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Our favorite marketing examples that blend QR codes and design

March 15, 2022

QR codes are a great way to add value to your customer experience. They create a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. Today most smartphones have native QR code scanners built into their cameras. This makes it easier for marketers to integrate QR cords into their content. Here are some of our favorite examples that blend QR codes and design.

Care Codes by Ogilvy 

In 2021 Ogilvy launched a heartfelt campaign in partnership with the Shanghai Veteran Cadres Bureau to help 140 million elderly navigate complex digital smartphone interaction. The campaign used beautifully designed QR code signs to provide the elderly with simplified versions of China's most essential digital tools, like rideshare and payment apps. Storefronts also used these signs to advertise that their staff was happy to help and assist the elderly with digital transactions.

Imperfect Foods’ Impossible Maze

Imperfect Foods is a food subscription service that aims to reduce food waste by providing produce that would otherwise be thrown away for being too ugly. They also offer a host of sustainable snacks and responsibly sourced proteins. Imperfect Foods takes an unconventional approach toward the QR code on their packaging by poking fun at its maze-like appearance, with the prompts "Play This Fun Maze!" But good luck finishing it! Scanning the code will send the user to the Imperfect Foods' blog, The Whole Carrot.

A Student’s Heartfelt Message

Image: Gina Warren

Gina Warren wanted to bring awareness to gun violence in school. So she decided to adorn her high school graduation cap with a QR code that, when scanned, displayed a long list of school shootings and links to nonprofits that aim to end gun violence. This gesture caught the media's attention, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose tweet about Gina got more than 300,000 likes and 90,000 retweets.

Yeezy Gap’s New York Times Ad

Image: New York Times

You can say quite a lot with just a QR code. That's why we love this simple ad from Yeezy Gap, the new apparel partnership between Kanye West and Gap. The two-page spread has two elements, a jacket and a QR code. Users who scanned the QR code were invited to pre-order the $200 jacket. In a publication full of copy, this ad succeeds at standing out, much like you would if you wore this unique-looking jacket.

A Shadow-Activated QR Code from eMart

Image: Emart

Emart is the Walmart of South Korea, with over 141 stores offering discounted goods across the country. In this campaign, Emart installed a shadow-activated QR code, which uses 3-dimensional blocks to cast shadows to form a QR code at just the right time of day. The installation prompts the users to scan the QR code from 12 pm to 1 pm on a sunny day. Once scanned, the user can access savings and special promotions. This goes to show how versatile QR code technology is in various forms. If you can create a QR code out of shadows, what else can you do?

Spotify Codes to Share Music

Image: NecklaceDreamWorld Etsy Page

Spotify has taken the concept of QR codes one step further by creating their own proprietary code to share music with friends and fans. What's incredible about this concept is how Spotify users have applied these codes to everything from jewelry to Christmas tree ornaments. For example, I received a Christmas tree ornament with a custom Spotify code etched into the side. I opened my iPhone camera, scanned the code, and up popped a song– "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley.

The QR Code that Filled the Sky by Bilibili

Image: Bilibili

Like a scene out of Blade Runner, the video-streaming company Bilibili, arranged 1,500 drones over Shanghai to promote the first anniversary of the release of the video game “Princess Connect! Re: Dive.” Onlookers could scan the code and download a free version of the game. However, some criticized Bilibili's campaign as a form of disruptive advertising. But in terms of complexity and scale, you’ve got to respect the effort behind this video game promotion.

The Floating QR Code Super Bowl Ad by Coinbase

Image: Coinbase

It's hard not to include this ad from Coinbase. The ad, which reminded viewers of the floating DVD screen saver, got more than 20 million hits to a Coinbase landing page. The landing page offered $15 in Bitcoin for new Coinbase subscribers. This is an excellent example of how marketers can drive awareness through curiosity. With no branding or call to action, you can't help but wonder, "what's on the other side of that QR code." However, marketers should note that simply plastering unmarked QR codes is highly dependent on time and place. This QR code was displayed during one of America's most prominent advertising moments of the year, giving it far more credibility than a code plastered on a street corner.

Uber Eats Choose Your Own Adventure QR Code Ad

One of the best features of QR codes is their ability to create interactive moments between your customers and your brand. Uber Eats added a splash of interactivity with their choose your own adventure ad series for the Australian Open. Each ad, which featured Australian Open tennis players, proposed a choice for the view midway through. Each decision led the viewer to an alternative and bizarre ending.

How Does a QR Code Work? 

QR codes were developed in Japan in the 1990s by Masahiro Hara from the company Denso Wave to track vehicles through the manufacturing floor. QR codes arrange black squares on a grid to translate patterns into data like barcodes. A single QR code can hold 7,089 numeric characters or 2,953 alphanumeric characters. 

Tips for Using QR Codes

  • Think about the customer experience and ask yourself, "does this QR code add value to this experience." 
  • Make your QR code large and clear. The smallest size a QR code will work is roughly 2x2 cm. 
  • Use dynamic QR codes versus static QR codes. A dynamic QR code tracks data and allows you to edit the destination url, while static QR codes cannot be changed and do not track data. 
  • Think of the time and place that a QR code will be scanned. For instance, don't post your QR code in an area that puts the scanner in danger, like the middle of the freeway. 


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