Exploring Hidden QR Codes in “Moon Knight” (and More)

Have you ever thought to scan a QR Code in the background of a TV show? Marvel fans, known for obsessing over the details, found QR Code Easter eggs in the background of “Moon Knight.”

Moon Knight,” a Marvel series that debuted on Disney Plus in 2022, features Oscar Isaac as the titular Marvel character (also known as Marc Spector) who explores a dangerous mystery involving Egyptian gods.

This clever trick became a viral trend in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), turning passive viewers into engaged, interactive fans looking obsessively for the QR Code in every episode.

Let’s explore why it worked and how they made it happen.

What are hidden QR Codes?

Hidden QR Codes, also known as QR Code Easter eggs, are working QR Codes placed in the background of media. Usually in videos, these QR Codes are scannable by audiences watching at home. A techy version of the classic post-credits scene, they usually lead to fan content or promotions. 

In the case of “Moon Knight,” the QR Codes led to a website featuring weekly free Marvel comics about the “Moon Knight” character. It allowed them to learn more about the history of the character as well as promote engagement with the show.

QR Codes are a popular, accessible Easter egg because almost everyone has a smartphone with a QR Code reader. Being able to spot them in the background allows viewers to feel like they’re in on an exclusive secret, which makes them more invested in the brand.

How hidden QR Codes work in media

Marvel Studios conceived of the QR Code tie-in post-production. Once approved by executive producers, the team used CGI to subtly plant the QR Codes in scenes where they would feel natural.

Since you can scan QR Codes from multiple angles, the team could put them in shots where they would be angled on-screen to blend them into the background elements. However, they had to think about the size of the QR Codes—they would need to be big enough that viewers could easily scan them. There would also need to be a “quiet zone” around the code for better scannability. 

URL length affected production, too. The longer the URL, the more complex the QR Code would be, and the harder it would be for the average QR Code software to read. Marvel used the Bitly URL shortener service to ensure the “Moon Knight” site URL would produce a simple QR Code that was easy to scan.

Most hidden QR Codes have to consider similar technical factors, but the possible ways in which to use them are endless. 

QR Codes can be embedded into artwork, such as when a Toronto gallery promoted its work by creating public ads featuring stunning art with QR Codes

The 2023 Netflix original movie “Leave the World Behind” features a working QR Code hidden in a map, leading to the webpage for an abandoned amusement park. In this case, the QR Code is less promotional and more of an artistic statement.

Hidden QR Codes could link to an exclusive offer, brand secrets, or video messages from celebrities. Anything that ties into the project would promote engagement and connect with fans.

Why QR Codes are a clever disguise in the “Moon Knight” TV series

Planting QR Codes into “Moon Knight” was a genius move from a production perspective. There’s a reason these pixelated black-and-white squares worked so well for this promotion—they come with a whole host of feature perks. Plus, the production team rolled out the project with some clever ideas. 

Dynamic and adaptable

As opposed to the Static QR Code that can’t be changed, tracked, or edited after creation, “Moon Knight” has opted for the Dynamic QR Code. This isn’t unusual for marketing purposes, as there are so many insights we can gather from using this type of code. 

The advantage of Marvel/Disney opting for the dynamic version is that they can track user behavior. The trackable feature revealed some nerdy secrets: Disney announced that over 1.5 million viewers scanned the QR Code that directed viewers to Marvel’s landing page, inspiring a full read of more than 500,000 comics. It’s clear that Marvel’s Easter eggs haven’t gone unnoticed. 

Ease of access

Finding the hidden QR Code is one part of the treasure hunt; scanning it is the other. At this stage of tech advancement, most modern smartphones have a built-in QR Code scanner or the option to download a third-party app.

A step up from classic product placement, hidden QR Codes put the brand content directly on users’ phones. Once it’s in their browsing history, users can revisit the content again and again.

Unpredictability (and urgency)

For dedicated Marvel fans, it would have been way too easy to find just one hidden QR Code in each consecutive episode. Instead, Marvel strategically spread them out throughout the storyline and chose their secret hiding places in locations where they would blend into the background. 

You wouldn’t naturally find a QR Code in ancient Egyptian ruins—that would be conspicuous. However, it’s possible to find them in modern buildings like museums, storage units, etc. The sporadic appearance of these QR Codes aptly encapsulates the magician’s trick of “now you see me, now you don’t,” keeping viewers at the edge of their seats.

3 ways “Moon Knight” used hidden QR Codes on an expert level

Beware: The following section contains spoilers. Keep reading to learn where each QR Code was hidden throughout the “Moon Knight” series and what content linked to each one.

1. The secret QR Code in episode 1 of “Moon Knight”

We start the series by meeting our protagonist, Steven Grant, who is running late for his job at the museum. When he sees a young museum visitor who seems bored, he draws her attention to an Egyptian sarcophagus and tells her the story behind the object.

While the camera’s focal point is the artifact, the first QR Code in “Moon Knight” appears behind them, posted on the museum’s wall along with other navigational signage. 

When you scan the code, you’ll land on a Marvel webpage that reveals a free digital comic: a copy of “Werewolf by Night” #32. The earliest edition, written by Doug Moench and illustrated by Don Perlin, was published for the first time in 1972—and it even has its original price on its digital cover: sold for 25 cents. Do we detect a werewolf and Egyptian mythology renaissance? You betcha! 

2. The hidden message in the QR Code in episode 2 of “Moon Knight”

In the second episode of “Moon Knight,” Steven Grant finds a strange storage locker key in his apartment, accompanied by a phone. While searching the phone, an unexpected incoming call from someone named Layla arrives. When Steven answers, Layla refers to him as “Marc.” More puzzled, he asks her, “Why did you call me Marc?” She hangs up. 

As stranger and stranger events occur, Steven becomes disoriented and starts to want answers.

Intrigued by the mystery surrounding the key, he tracks down the storage locker unit and opens it. The hidden QR Code is planted right on the storage locker, disguised as a unit tracking code. 

Scanning it brings viewers to “Werewolf by Night” #33. The cover of this issue is ominous and unsettling, foreshadowing the battle between the beast and the character, Moon Knight, later on in the episode. While Marc is left in the dark (for now), we, the viewers, receive a clue about his fate. The connection between the series and the comic books is indisputably apparent.

3. The QR Code reveal in Episode 5 of “Moon Knight”

Marvel continued to release new digital comic books during episodes 3 and 4, but they refrained from putting QR Codes in the episodes. Episode 3 was tied with “Werewolf by Night: Midnight Means Murder,” while episode 4 got “Moon Knight in Universe X” issue #6.

In episode 5, Steven visits the Egyptian underworld, where he gets the opportunity to watch some of his memories, which have been hidden from him through a magic doorway. As the camera focuses on Steven gazing through the doorway, you can see the last QR Code next to it. It’s disguised as a link to a navigational map. 

Scanning it brings viewers to a digital version of the very first “Moon Knight” comic from 1980. Previously, the character Moon Knight was just featured in comics starring other characters, but now he got to be in the spotlight. Little did we know the legacy that “Moon Knight” would go on to have.

Explore the lasting impact of hidden QR Codes

“Moon Knight” will not be the last major piece of media with a hidden QR Code tie-in. It’s only the beginning of a new world of interactive media, with QR Codes being one of the most important tools in making it possible.

QR Code Generator PRO has all the features Marvel used in the “Moon Knight” QR Code campaign to engage its audience, including QR Code personalization and Dynamic QR Code tracking.  

Ready to harness the marketing power of hidden QR Codes? Sign up to learn more about how QR Code Generator PRO can help.

Tobias Funke

Tobias Funke is Bitly’s Vice President of Product. With a background in software engineering, he has a decade of combined experience in product development and the QR Code space. Tobias leads a team that developed one of the most successful and popular QR Code generators available. His entrepreneurial and growth mindset helps build products that continuously disrupt the market. You can connect with Tobias on LinkedIn.

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