Lord of the QR Codes: Chino Latino goes digital

Chino Latino, the trendy Uptown restaurant famous for its bold attitude and dishes straight from the streets of the world’s “hot zones,” recently took another giant leap ahead of the game with the unveiling of its interactive “Lord of the Hot Zones” QR (Quick Response) code campaign. The restaurant is no stranger to creating a marketing buzz – billboard slogans such as “Third world prices, Sally Struthers portions” and “As exotic as food gets without the dog” have been notorious for stirring up quite the controversy among concerned citizens who think the ads are “offensive” and “tasteless.” Personally, I think the advertising guru behind Chino’s racy campaigns is somewhat of a genius. Chino Latino owes part (or most) of its success in establishing itself as a hotspot for the twenty-something hipsters of Uptown to its shocking advertising campaigns that dare to go where no other restaurants have gone before – perfect for a young crowd always on the lookout for something bold and different.

 Chino’s new campaign first caught my attention via Facebook when I noticed that the restaurant’s popular pineapple drink had sprouted a QR code tag from its leaves. A few days later I read an article in the Star Tribune about the cutting-edge marketing tactic that knocked my socks off. I grabbed my Blackberry and headed straight to Chino Latino’s Facebook page, now equipped with a QR code profile picture. After a few clicks, I was directed to a YouTube video called “Lord of the Hot Zones,” starring a cartoon version of Chino Latino’s head chef Tuan Nguyan in a loincloth and a talking chicken, in typical Chino fashion. To top it off, patrons who embark on the QR code adventure are rewarded with a free order of Habanero Hell Poppers when they show the phone screen to the server. Score!

I give props to Chino Latino for taking a risk on a technological campaign that seems to be the first of its kind in the restaurant biz. Although QR technology is far from new (it’s been used in Japan for years), it’s just starting to gain recognition in the U.S. What’s a better place to try it out than at a trendy hotspot catering to an age demographic of 18-34? According to a recent mobile barcode trend report, people ages 18-34 make up 34% of all QR technology users, the largest percentage of any age group. Chino Latino realizes the gamble they’re taking on the new technology and is making it easier for patrons to use by posting directions to install a QR code reader on their Facebook page. With all the predictions that QR technology will boom in 2011, Chino Latino’s groundbreaking campaign seems to have perfect timing. If you ask me, the guys and gals over on the QR team should be thanking Chino for putting the recent spotlight on the technology because if anyone can create great hype, its Chino Latino.

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