Modern Marketing Ad Spend Brand Strategy

McD's and Monster on attracting Gen Z with AR and QR

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By Audrey Kemp | Junior Reporter

October 18, 2022 | 4 min read

McDonald’s, Snapchat and Monster Energy are meeting Gen Z – the first digitally native generation – where they live: on their phones. Industry leaders divulged how their investments in AR and QR codes paid off during day two of Advertising Week 2022.

scanning a qr code

AR and QR codes are two ways leading brands are engaging Gen Z consumers / Credit: Adobe Stock

As Gen Z matures into an active consumer base, it’s time for brands to get comfortable with emerging mobile trends.

Take McDonald’s, which has launched over a dozen augmented reality (AR) lenses with Snapchat to-date, and Monster Energy, which now attaches a QR code to every creative campaign. Today, a quick phone scan allows these brands to transport mobile users into an immersive digital experience, or even a job application.

McDonald’s, for starters, has taken a multi-pronged approach to reach young audiences in a natural way, like establishing a casual, lowercase social media presence and encouraging TikTok users to create their own content. Notably, the burger giant has reported record success through its partnership with Snapchat, which allows consumers to enter immersive AR experiences. Today, 80% of McDonalds’ social activations occur on the platform, according to Healan.

The new technology has permitted McDonald’s to engage with Gen Z in a way that feels natural to a generation with an avowed love for creative self-expression. “They see themselves in the work, in our ideas. We are sharing the pen with them [and] they are now part of the brand,” said McDonald’s vice-president of US marketing and content Jennifer Healan said in a panel discussion. “We’re okay taking risks. “It took us a while to get there, [but] we’re okay rolling around, being uncomfortable.”

Catching Gen Z's eye with QR codes

QR codes have long been used in other parts of the world as an efficient means of delivering links IRL. That all changed with the pandemic, which spurred rapid adoption of the technology in the US. With it came a new opportunity for brands like Monster to reach their target audience: the younger generation, according to Monster's senior director of global media Shaun Farrar.

QR codes prove very effective in catching the eye of a consumer base that spends half of its waking hours on screen time, per the Los Angeles Times. “You never know when you’re going to catch someone at the right moment,” Farrar said in a panel discussion. “By giving them the ability to take out their phone and engage with your brand is huge.”

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