QR codes are defying skeptics and making a comeback, with big brands including Burger King, CVS, L’Oréal, and Walmart jumping on board

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At the peak of the pandemic in April, Burger King launched a marketing stunt offering people free Whoppers through its app. Instead of using augmented reality or geotargeting as it’s done in the past, it deployed the humble QR code to get people to snap a photo of a black and white square on their TV screens to win a burger.

QR codes — quickly heralded by marketers in the early 2010s, only to be dismissed as gimmicky — are making a comeback in the pandemic era. The boxy, geometric codes have been adopted by bars and restaurants and are also showing up in marketing, retail, technology and payments. 

For instance: Instagram recently incorporated QR codes in its app, while PayPal has bet on QR codes with shoppers. CVS has integrated PayPal and Venmo QR codes at its checkouts, while Starbucks is using them for contact-tracing in the UK. And L’Oréal, 1-800-Flowers, and Walmart have used QR codes in their marketing in recent months.

“People have been reticent and skeptical of them in the past, but it feels like QR codes are going through a renaissance,” said Simon Gill, chief creative officer at Isobar UK and chief experience officer at Dentsu Aegis Network EMEA.

QR codes have waxed and waned in popularity over the years

QR codes, short for quick response, have been around since the 1990s, when they were invented by Masahiro Hara to track automobile parts in Japan. With their ease in scanning objects in the real world and smartphones, they seemed poised to take off.

But that never happened. Adoption was limited, with only 6.2% of mobile users in the US having scanned a QR code, according to a 2011 comScore report. Marketers ended up trying to force them into campaigns without providing much value to consumers or leading to embarrassing gaffes like Heinz ketchup bottles leading people to porn sites. The likes of ad executive Gary Vaynerchuk and publications like Forbes criticized them for being used in lazy and spammy ways.

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But in recent years, tech platforms including Snapchat and Pinterest have pushed adoption by rolling out their own versions. IOS and Android have enabled people to scan QR codes without having to download an app. Plus, Chinese apps like Tencent and Alibaba have been using QR codes to enable monetary transactions for years.

These developments, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, have helped QR codes go from being experimental add-ons for advertisers to something ubiquitous in daily life, said Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis. 

“The pandemic has dramatically accelerated trends that we were already seeing at a time when adoption is also peaking,” he said. “QR codes allow you to put a digital experience on a physical surface, and become pretty important tools in a world where more consumers are going digital and contactless.”

The pandemic has been a tipping point for the adoption of QR codes

As brands and retailers reopen, many are adapting their marketing …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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