL behind the QR Code"

This one is *extremely* important!

There's a lot of apparent schemes out there, trying to create lock-ins, which we have discussed earlier. This is *very* important ...!

Good blog post, although I disagreed with one of your points. [Entertaining versus selling wine]

Andrew Kamphuis's Gravatar
Andrew Kamphuis
@ Apr 12, 2011 at 11:30 AM
Thank you for your feedback Thomas.

El Jefe at Twisted Oak's Gravatar
El Jefe at Twisted Oak
@ Apr 20, 2011 at 4:06 PM
We recently released our new 2010 Viognier with a QR code on the back label. The back label contains text that is incomplete - scanning the code takes you to the web site to see the rest of the text. In other words, it's working!

Thomas Hansen's Gravatar
Thomas Hansen
@ Apr 21, 2011 at 11:28 AM
Awesome El Jefe, I'd be very interested in seeing what you do, and see how your results are on this ... :)

Johnny's Gravatar
@ Apr 25, 2011 at 11:04 AM Just like web analytics, you should be using QR Code analytics. Things you should be checking when you design and manage your QR Codes: 1. How many people scan your QR code. (Total number and unique scans) , 2. Where people scan your barcode. (The geographic location). , 3. When people scan your barcode. (Hour by hour, in realtime) , 4. How long individuals spend on your website after scanning your QR code. and 5. Total number of website pages individuals view after scanning your QR code. If you utilize these tools, you can better target your future marketing campaigns.

Thomas Hansen's Gravatar
Thomas Hansen
@ Apr 25, 2011 at 1:57 PM

So true, and anyone serious about any kind of QR Code Marketing Initiative are already doing this. And if yours isn't, you can get it for free from Google Analytics ...

We harvest Email, Name, Location, Zip Code, City, Country, County, City ...

... plus of course the most important thing; The Customer's Personal Review of your product!

But then again the name of our product is; QR Harvester ... ;)

But thank you for re-iterating this. This is where I personally think the most people are going wrong. They look at QR Codes as 'broadcasting', while it really is an opportunity for 'harvesting' ...!

PS! Andrew, you need to setup the "for" tag on your CheckBox Labels ...

If you change; "E-Mail me when someone comments on this post" to a [label for="isSubscribe"]E-Mail me when someone comments on this post[/label]

Then I can click the text itself to toggle the Check state of your CheckBoxes ...

That one was for free, for me being an asshole, not realizing [*then*!] how to solve your concern a couple of weeks ago ... ;)

Thomas Hansen's Gravatar
Thomas Hansen
@ Apr 25, 2011 at 2:28 PM
Oh yeah, and make sure you store name/email/website/etc in a cookie [or something], and that you also don't send notifications to the person doing the actual commenting, if he has commented earlier. It's a little bit too redundant to get notifications on my 'own' comments, if I've commented earlier ...

Like for instance now, I'll get an email, with my own comment, which obviously is not optimal ...

Jim Alsina's Gravatar
Jim Alsina
@ May 5, 2011 at 8:08 PM
QR is not the only option. Last year, we evaluated QR codes and competing concepts. We decided to go with Microsoft Tag ( - at bottom of page is a summary of advantages). The app is free for your phone. Microsoft offers a free Tag generator for up to 50 Tags if I remember correctly. We are currently phasing in the MS Tag on wine labels. Each wine will have a unique Tag that will call up a specific page on our new Vin65 mobile website. We're very excited about this capability!

El Jefe at Twisted Oak's Gravatar
El Jefe at Twisted Oak
@ May 5, 2011 at 11:13 PM
hey Jim - My biggest issue with Tag is that it is color (or please correct me if I am wrong but every Tag code I've seen is a rather garish color.) I like the simplicity and monochromicity of QR codes. I don't need a color printer to render them, and I don't need to introduce colors into a label that doesn't need them. I can create billions of QR codes for free (no 50 Tag limit.) And (on the Vin65 platform) I can redirect the URL to any page on my site all day. I respect that you made a different decision but Tag just wasn't right for me.

Thomas Hansen's Gravatar
Thomas Hansen
@ May 6, 2011 at 5:32 AM
Hi Jim,

I am happy things are working out for you, and your initiative sounds like it'll bring you lots of prosperity and fortune.

However, Microsoft Tag is a proprietary technology, infected with patents and lock-ins. It is the equivalent of choosing to build your website in e.g. Flash or Silverlight, and thereby choosing to discriminate your users, such that only users who have access to the 'right platform', where Open Standards are perfectly able to serve the exact same needs exists, do not gain entrance ...

However, that should't be your priority. Though what should be, is that you're excluding 95% of your market, since very few Bar Code Readers are capable of reading Microsoft Tag. Hence, your potential audience shrinks by 95%, probably more in fact, since MS Tags are something 'nobody' knowns about, while QR Codes are recognizable ...

... network effects here, cannot be under-estimaed ...

Which should be something you consider before evangelizing MS Tag.

If all you need is 50 'Tags', you can create 50 free Vanity QR Codes here if you wish;

Good luck anyway :)


Jim Alsina's Gravatar
Jim Alsina
@ May 7, 2011 at 8:26 AM
Responding to El Jefe at Twisted Oak: We prefer B&W as well. You can generate MS Tags in B&W. That's what we did.

Marg Mann's Gravatar
Marg Mann
@ Sep 6, 2011 at 7:54 PM
This is giving some great insight into using QR codes for selling wine. Does anybody have any suggestions for integrating QR codes with shelf talkers in the store?

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