July 10, 2012, 1:39 PM

Taco Bell cooks up edible QR codes

The chain creates ads with 2-D bar codes made up of avocados and lemons.

Lead Photo

Baskets of avocados and lemons are bypassing the kitchens at Taco Bell and heading straight for the pages of some of the nation’s top magazines. To promote the restaurant chain’s new Cantina Bell Menu, the vegetables and fruit were painstakingly lined up into the shape of QR codes, two dimensional bar codes that, when scanned by a smartphone camera, connect a consumer to mobile web-based content.

The avocado and lemon Quick Response codes are part of a national advertising campaign in several print publications. The codes are enormous, taking up two-thirds of the page. When scanned by any QR code reader app (numerous are available for free in major app stores), the code connects a consumer to a mobile-optimized landing page where she finds descriptions and nutritional information on each of the items on the new Cantina Bell Menu. The consumer also can read recipe ideas from celebrity chefs, share items via social media, find the nearest Taco Bell, and view videos on Lorena Garcia, the main chef for the Cantina Menu, and on the making of the QR codes.

Mobile commerce bar code technology and services provider ScanLife is helping Taco Bell run the campaign. ScanLife has experience with many clients in different industries and says Taco Bell has come up with one of the more creative uses of a QR code it has seen.

“Taco Bell launched their new Cantina Bell menu, which features fresh and healthy ingredients like whole black beans, guacamole made with Hass avocados, fire-roasted corn salsa and more,” says Mike Wehrs, president and CEO of ScanLife. “They wanted customers to engage and learn more about this new menu, so creating the codes out of the ingredients was a creative way to make the connection tie more closely to the brand message.”

But ScanLife adds it’s always what’s on the other end of a QR code that counts.

“The content from a QR code is the most important piece of any campaign,” Wehrs says. “Customers are showing interest in your ad, and are making the proactive decision to engage, so it is paramount that the campaign deliver on those needs. Many times, video can make a static print ad more engaging or deliver information that helps the viewer make a more informed decision. Taco Bell did a great job in offering a variety of experiences after the scan including recipe ideas, Twitter voting and a location finder. All of these features are important to different types of people looking for unique experiences.”

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