I am a big fan of QR (quick response) codes and they are getting more imaginative everyday. Their uses are becoming ever more inventive and useful now that we’re in a world full of smartphones. We are living in an age of instant information, accessibility and involvement and yet posters just carry copy and images. Every poster should give the viewer the opportunity to access more information or act on an impulse to buy a product or ticket.

You have a big old poster which is approx., 200 year old technology. See Toulouse Lautrec‘s Moulin Rouge poster 1891. Posters and billboards obviously still works as a branding exercise or ad agencies would have given up on them by now, but the billboard is dumb – it hasn’t changed for 2 centuries. It doesn’t go anywhere or do anything. With QR you can really get people involved in the brand by uploading images for a photo competition with immediate response immediately, or offer QR consumers 10% off your product because if they’re looking at your poster they are interested. Give them somewhere to go. If they are in  ‘impulse-buy mode’ add the extra incentive of 10% off. Imagine the crowds gathering around the poster to get their discount. The right lever at the right time. How about bulk buying. If you want to get 10% off your next Samsung TV, join the Samsung group buying scheme. Register now!


You can be really creative or a canny marketer. I prefer creative approaches asking audiences to do something interesting. Solve a puzzle. Be sent on an assignment to find other QR codes across the city. Collect all the info, solve the riddle. Join the Army or MI5.  I was chatting to a creative pal of mine the other day and we were debating what could you do in 9.58 seconds? Wouldn’t that be a cool poster campaign for the Olympics? Ussain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet. Ever. Can run 100 metres in 9.58. What could you do? Upload whatever you can do in that time. nice campaign I think. Also there’s the opportunity to run video that is available only via QR.


The most creative approach or at least emotionally resonant has been the use of QR codes is in the graveyards of pos- Tsunami Japan. To mark this disastrous event in Japanese history and to commemorate those who lost their lives in the catastrophe, the government built monuments above a beach at Kamaishi, in the Iwate Prefecture.

However, aside from the traditional Japanese proverb that’s inscribed on each monument, there’s a QR code. It links to Japanese or English instructions about what to next time a Tsunami strikes. It reads “Memorial Stone of the Tsunami. Just run! Run uphill! Don’t worry about the others. Save yourself first. And tell the future generations that a Tsunami once reached this point. And that those who survived were those who ran. Uphill. So run! Run uphill!” You can only hope that the technology that sends us to the appropriate URL now, will still work in  decades time. If not it will become a strange impotent hieroglyph possibly leading to a 404.

Typically the US is seizing QR code possibilities and leveraging them in their posters. I am hoping that we, yes the Brits, can do something really cool with them soon.

Any good examples out there anyone?

And they are getting better looking these days to0. Here see the gallery and if you want to generate your own QR code go here


2 thoughts on “What RU doing about QR codes?

  1. I would be very interested in seeing some great QR code examples as well.

    With most QR code implementations I’ve encountered, the reason – or more accurately, the motivation – to use the code, to make the few muscle movements, is missing. There might be something fantastic waiting for the observer, but it is too rarely communicated in a compelling, easy to understand way.

    And then, on the other side of the equation, are the QR cases where the whole communication is about the QR code (enter competition types etc.), with the main brand or product message missing completely. Meaning, in 99% of cases, that 99% of people experiencing the ‘ad space’ don’t get influenced by the brand towards the target, i.e. only the ones who use the QR codes get an any form of a brand image enhancing and/or sales driving message.

    Still, there’s a great potential in the utilisation of QR codes – to get people engaged – and I believe they will increase in popularity also in Europe during the next couple of years. One recent creative example I encountered was made by CP+B in Sweden for SAS (Scandinavian Airlines). Here’s a short case study about it: http://vimeo.com/34140861.

    Jussi P.

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