Banana Republic uses QR Code

This QR Code-based billboard from Banana Republic was spotted on the side of a New York City phone booth (remember when it really was a booth, but I digress).

The copy that accompanies the QR Code consists of a call to action, which reads, "Scan here to launch our short film "Journey in Style," and instructions on where and how to download a code reader app. When the code is scanned, the reader of the billboard is linked to a 30-second brand image You Tube video, which should be titled, "Journey to Boredom." Sorry folks, but how many codes might a consumer have to scan in order to find a video that offers any real meaning and/or value? Besides that, the code and the video link to absolutely nothing.

So what could Banana Republic have done to make this campaign worth talking about or acting on? In short, plenty (why should I give away the store for free). When asked why didn't the marketing/creative team go further with this 2D-based experience, I am most certain the marketing/creative team would say that they only went so far, because they were experimenting with the technology. This is an experiment?

Not to single out Banana Republic, but this campaign brings me to a larger issue that I had been wanting to write about for some time, that of experimentation. Of the few companies/agencies that have been willing to speak with me, on or off the record, they all mention how they are "experimenting" with 2D technology and that's why they decided to kept their campaigns simple. My question to them, which never really gets answered is, how can a campaign where the code links to a meaningless video or other pointless content be considered in the marketing and/or scientific sense of the term an experiment?

There are is no control version being tested against, there are hardly any variables to be tested, etc., etc. I'm not a marketing research expert, and I don't play one on television, but I do know enough to say that a campaign of this kind does not an experiment make. So, what's really happening here?

In my mind, it seems as though companies are plugging a code into an ad, linking it to some pre-existing content and calling it a day. No one gets hurt. So, I ask the question again, what's going on here? Why not come out with guns blazing and give your existing and/or prospective customers a 2D-based campaign that is truly an experience to behold and be a part of and, more importantly, to share with others? After all, isn't the pinnacle of marketing success a referral in some shape or form? When word spreads about a product or service all on its own? Besides, wouldn't an all-out campaign be a better basis by which to experiment and test the technology?

By now, I believe you get my point. Making use of 2D, even on an experimental basis, needs to be done the right way, where best practices (2D barcode and market research) need to be adhered to. Let's stop being so lazy, and let's not bring the money factor into it either, as that argument gets tiresome. 

2D Barcode Litmus Test: FAIL


  1. The QR Code is a symbol. It's not a functional element.

    Hair, James Dean, circa 1957
    Aviator Glasses, circa 1969
    Skinny knit tie, circa 1979
    Sockless Don Johnson thing, circa 1985
    QR Code, circa 2011

    The QR Code is juxtaposed against a very retro-look/feel for emotional impact, nothing more. It's a design element (God Bless Creative Designers)

    Envision the ad without the QR Code. It's a very different piece. It's something out of 1990. The QR makes it "now."

    Could a mobile campaign have taken advantage of this message and delivered more? Sure. Did they care? No.

  2. Sal:

    Thank you for your comment, but I would have to entirely disagree.

    First, I would like to know if you are part of the marketing/creative team that produced the campaign. If so, please let's talk offline.

    Second, I don't believe anyone on the marketing/creative team would say, "Hey, let's put one of those black and white checkerboard symbols that are starting to show up in other ads in our campaign, I think it's called a tag, and we'll treat it as a juxtaposed design element. To heck with whether or not people want to scan it and get some meaningful content from it."

    Third, I can easily envision the ad without the code and I still see a guy dressed in retro attire leaning against a car, with wind in his hair and the sun shining brightly. No difference whatsoever.

    Not to generalize, but please let's not give the marketing/creative teams more credit than is due...in more than half of the campaigns that I have seen it seems as though the placement of a code is a mere after thought.

  3. I am astounded that this technology has not been better used? I can only suppose that it is the relative depth ( or lack of )of the smartphone penetration. It is the perfect way of connecting instantly the real world with the online even if it is only a bookmark?

  4. I couldn't agree more

    I just did a post about the Vancouver Symphony that linked to their main website - no mobile optimization.


    Making all those coupons actionable while the user is in the moment is our focus.

    Forget fancy movies, lets focus on optin's and impulse buys.

  5. I'm not a marketer either, but doesn't anyone behind these campaigns ever ask, "What do we intend to achieve with this code?" If they did, they might think through the user experience a little bit. Taking a consumer on this video trip is like driving down a one-way road to nowhere