When to Use Digital Watermarks or QR Codes

December 19, 2022

We all want safe and authentic products. However, with the rise in counterfeiting, goods diversion, and online shopping, it can be hard to reassure consumers that your real products are going to the right place. In today’s increasingly digitized world, where processes and projects are managed digitally, there’s still an opportunity for digitization in another arena — products.

Product digitization offers several benefits to brands and consumers alike. It can offer confirmation to consumers that the products they buy are authentic. For brands, it provides unprecedented information about their products as well as their consumers and their buying behavior.

You may wonder how your brand can digitize products and reap the benefits, and the answer is QR codes and digital watermarks. For many companies, there’s a natural inclination to use QR codes – after all, they are widely used, well known, and effective at delivering information. However, they may not always be the right, or the only, solution. Sometimes, the better solution is digital watermarks. How do you know when to use one or the other? Find out below.

QR codes

What are QR codes?

A QR code is a machine-readable code with an array of black-and-white squares. A URL is put into the QR code that points the consumer to the digitization platform where the information about the product is held. Due to their ease of use for both brands and consumers, they’ve become ubiquitous — nearly 76 million people in the U.S. scanned QR codes in 2021 — and it’s easy to see why.


QR codes are advantageous because of their prevalence, consumers already know what to do when they see them attached to a product, label, or sign. Because most smartphones have QR-code reading capabilities, codes are quick to scan, and consumers don’t have to download an app or open a web browser.

Additionally, QR codes offer a very scalable solution to deliver dynamic consumer engagements directly from products. At Digimarc, our platform offers a multi-purpose, direct-to-consumer channel for digitized products using QR codes as the engagement trigger. Our dynamic QR codes applied to product and packaging can encourage consumer engagement to drive purchases, provide product information, and boost brand loyalty. By leveraging QR codes from Digimarc, your products will use the most easily recognized and accessible digital tag to unlock widespread adoption of consumer engagement.

When to use QR codes:

  • When you need an easy-to-implement data carrier that is familiar to consumers
  • When you need a solution to communicate with consumers at home or in retail settings
  • When you need a simple solution to product digitization

Need more information? We discuss QR codes more in-depth in this free webinar.

Digital Watermarks

What are digital watermarks?

A digital watermark is a secure, covert data carrier linking a physical product or object to its digital twin in the Digimarc Illuminate platform. Watermarks can be applied to any physical packaging and digital image.


Digital watermarks offer a higher level of security due to their imperceptibility and the closed network aspect of Digimarc’s proprietary platform. They can also be applied to many material types, including 2D artwork or labels and 3D packaging, and their imperceptibility minimizes the visual impact on your branded packaging. Beyond the security and applicability of a digital watermark, it also offers support for recycling via the endorsement of the influential HolyGrail 2.0 industry initiative and the incredibly robust nature of the tag.

When to use:

  • When you need a covert solution to address counterfeiting and prove authenticity
  • When you need a solution for recycling and sustainability that will survive the rigors of disposal and sorting for recycling
  • When you need a solution that will not impact your packaging artwork

Both digital watermarks and QR codes are great additions to a business's toolbox. Still wondering which solution is best for your brand? Here’s a quick checklist:

When to use Digital Watermarks or QR Codes

For a more personalized discussion on your business needs, as they relate to digital watermarks and QR codes, contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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