General Mills is the latest company to experiment with QR (quick response) codes and plans to add them to its cereal boxes, but one well-known technology commentator is sceptical about their benefits.
US-based technology commentator Jefferson Graham told FoodProductionDaily.com he thought QR codes (one is pictured) were a marketing tool that “most consumers have little experience with, and most don't use”.
He added: “In my spot surveys of consumers most had no idea what a QR code was, or why it would be used. I find that they get slapped onto boxes and ads, with little instructions.
“A lot of education needs to be done to explain the process, and of course, folks need a good phone signal to connect to the website.”
Big brands in on act
Food giant General Mills said it plans to roll-out the codes this summer on boxes of cereals such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Lucky Charms and Trix.
QR codes are two-dimensional black and white square matrixes and when scanned with a smart phone they take consumers directly to digitally stored information.
Kellogg’s and Nestlé already integrate QR codes within their marketing and advertising: Kellogg’s uses QR codes with Special K and Krave cereals, while Nestlé uses them on Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water.
The advantage of QR codes is that although the scan site remains the same, the controlling company can change the destination that the consumer is directed to; codes can direct users to websites, videos, images, contact information or social media.
Digital marketing explosion
A spokeswoman for General Mills told FoodProductionDaily.com digital marketing examples included a Pillsbury Crescents TV commercial which used ‘Shazam’, a smart phone application enabling viewers to listen to adverts live using their phone and save related information for later.
She said: “When consumers used Shazam to tag the Pillsbury Crescents commercial during the holiday season, they received an interactive tag result on their mobile device.”
The tag included holiday recipe ideas and how-to videos, as well as links to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the spokeswoman added.
General Mills has also experimented with an app on Yoplait yogurt to decode messages online, on product packaging and on billboards, as the spokeswoman explained.
“Consumers were encouraged to download the free Greek4Good app to decode messages found online, on packages of Greek yogurt, and on posters in cities across America,” she said.