QR, NFC or Bluetooth - a technology guide for your next IoT or Connected Experiences campaign

Published by Appetite Creative

If you're looking to connect with your audiences, support, educate and to learn more about them, then Connected Packaging/Experiences are the best way to do that. Technologies such as QR, NFC and Bluetooth allow brands to turn their products, packaging, the retail space into marketing channels. Each technology is optimised for different use cases and each has its strengths and weaknesses. In the following, each technology will be examined and compared with the other.

Connected Experiences/Packaging campaigns can be activated in a variety of ways. Probably the best known are via QR codes and NFC tags technologies, while Bluetooth tags supported Internet of Things (IoT) is in the coming. Even though they can perform similar tasks, it is important to know their differences. This should be taken into account for your next campaign. There is no formula to determine exactly which technology is better for your specific project. However, the following article should give you a good overview of both technologies, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, so that you can make an informed decision.




The QR code was introduced in 1994. QR stands for Quick Response, as the codes can be scanned at high speed from any angle with a phone. QR codes store small strings of information, in most cases a URL, and have become a common way to access web content. Due to the pandemic and the growing urge to access content such as restaurant menus as contactless as possible, the QR code has continued to grow in popularity. 


Amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is broad consumer knowledge about how to scan QR codes. In the meantime, every smartphone camera can read QR codes without an additional application and thus have high compatibility with various devices. QR codes are also very cost-effective, as they are not subject to production costs but only have to be created digitally. QR codes are also highly visible and easy to recognise. Lastly, they do not incur any additional printing costs. Therefore, QR codes are a great way to reach customers via existing printed material such as product packaging, magazines, posters, shop displays, tags or labels.



QR codes nevertheless have a few disadvantages. First, it must be bright enough for the mobile phone camera to scan the QR code. This can be difficult at night or in a dimly lit room. QR codes are usually printed on packaging or labels and are therefore usually discarded when the product has been used up. QR codes are also usually not suitable for sensitive applications such as anti-counterfeiting, as they can be easily copied and passed on. However, special software can be used to generate QR codes that are counterfeit-proof. Appetite Creative, for example, works with such QR codes. 



QR code technology can be used to enrich the buying experience in the pre-purchase, during the purchase phase, and also after the purchase, as well as at brand events. Given that QR codes are printed, their best use is on signage, packaging, and labels. 

In-store product packaging can use a simple QR code to provide recommendations and product information or entire experiences, as through AR (Augmented Reality), to ensure customers understand the value of the product they are holding and become more deeply connected to the brand. QR codes are therefore particularly suitable for connected packaging and experience campaigns. 

A great example of an IoT campaign using QR codes is that of KDD, the leading manufacturer of food and beverages in the GCC. In order to interact with the school children and their parents after school reopened after Covid, they worked with us at Appetite Creative to develop a campaign that included a series of games and AR technology. The QR codes were scanned 191,000 times in the short period of three months and 9k registrations and a 3 min engagement time. Find out more about the campaign conception here.




Near Field Communication (NFC) is slightly younger than QR Code technology and was introduced in 2002. The connection technology is based on RFID. NFC tags are designed, similar to the QR Code, to transmit short pieces of information (usually a URL) to an interacting phone. No special application is needed, nor is it necessary to open the phone's camera. When smartphones are in the range of the tags (up to 20cm), they automatically receive a notification that allows the user to perform the desired action. NFC tags are usually used in the shape of stickers and do not require their own power supply. The strength of NFCs lies in their simplicity, as they can be used where other technologies cannot.

Due to the rapid adaptation of the smartphone industry, nearly all devices with Apple iOS, Android, Microsoft, and Blackberry operating systems are now NFC-compatible.



NFC tags are mostly embedded in consumer goods, rather than fast-moving consumer goods, compared to QR codes, and are therefore not discarded after the use up of the product. NFC tags are an extremely effective way to engage the customer throughout the entire customer journey. Thus, as with QR codes, brands can engage their customers with valuable content even very long after the purchase and gather customer feedback to make better product decisions. NFC thus also extends the value chain for a product.



Despite the rapid adaptation of the market to NFC, there are certain disadvantages, especially compared to QR codes. Whereas QR codes can be easily printed on products, labels and other items, NFC tags are subject to production costs. Although these are in the low double-digit cent range, they add up depending on the size of the campaign. Another disadvantage of NFCs is when we look at how they are embedded in the products. For example, they have to be sewn into clothes or built into bottle caps. This has a major impact on the manufacturing process of the goods and is therefore associated with additional costs. Finally, NFCs are not counterfeit-proof - they can be manipulated by hackers, and, there is also the danger of counterfeiting by scammers.



As the list of pros and cons in the previous section shows, this technology is most effective when integrated into consumer products. This authentic connection can be used throughout the customer journey, from pre-purchase to post-purchase.

Post-purchase, brands can offer value-added content to their customers to get the most out of their purchases. Finally, brands can use this new stream of customer information to inform future product decisions.

A great example of NFC campaigns are those where NFC tags are sewn into consumer goods like clothes. Consumers can use the tags to confirm that the product is original and not fake, as well as to get outfit guides and directly order more products.





Bluetooth was introduced in 1994 as an open wireless technology standard for the transmission of data between fixed and mobile electronic devices over short distances. This made Bluetooth the first wireless replacement for RS-232 cables.

Bluetooth is compatible with almost any device and has ranges from 10 to 100 metres. Tags that use Bluetooth technology and can also be attached to any product have a wide range of functions, the advantages and disadvantages of which are explained below.



The main advantage of Bluetooth enabled tags is that they make products part of the Internet of Things (IoT), just like QR codes and NFC tags, but with the difference that Bluetooth tags can provide the IoT with much more information. 

Products that have a Bluetooth tag and are part of an IoT network can provide the network with sensing information. For example, the tag can determine the temperature around the product and send signals if the temperature deviates too much from the optimum, as well as whether the product packaging has been opened, the battery level of the product, the weight of the product, how much moisture or light it is surrounded by. The advantage of the sensing information that the tags provide makes the Bluetooth tag a very flexible part of IoT networks, transforming entire supply chains into demand chains by providing the manufacturer with the necessary data at any time to predict how much demand there is for products. In this way, Bluetooth tag supported demand chains have a very sustainable character and avoid unnecessary environmental impact.



Bluetooth tags, like NFC tags, also incur production costs. These are slightly more expensive than those of NFC technology, and accordingly also add up depending on the size of the campaign. Like QR codes and NFCs, Bluetooth tags are not forgery-proof. They too can be manipulated by hackers. The implementation of Bluetooth tags is also associated with higher costs.

As explained above, Bluetooth tags provide an excellent asset for IoT networks. They are particularly useful when the status of products should be available at any time and manufacturers want to convert their supply chain completely to a demand chain.




Great examples of Bluetooth tag technologies are those that use the technology not only to optimise their demand chain, but also to interact directly with consumers through the Bluetooth tags and also create a unique experience for them that exponentially increases engagement with the brand.




As outlined in the previous chapters, the choice of the right technology - QR, NFC or Bluetooth - depends very much on the objectives of the campaign, as well as the products. However, regardless of the technology, all elements must be uniquely coded to ensure proper content delivery and accurate reporting. 

At Appetite Creative, we are experts in adding digital interactivity to objects. For this, we have developed our own platform that displays the KPI's of your campaign in real-time in a dashboard and whose analysis results will become the basis of your business decisions.

Get in touch with us here.


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