Keep Their Attention For The Long Haul With Tech-Driven Interactive Promo

The best promo creates a lasting and memorable experience. In addition to thoughtful color choices and decoration options, adding interactive technologies like QR codes and NFC chips to branded items – especially those intended to be used over and over – can take a campaign to the next level.


It’s a great element to add to a product, because then you’re able to take your end user back to whatever landing page that you want, whether it’s a landing page to talk about your brand, or perhaps a learning page to talk about that specific item and the back story of where it was made and by whom.

smiling man holding smartphone pumps fist in excitement

In addition to the storytelling potential, tech features in and of themselves have high perceived value with end users and add a gee-whiz factor that can set your campaign apart from the rest. People are always impressed by new technologies, like something as simple as an NFC chip, so the wow factor is always going to bring more attention to your business.


QR Codes: Tried And True

Quick response codes have been around for about three decades. They were first invented and used in 1994 by a subsidiary of Toyota as an internal tracking system during the manufacturing process. The codes saw their first widespread public use in Japan in 2002, but they didn’t become popular until 2011, after QR code scanners and readers were made available for smartphones.


The codes fell out of favor within a few years, but then the pandemic made them a big deal again, as businesses needed touchless ways to engage with customers. Survey data from September 2020 shows that about half of respondents had noticed an increase in QR code use since March of that year, when many stay-at-home orders took effect, and very few respondents (less than 14%) said they had never scanned a QR code.


Almost everybody is familiar with them now, driven in large part by COVID and the need for touch-free interactions. For example, restaurants adopted QR codes that diners would have to scan to see the menu. Because of that, people became a lot more comfortable with QR codes.


Now that QR codes have become more familiar and widely accessible, with the capability to read and access them built into most smartphone cameras (85% of Americans now own a smartphone), this interactive option is here to stay. In fact, approximately 89 million Americans scanned a QR code in 2022, up by 26% compared to 2020 and still growing.

Luggage Return Tag

Customize a Return Tag that features a QR code to make it easy for lost luggage, keys or pets to find their way home. The stainless steel tags are finished with domed epoxy or durable PVC and include full-color, photo-quality printing on the front and return information (including QR code) on the back, as well as a double-sided 8×3-inch marketing card, stainless steel loop and lifetime service. Gift box or greeting card presentation also available.

return luggage tag with QR code
Advantages And Disadvantages Of QR Codes For Promo

In addition to their familiarity and ease of use for end users, QR codes are easy to generate and can provide tracking, a key advantage for marketers and brands. Opt for a dynamic QR code (as opposed to static) for the ability to track when and where the code is scanned and how many times, as well as the operating system of the device used (e.g., Apple iOS or Android, etc.).


Another advantage of dynamic QR codes is that, as the name implies, they can change. This makes it easy to update the destination URL, for example, to keep users interacting with promo items bearing a code. But keep in mind that QR codes can be scammed or hacked, so it’s important to keep an eye on the usage data to protect your end users and your brand.


QR Code Best Practices, Example Use Cases

Make sure to continuously update the destination content so it provides something that is useful and interesting over and over again. You don’t want to direct users to a page that never changes, unless you’re using it for something like a restaurant menu. To make NFC really worthwhile for your brand, you’ll need a marketing team working to keep the content updated and make the most of the integrated marketing potential.


One common practice is to use QR codes as a paperless way to make event materials available at a conference. But QR codes can be used in almost any scenario, from the ubiquitous “scan for more” appearances to a reusable fast-food or theater cup that reveals a new coupon each week.


NFC Chips: New(ish) Kid On The Block

If you’ve used tap to pay, you’ve used near field communication, or NFC. Although the technology has in development since the days of Thomas Edison and the radio, it didn’t become widely available until this century, when contactless payment systems emerged in the early 2000s. Now, NFC chips can be used to make almost any object “smart” and able to share data wirelessly.


The technology requires a microchip, which acts as both transmitter and receiver, as well as a reader that scans the chips to access the data. Although most smartphones now feature NFC capability, it’s not quite as widespread or familiar as QR code access and may require the user to adjust system settings.


Advantages And Disadvantages Of NFC Chips For Promo

While QR codes have to be printed, which can dominate or interfere with branding and decoration, NFC chips allow a more subtle approach. Because NFC tags are physical objects, as opposed to a printed decoration, they can be concealed with added elements like a book’s binding, a bottle cap, a seal or sticker, etc. It serves the same purpose as a QR code, but from a design aesthetic, you don’t have to see the code.


NFC technology offers the same key advantages as QR codes:

  1. It enables interactive experiences with little effort, so users can access branded content or perform actions with just the tap of a phone.
  2. Access to information is always at hand, with no web searching needed.
  3. Usage is trackable, so marketers and brands can analyze preferences, usage patterns and other consumer data to help refine their product offerings and marketing campaigns.

For example, now you can know where the chips are being scanned for geolocation. You can know the amount of interactions people are having through the NFC chips or what device they’re using, or the operating system, if it’s an Android or an iOS. It gathers information on how the items/chips are being used, which gives you more data on the advertising value of the piece.


Another limitation of NFC is that the chip and reader must be in close proximity for successful communication. Also, with respect to promo products and decoration, it can be tricky to find the right construction for protecting the chip with just enough of a layer that will secure it without preventing data transmission.


NFC QR Code Best Practices, Example Use Cases

As with QR codes, it’s important to keep NFC-linked content fresh so users have a reason to keep interacting with the chipped item. Update regularly with promos, discounts, personalized messages, even games. Static information like product details, user manuals, or the origin story of the item is also valuable via NFC.


Potential use cases abound, from a welcome kit for new employees that features a chipped item with important HR information to games that help a brand gather user-generated content on social media. Get familiar with NFC technology and what it can do, because if you don’t understand it, you might not recognize how best to use it. The best promotional uses of NFC chips are aimed at creating a more interactive experience with the brand, meaning that you’re going to share an experience with your customer through a promotional item. It can lead to a website, it can lead to a coupon, maybe a video, business card information – or even instant payments.


Here are a few of the promo products currently available with NFC chips:

custom photo cover journal with elastic closure strap

Custom Journal

Add an NFC chip to a Custom Professional Journal, embedded in the cover or enclosed in an added PVC emblem on the elastic closure (available in 12 colors). Cover options include debossed vegan leather, UV print or full-color photo, and the 80 pages inside can be customized with your branding as well.

NFC-Enabled T-Shirt

The TAP Tee features an NFC chip in the left sleeve hem that can be tapped with a smartphone to launch a website, app, video or social media post programmed with whatever you want. Made of 100% sustainably sourced, combed, ring-spun cotton with a tear-away label, it’s available in black or white and sizes XS-4X. One potential use could be shirts for sports fans with a chip programmed to share the schedule and stats of the team, or messages to fans from the players.

NFC tap T-shirt
smart gift box with NFC chip

Smart Gift Box

Don’t forget about presentation! Smart Boxes contain NFC technology so you can design one or multiple customized, digital experiences to engage the end user with a simple tap of their smartphone to the box. Create videos, share special offers and even collect feedback. NFC chips are available in soft-touch boxes, corrugated boxes, keco boxes or pillow pods.