Home News What do Pepsi Bottles, Bananas & Toyota cars have in common?

Answer:  They are all linked to the popular marketing phenomenon, QR barcodes…

Have you ever been stood at a bus stop and noticed one of those little black and white square barcodes on the corner of a timetable or advertisement poster?  Have you noticed them on packaging labels (see Pepsi bottle, below), magazines and even stuck to fruit (see banana, right)?  If you weren’t aware, they’re called QR codes and you can scan them with your mobile phone’s camera.  Instantly, you’ll be directed to a web page or shown some information about the thing you’re scanning.  QR codes are a fantastic innovation in the marketing world, and in 2010/11 they took the world by storm due to the growing popularity camera-enabled smartphones, which come pre-loaded with scanning apps.

But what does this have to do with Toyota?

What if we told you these QR barcodes were originally created (almost 10 years ago) for the automotive industry?  Specifically, they were invented for a company called Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota.

What has quickly become a new way to advertise a range of different products actually started with this company who wanted to track cars and car components/parts!

Where QR Codes Began:

Denso Wave wanted to create a new and efficient method of product scanning for automotive parts, so in 1994, they had the idea of using a two-dimensional symbology. This isn’t as complex as it first sounds, and simply means that crucial information can be held in both a vertical and horizontal direction (as opposed to traditional motor tradebarcodes, which only hold information in one direction).

Their new 2D barcodes meant that more information could be held in a much smaller area than is possible with a normal barcode and in fact, DENSO WAVE found that they could store several hundred times more information using their system.

What happened next…

Because QR codes can contain all this extra information, they were gradually used for shipping and delivery receipts throughout the automotive industry.  They could use the code to store vital information, including shipper data, product number, quantity, and customer data.  As you can imagine, the whole process of product scanning and order processes was made much more efficient. At the click of a button, a large amount of information could be retrieved instantly.  Productivity naturally increased and accuracy remains very high. And of course, if more of your important information is stored in a code, a manufacturer uses less paper. This is likely to also lower overheads and is much better for the environment.

Little QR Codes Go Big!

Because QR codes make business so much more efficient, and because they can encode so much data, it wasn’t long before they started catching on in other industries and sectors too.  Despite owning the rights to their new technology, Denso Wave allowed people to use the new barcoding system for free, leading to widespread use.  Soon the benefits for marketing and advertising were discovered, leading to these little codes spreading onto everything from tickets to posters to packaging and much more.


If you haven’t got used to QR codes by now, you’ll certainly have to in the future. Digital Buzz had this to report:

  • Use of QR codes has increased by 4589% from early 2010 to early 2011.
  • 56% of QR codes in circulation can be found on product packaging.
  • Most users of QR codes expect a coupon or deal after scanning their code.
  • 68% of QR codes are scanned using an iPhone.

Some of you may already be used to these codes and might regularly scan them using your phone. If so, you’re participating directly in a clever and ever popular advertising campaign, of which the technology began in the automobile industry almost 10 years ago!

This article was written on behalf of The Barcode Depot who know everything there is to know about 1D and 2D barcodes.  Their shop is stocked with barcoding goods, such as BarTender’s barcode software, which can be used to create QR codes, perfect if you’d like print and design barcodes for your product labels.

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