Scan Marketing with “Barcodes”

2 barcodes

Barcodes for scan advertising

As I mentioned in another post, barcodes are frequently used in Japanese marketing and advertising campaigns. In fact, they appear so much that most cell phones in Japan are equipped with a barcode reader that scans a barcode and sends the viewer to a special website regarding the product or service of the advertising.

Japanese barcodes do not look anything like the barcodes I know back home in the States. The barcodes in the States are usually found on packaging and product tags and they usually consist of thick and thin black lines with numbers. Here in Japan what they call a barcode is usually a grid of black and white “pixels” or boxes in what could easily be a square grid of 150×150 pixels and resemble some insane crossword puzzle. There are boxes (each probably taking up 25 x 25 pixels) in each corner except for the bottom right.

These barcodes are often found on printed advertisements in magazines, flyers, brochures, posters, and even billboards. A billboard barcode is usually just a huge barcode with little information regarding the service. The person would just aim the barcode reader (usually used in conjunction with their cell phone camera) and position the special reading “grid” until the cell phone automatically snaps the barcode and leads the reader via their cell phone web browser to the target link of the advertised product or service.

These barcodes make it easy for people to register for certain services or memberships for special product or brand name discounts. For example, I used a barcode to sign up for McDonalds discount club that emails e-coupons to my cell phone which I show or read off a special coupon number at a McDonalds restaurant to get discounts.

The photo on top shows a billboard barode for Weblio an online dictionary, encyclopedia and grammar reference site. The Japanese kanji reads “mizou?” which means “unexpected, unprecedented”. The bottom copy reads as “The dictionary site that makes words more fun/interesting.” This advertisement was poking fun at a slip up by the current Japanese PM Aso who mispronounced the word, apparently something he does on a frequent basis.

The bottom neon sign barcode snapped in the Shibuya Station “ramble” crossing for transcosmos group, a specialized IT service offering everything from digital marketing to investment and business development.

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One comment

  1. What is the name of this shopping mall?
    What other shopping malls in Japan have this barcode ad on their buildings?

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