Matrix Barcodes Link to Classic Cocktail Recipes at the LCBO

LCBO uses QR Codes to direct shoppers to Classic Cocktail recipesAs part of the LCBO (Liquor Commission Board of Ontario) Classic Cocktails promotion, shelf signage for the brands featured in the campaign feature Matrix barcodes.

Matrix (2D) bar codes have been used throughout the rest of the world enabling users of mobile devices to connect with product sites, contest info, coupons or other additional information.

Unfortunately the experience of using matrix barcodes sometimes falls short of providing a great digital experience for the user. Issues with the sizing and positioning of the code happen frequently with inexperienced developers. Adequate instructions should always be provided for uninitiated users and even if everything does go perfectly to that point sometimes an unfriendly mobile experience awaits the user at the destination. You can read more about matrix barcodes in this post I wrote on the Delvinia Blog.

In this case the system worked flawlessly. I opened my ScanLife iPhone app and held it about 6-8 inches away from the shelf signage. The code was immediately picked up and my browser was directed to the  recipe for a Gin Martini made with Tanqueray on the Classic Cocktails mobile web site. At that point I could easily bookmark that with my browser for reference later.

Cheers to the LCBO and their digital team for such a useful application. Now to make myself a Gin Martini.

Originally published at by me.


  1. Randy it’s not a QR Code it’s an EZcode!

    EZcode is a proprietary 2D barcode which was created by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and is licensed to Scanbuy.

    If you tried to scan it with any one of the 100s of standard QR Code readers it would fail.

    Only the LCBO knows why they have not used an open standard like QR Code.

    • Thanks for pointing that out Roger, it did work fine with the ScanLife Code Reader, but that has pretty much worked on anything. I’ll look into and make the correction to the post.

    • As Randy has pointed out in the article “the experience of using QR codes sometimes falls short of providing a great digital experience for the user.” One of the big reasons for this is that most mobile phones have really terrible cameras and have trouble scanning standard QR codes. EZcodes do not actually embed the URL (the ScanLife software pulls down the full URL from a server), so the patterns are much less complex and easier for crappy mobile phones to scan. Have a look at the free daily Metro newspaper and notice what they have on every page: EZcodes. Until the cameras in mobile phones improve marketers have to make the pragmatic decision to go with a proprietary solution that actually works.

      • Thanks for your insight Terry, I’ve been spoiled by having an iPhone camera, but I have several friends who have difficulty with the codes. In almost all cases when the code placement was well thought out they worked for me. But in a lot of cases the environment added to the frustration. Having a QR code on a drink coaster in a bar or restaurant is great if the lighting is sufficient, but it rarely is unless you are in a well lit environment or on patio in the daytime.

        I’ve seen QR codes on billboards along the highway here in Toronto where it would be impossible and dangerous to try to scan them. The LCBO example while using EZCodes had a lot of good things going for it, the shelf signage was at waist height and positioned so you didn’t have to squat down to scan. If I had one complaint about the whole thing were the instructions underneath the code. These were is a hard to read gray text.

        Last week at the campaign launch I met a couple of members of their digital team, and am sending off an email to ask them about the use of EZ codes as opposed to something else.

        I am familiar with the codes used in Metro and in the National Post, both are simple and work very well. I am always happy to see these codes being used (we used them first in a campaign with RBC in 2008), and while I sometimes feel QR codes are a stop-gap technology until full image recognition improves, it is a cost-efficient and simple way of connecting mobile to online content. However, short codes and SMS can work even better sometimes.

  2. Good use of QR codes. I’m seeing them more and more everywhere!

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