Codes for Causes

Posted by: Nicholas M. Roberts

I have spent a lot of time discussing how QR codes are good and what makes good QR codes, but now I would like to distinguish QR codes for the good. Companies like QR codes because they are cheap marketing. The company can afford to take the risk and still keep their profits high. However, this isn’t the interest of every QR code campaign. Not every QR code is trying to throw a coupon your way – not for profit organizations use them too.

Actually, one of my first exposures to QR Codes was when I was searching for coverage of the 2010 U.S. Open for golf and I accidently clicked on this page about the U.S. Open for surfing, which I didn’t even know was a real thing. During this surfing extravaganza, young women from the Oral Cancer Foundation handed out t-shirts, stickers and temporary tattoos of QR codes. When scanned, these codes led beachgoers to a webpage about the risks of HPV.

It seemed like a good opportunity to increase awareness of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus to a large crowd of young, attractive and likely sexually active teens and twenty year-olds. And what better way to do so with technology that was, at the time, more prominent in their culture? Of course, this is the low tide of what QR codes with a cause are capable of.

Also in 2010, The Cure Starts Now combined their efforts with Graeter’s Ice Cream and held a weeklong fundraiser called Cones for the Cure. They gave away scoops of ice cream, the special Elena’s Blueberry Pie flavor, to commemorate the passing of a young cancer victim. The major source of marketing for Cones for the Cure was QR codes on the internet and billboards – all of which led to a page with more information about The Cure Starts Now and how to donate. City Harvest, a not-for-profit organization that raises money to feed New York City’s poor is also using QR codes to direct people to their website.

There are many more fundraisers utilizing QR codes to make a difference. CNN for example broadcasted one on-screen in March 2011 that led to a site where viewers could donate relief funds in response to the Japanese earthquake. After it led to some success, CNN used QR codes again for the 2011 GOP debates. QR codes are fun and they are great for business, but I am very glad to see the technology being used for even more.