QR (quick response) codes, 2-dimensional bar codes that direct a user to a specific URL by scanning them with a smart phone’s camera, have been around for almost 20 years, but have become a semi-regular feature of brand digital marketing campaigns over the past couple of years.
One of the key hurdles QR has had to overcome was the need to educate the end-user about what they are and how to use them. Since QR readers are not native to mobile operating systems, a bar code reader app needs to be downloaded and installed before a code can be scanned. In the early days of QR, many marketers wrote off the technology, figuring that the negative of having to educate the user outweighed the positives of the technology.
QR may have turned the corner with marketers of late. A recent study showed that 5% of U.S. adults (up from 1% last year) have scanned a 2d code and an increasing number of major brands are incorporating QR technology into they marketing efforts.
Below are a few examples of how major U.S. brands are creatively using QR codes in their Holiday marketing campaigns this year:
- J.C. Penney has created QR gift tags this season that, when scanned by the receiver of the gift, plays a voice recording from the giver of the gift.
- Coca-Cola’s has launched their first QR code program- putting codes on their 7-Eleven distributed cups that bring the scanner to a mobile snowball-throwing contest. The landing site also gives the visitor the option to donate (Coke is matching the donations) to the World Wildlife Foundation to help save polar bears.
- Toys R Us has included QR codes in its annual product catalog. The codes bring the scanner to more information and media pertaining to the product.
- The Salvation Army is now including signage next to their iconic bell-ringers with QR codes that lead the scanner to a mobile donation site.