QR Codes Reveal Secret

Victoria Secret has recently launched a risqué campaign involving the emerging trend of QR codes. As part of their ‘Sexier Than Skin’ campaign, these billboards have been displayed in prominent locations in the U.S. As the picture shows, the QR code is scanned by a mobile phone and it
links to the image of the woman wearing Victoria Secret underwear.

Despite their invention over 15 years ago in 1994, according to an article on 708 Media, “QR codes are taking off however as the popularity begins to grow, more and more just skip over your QR code and do not scan it”. The QR code, particularly in the US is still relatively unknown and under used.  This campaign is effective because it has a definite incentive to get people to scan the QR. Not only does this entice people to engage with this QR code, but it also educates people about the medium.

But let’s back track a bit. What exactly is a QR Code? QR code stands for quick response code. It is a two-dimensional matrix barcode invented in Japan.They use a specific software (easily downloadable for free as an app) and they scanned by a mobile phone camera and link to a website, photo, landing page or other such medium (Chaffey et. al, 2009). They can also activate phone functions such as email, SMS or MMS. The info-graphic to the right highlight some basic useful statistics.Interestingly enough, the iPhone is the most commonly used platform for QR codes. Perhaps the QR code’s popularity could be tied up with the rise of smart-phones, in particular iPhones.

Essentially they are a perfect way to hyperlink the physical world. A person can be reading a magazine or walking past a poster on a building, scan the code and be taken directly to a digital source.  They create integration between different mediums and therefore have potential to be an excellent marketing tool.  They are low cost and can be relatively easily implemented into existing marketing campaigns. The other bonus is because the consumer has to physically do something (get out their phone and scan) it forces them to engage with the message for longer than
usual. That’s encouraging people to scan the code is so important. They need an incentive or they will skip right over it. Which brings me back to the Victoria Secret campaign.

Yes there is a definite reward built in. However as an
on Social Wayne highlights “I’m
not sure how many people would actually want to be seen stopping and scanning
the QR Codes in public unless they just didn’t care. I could see this used in print ads with a higher QR Code scan rate.” I think this raises an interesting point; do people want to be seen scanning the codes? In this case you might look like a perve. But in other situations it might be awkward as well. You are essentially announcing to the world you are interested in a product by stopping dead in your tracks in front of a billboard or poster, then getting out your phone, opening the app, scanning the code and looking at the response.  I think as QR code awareness rises, this may not matter.

The other issue with QR codes is that they still must be thought about in the same way as other communication tools. As an article on tips for success for QR code marketing on Social Media Examiner explains “To create a successful QR code campaign, it is essential to understand
your target audience, have clear objectives and provide useful and valuable incentives to deliver a favorable user experience.” Other things to consider are if a QR code is relevant and appropriate for the product and in particular its users. Do they have smart-phones? Do they understand how to use the codes? However increasing the answer is yes and QR codes can be implemented to create innovative and profitable campaigns. The video below shows how QR codes can be used to solve consumers problems and make life legitimately easier for them.

Not all campaigns are as practical as that one, however can be highly engaging. There have been scavenger hunts where the person scans a code and it reveals the next destination, leading them to an ultimate prize or reward.

QR codes may have been slow to take off, but with the rise in consumers demand for instant information coupled with developments of supporting technology their usage is on the rise. However there still are challenges to overcome such as consumer awareness and strong enough incentives to encourage usage. However as Victoria Secret has shown, a creative and compelling QR campaign could be the next big thing in successful marketing.



Chaffey, D, Ellis-Chadwick, F, Mayer, R, Johnston, K, 2009, Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice, 4th edn, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.

Edwards, C, 2011, ‘Victoria’s Secret Entices You To Scan Their QR Codes’, 708 Media, viewed 11 September 2011, http://www.708media.com/qrcode/victorias-secret-entices-qr-code-scan/

Korhan, J, 2011, ‘5 Steps to a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign’, Social Media Examiner, viewed 11 September 2011, http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/5-steps-to-a-successful-qr-code-marketing-campaign/

Sutton, W, 2011, ‘Victoria’s Secret Uses QR Codes to Help You Undress Women With Your Smartphone’, Social Wayne, viewed 11 September 2011, http://socialwayne.com/2011/09/03/victorias-secret-uses-qr-codes-to-help-you-undress-women-with-your-smartphone/


One response

  1. Before starting to read your post I did not know what is meant by QR-code! Now I pretty much know it!
    However, the Victoria´s Secret example for a creative QR-campaign is exciting and innovative on one side. One the other side I wouldn’t be seen stopping at a billboard to scan the code. As you mentioned, in case of Victoria´s Secret it might look a bit awkward. I mean the models are quite sexy and I like the lingerie the company is selling but here I just like the innovation factor but not the practical implementation. Another point is, as mentioned before, I did not know about QR-codes. How many people just feel the same? In spite of that, I found an other example for a great QR-code campaign and will not miss to post it as I find this one nice and would stop to scan the code …Have a look to that LEGO campaign.

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