[Finally!] The arrival of QR Codes in Kenyan print advertising.

This has been a long time coming and I was really wondering when it was going to start happening in Kenya. It seems that (finally!) QR codes are catching on in Kenya. Well, maybe not really catching on but lets just say its starting to happen. I was recently in Europe and traveled through a bunch of countries in both Eastern and Western Europe and one thing that was common was the use QR codes on all sorts of advertising. More specifically, you would see QR codes on shop fronts, posters, newspaper ads, magazine ads, billboards, and even napkins at restaurants. Yes, QR codes have gone very mainstream in the rest of the world and as usual Africa tends to lack behind, until now that is, or at least NOT in Kenya?

But, what is a QR Code? In a nutshell (and according to Wikipedia), “A QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.” In summation, a QR Code is normally accessed using a mobile phone and when “read” using your phone’s camera and a QR code reader software it takes you to a web site address. This web site address would normally be one that is marketing a service or product, as advertised. I first found out about QR codes around 2 years ago and even did a blog post here on this blog.

So, the reason behind this blog post is that for the very first time (in my knowledge?) I saw a brand marketing in Kenyan media using a QR code. The brand in question is the luxury range of Fairmont Hotels who had a print ad with a QR code in today’s edition of the Business Daily Newspaper as below:











On scanning the QR code, one is taken to the promotional Fairmont YouTube video as below:

Now, the whole promotional campaign by Fairmont using this QR code is indeed global so it’s not one that started in Kenya. However, that they opted to use the QR code in their advertising in Kenya shows that this market has clearly “arrived” from a digital marketing perspective. One of the major caveats (in the pre-broadband past) has been the lack of fast and affordable Internet access as well as (advanced) feature or smartphones that could support such a digital marketing campaign in Kenya – consider the fact that the “destination” at the end of the QR code is a YouTube video and you start to get the picture. So, as a call to action for more local and ambitious brands in Kenya, its time to try some print-to-digital marketing using QR codes, as Fairmont have just demonstrated.

Previous post

A candid view of [integrated] mobile marketing campaigns in Kenya.

Next post

It's time to get serious about digital marketing measurement in Africa.


  1. July 12, 2011 at 1:27 pm — Reply

    Very cool technology. Kenya is really keeping pace with emerging technologies and leading the rest of the region (Africa), Opendata being another case example. Thanks for having a keen eye on this one. Thanks for the article.

  2. Ngaruiya
    July 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm — Reply

    We used them during last year’s Concours D’Elegance for Resolution Health – on their posters and fliers. Driving traffic to their activation tent.

  3. July 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm — Reply

    Great find! It is quite amazing how digital media has evolved to Kenya as well. It is definitely marketing skills we must all learn to be successful in today’s technological world. As a fresh graduate heading into a career in marketing/events specialist, this definitely leads me to believe this career path is going to be global bound. Thank you.

  4. July 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm — Reply

    If it’s the first time that a QR-code was used on print ads in EAK, then it’s really nice, but here with Fairmont I believe they just wanted to reuse their ad and not come up with one bila the qr-code.

    In any case, there’s such a huge world of possibilities opening up with QR-code. Me like!

  5. Duma
    July 13, 2011 at 6:48 am — Reply

    In case you wanted to view generate 1 http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

  6. August 8, 2011 at 7:07 am — Reply

    Hi Moses,

    We are the ad agency that worked on this project for Fairmont. Glad you like it – we try and use QR codes in all our print media now, based in the Middle East (Dubai) it is still in early stages here too with low pick up rates.

    For the early adpoters we wanted to give them a chance to see our ‘in the making’ video, showing how the sculptures are made with such attention to detail and care – you can’t say this in a press ad, video content really brings it to life.

    Glad you got a piece of the action – and hope we produced the first of many QR code experiences!


    • August 8, 2011 at 8:16 am — Reply

      @dani thanks for responding the post. This is indeed great news and a great execution. Seems that I have another blog post in the works on QR codes after some major brands started using them in Kenya last week. Its catching on it seems. Hopefully, I should have the post up within the next couple of days.

  7. Maryann Kuria
    May 17, 2023 at 1:44 pm — Reply

    Thanks Moses, lovely article.

    Do QR codes on billboards make sense though? Like how practical is it for someone to scan from a billboard on a rooftop?

    • May 17, 2023 at 5:27 pm — Reply

      Great question. One has to have enough time when on the move to snag a QR Code and then there is also the question if the call-to-action is compelling enough too. What I do know though is that QR Codes became much more popular as a means of accessing utility such as paying for bills at checkout in restaurants, supermarkets and parking fees.

      • Maryann Kuria
        May 18, 2023 at 4:11 pm — Reply

        Well said.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.