Monthly Archives: October 2010

REI Fail #2 – Make It Stop

Someone please call REI. Whoever is running their mobile marketing is asleep.image: REI SKI Magazine ad

We’re coming up on ski season and skiers and boarders alike will be keeping a close eye on snow conditions.  REI is presumably here to help. In the new issue of SKI Magazine REI placed a full-page ad dedicated largely to their equipment servicing offer but for those with iPhone and Android-based phones they have a bonus: a free snow report app!

Using a nice, short URL,, they successfully avoided the inherent challenges with QR codes (i.e., some people don’t know what they are and don’t have a reader installed on their phone). This tidy little URL can easily be typed into a phone browser, which is what I did. Soon the now-familiar REI image: REI Ad Copymobile site began loading. After a few seconds the site was loaded and – no app anywhere. I wasn’t even on a page that was supposed to have apps. I was just staring at the front door of their mobile site.


Looking around, I didn’t even see where the apps might be. Under ‘SHOP’? Under ‘Find Out’? Checking….. nope. I don’t see it anywhere. On an off-chance I thought I’d try the URL from my computer and there – on the fixed Internet – is a page offering an iPhone app. Yay! But what about Android? Oop. In pretty orange letters the page says, “Android Version Coming Soon!” I could have swore the ad said for iPhone and Android. Wait! It did. Fail again. Sigh.

Credit: @daniel_phelps


What might have saved this campaign?
At some risk of stating the obvious REI could have simply created a page on their mobile site where the app(s) could be downloaded. When their web servers detected that a mobile device was accessing the user could be taken directly to that page. As far as promoting an app for Android when none exists? This bad idea could be mitigated by offering to alert me via SMS when the app is ready. Then send me the link to the download page.


From Meg Brown:

Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative to accelerate cancer research, sponsored the opening game of the MLB World Series tonight. They bought major ad time during the game that encouraged viewers to join in the movement and take a stand by launching a star in honor of someone you love who has been affected by cancer. “For as little as a dollar you can make a difference.”

The URL,, is short and sweet. It is perfect for a captured audience. They are at the game… with their phones. They are sitting at their local bar… with their phones. They are sitting on their couch… with their phones. Will someone PLEASE tell me why this website was not optimized for mobile devices? No one from MLB or Stand Up To Cancer realized that this website would crash every phone that tried to access it while watching image: SU2C mobile webthe game. Seriously?

A word of advice to all the marketers out there: Talk to your IT department before shelling out millions of dollars on a media buy that will FAIL.

Kelly: I guess it’s not like they tried to use mobile and failed. Rather they just failed to recognize mobile.


What could have saved this campaign?
It may be obvious that the web site should have been prepared for access from mobile devices but I’ll state that first. Part of these preparations could have included a clear mobile web strategy that supports the SU2C overall objectives of driving donations and involvement (the mobile web is probably not a place to push TV viewership as they do from their main web site). Then, construct a (non-flash) mobile site that recognizes the context of the mobile game-watcher (in the stands, on the couch, in a bar). Finally, detect the mobile device and redirect them to the mobile site.
Also, with such a captive audience they might have used SMS to encourage $5 on-the-spot donations.

REI Fail

From Meg Brown:

One of the primary challenges faced by the majority of brand marketers today is how to effectively integrate rapidly evolving technology advancements into their marketing plans. What happens when a marketing team is charged with facilitating deadlines with their mobile Agency of Record, their internal IT department and their direct mail printer?  image: REI FlyerUnfortunately, it can be a recipe for a huge marketing failure.

For example, REI’s Fall Sales catalogue arrived in my mail yesterday. On the back of the mailer there is a large, bright orange coupon advertising 20% one full-priced item. To the right of that coupon, in much smaller and non-descript print, there is a QR code. This is a not a strong call to action for the mobile campaign when placed right next to the bright coupon. Plus, I do not think the average consumer automatically recognizes that the QR code is intended for them. Due to the placement it could easily be confused as a tool for the  Postal Carrier.

One thing that REI did right was clearly explaining how to download a QR reader to “watch the magic happen”.  Nice. Where did they go wrong? Well, when I scanned the code it took me to a page with an error message. The page informed me, “We are making updates to the mobile site. Please view our store locator on the HTML site.”  The mobile site was down for maintenance on the very day that they launched the mobile campaign.image: REI Site Down

Huge Fail.

Imagine the typical consumer experience.

  1. Placement of the QR code was a huge miss because it is competing with the bright coupon.
  2. Weak call to action because it isn’t tied to an offer, just a store location (finder).
  3. Majority of consumers don’t have a QR scanner and if they do they aren’t aware of it.
  4. A small percentage will actually take the time to go into the app store and download a QR scanner.
  5. Consumer scans code and the site is down.

Kelly: The whole thing is so underwhelming and would be even if the site was up. Store locator? Really? What REI member does not know the location of their nearest 3 REI stores?


What could have saved this campaign?
Besides stating the obvious way that they could improve this mobile campaign (working mobile site), there are other ways to set this up for success in the future.

  1. Give the consumer a better pay off. Tie the QR code to a compelling offer with a time restrictions. For example, bring this into the store in the next 24hrs for 25% off any full priced item or even, get the coupon to the left sent to your cell phone now.
  2. Give the QR code prominent placement. Don’t place it next to all of the Post Carrier messaging. Put it on the inside cover with an eye-catching explanation.
  3. Provide an SMS option to retrieve the URL and link to the mobile web site.

Marketing departments need to learn that they can’t implement the newest technology into their media plan unless they have developed a clear strategy with their IT department.

Tissot’s QR-code FAIL

From ChinWonder’s Blog:

Mobile Marketer featured a story about Tissot sponsoring Danica Patrick to drive a race car with a QR code on the hood at a NASCAR event tomorrow. This race car is the first image: Danica's QR Codeever to feature a mobile bar code. With the car going round and round at high speed, I imagine live audiences will have a hard time getting their devices to read the code. Perhaps I will have better luck scanning it on the TV!?

Check back here tomorrow, and we shall see if this Tissot QR strategy will provide an enticing consumer experience, or just be a disappointing gimmick.

…it is now tomorrow.

Danica Patrick was ousted by a car crash with 10 laps left!

Even more disappointing was Tissot’s QR-on-the-car strategy. From pre-race to the point Ms. Patrick was forced to leave the track, I saw no opportunity to scan that code.

One of the problems is that Ms. Patrick was too far back, the camera never stayed with her long enough. The pit stop would have been a good time to show the QR, but the camera was focused on the pit crew instead. The other problem is that the QR was not discoverable. It was too small, and there was no mentioning of it throughout the broadcast. If I were an unsuspecting viewer, I wouldn’t know Ms. Patrick’s car was special at all.

The QR takes people to a mobile page with the schedule of events, the lineup for the race, information on Danica Patrick and her team, pictures of Tissot’s Danica Patrick collection, etc. People in the live audience without a program and viewers who are not near a computer should find the page useful, especially before the race. But since there appeared to be no chance to scan the QR code from the TV, and race attendees were not likely able to scan it directly from the fast-moving race car, could Tissot have promoted this marketing effort using other media?

Tissot’s website gave no indication of their NASCAR QR campaign. I then went down to the bookstore and flipped through magazines from Road & Track to Motor Sport to Sports Illustrated to the Watch Journal. I could not find a single Tissot advertisement, let alone a Tissot advertisement with Danica Patrick or the race car with QR.

At the very least, I would make the QR much bigger, so even if it can’t be scanned, viewers could still see that it is a QR code. Had I been given a generous budget to work with, I would also reach out to NASCAR enthusiasts and Danica Patrick fans by promoting on SPEED TV, ESPN, Danica Patrick’s official website and fan sites, JR Motorsports/Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s website, and various motorsport magazines.

Given its seemingly poor exposure, it is unclear to me who Tissot was trying to reach through the QR-on-the-car. But I can’t imagine it reached very many people.


What could have saved this campaign?
As with most failed efforts better integration with other promotional (ahem) vehicles could have given this campaign some life. While the QR code remains on the car Tissot should be looking at placing it on in-venue signage as well as in the programs handed out to attendees (hopefully with instructions on what to do). Leveraging the Jumbotron or other large in-venue display, Tissot might have prompted viewers to send an SMS with a keyword, like “Tissot”. The resulting SMS reply could be the same url that is embodied by the QR code, no QR reader needed. Just click the link.

Conde Nast Traveler’s Travelscape FAIL

As part of the class I teach at the University of Washington we seek out and participate in all kinds of mobile media. Students do it during the week and we all do it in-class. In one such class exercise I handed out pages from some magazines I’d purchased just for theImage from Conde Nast Magazine occasion. The October issue of Conde Nast Traveler was one of them.

Near the back of the magazine is a section called Travelscape where readers can get more information on advertisers (Does anyone really ever do this?). Among the methods for requesting information is via SMS. Being partial to SMS I was certainly curious to see how this works! Would they send a single text or maybe a series of 160 character texts? Maybe just one text with a URL where I could get more info and perhaps a picture or two?

The method was pretty standard, send a keyword to the short code to get the process rolling. Oddly, there wasn’t a keyword for each advertiser but rather a single keyword for an entire category (e.g., cruises, Mexico, Hawaii). Ok. So I pick the Hawaii category and seeImage: Conde Nast SMS the instructions to “Text CNSEP*13 to 41411″. Huh? There’s a star in the keyword? Is it supposed to be like that? I check the other categories and indeed each has “CNSEP*” and then a number. Fine. A bit confusing but whatever, here goes.  I text the keyword to the short code and…


I get no message back. I try again. Same, nothing. FAIL.

Having been in the mobile marketing arena awhile I know that it is required for shortcode programs to support the “HELP” keyword. So I send HELP to 41411 and almost immediately get the following reply, “TextMarks mobilizes groups & web apps. Freq of msgs varies by keyword. Rply STOP to stop. Msg&Data rates may apply. Visit or”.  At least now we know who Conde Nast Traveler should send packing.

Weeks later, the keywords still don’t work. Sigh.


What could have saved this campaign?
First, the service needs to work. Marketers absolutely must test the user/customer experience at all stages of the effort. Had the person at Conde Nast Traveler responsible for compiling this page simply picked up her cell-phone and tried it she would have discovered the problem.
Second, the use of stars in a keyword, though technically no different from any other character, is uncommon and unfamiliar. Stick with alpha-numeric keywords.

Essence FAILs on Sex & Love

Page 12 of the October issue of Essence magazine contained a teaser.  It promised, “Extra on Essence” for those who scanned with their mobile phones the colorful 2D barcodes that image: Essence pagewere presumably scattered throughout the magazine.

Leafing through the pages I did indeed see a barcode when I came to an article titled Men @ Work featuring Blair Underwood, Boris Kodjoe, and Lance Gross. Just above the tag the bold type promised, “Watch exclusive video from our shoot with Boris, Lance, and Blair now!” Interesting idea. Give us some exclusive content from behind the scenes, a little peek into the working lives of gorgeous celebrities.  I kept leafing. I was doing a bit of a survey to see just how many times barcodes had been used.  Turns out they were used twice not including the instructional teaser at the front of the magazine. I was a little underwhelmed by this. As if they were reluctant but willing to give it a try; nothing too crazy.  (There was actually one more but it was provided by an advertiser, not Essence.)

I turned back to page 111 where I saw the other of the two barcodes. This one was on a one-page article titled Sex & Love with the subtitle Single Man of the Month featuring Alejandro C. Apparently Alejandro is single advertising executive from NYC who deems himself affectionate. The only way to get more about Alejandro at that moment was the promise of More Videos that lay behind the colorful barcode.  Perhaps I’d see an interview or one of his own home videos? Interesting possibilities. I would think seeing him in action would make the girls out there more likely to reach out to him via the email address that was provided. image: Essence YouTube

So out came my trusty mobile phone. Scanning the tag worked as expected and it appeared I was being directed to a site. Indeed, I was. When the page finished loading I was looking at the image to the right. Uh..Where’s Alejandro? Do I need to subscribe? Is he one of the 204 Uploads? Is he a playlist? You know, to be fair, the little tag box just said, “More Videos.” It didn’t say, “More Alejandro videos.” Perhaps my expectations were wrong – being just a man.

So I turn to page 131 with Blair Underwood and snap that code to see what I get. After all, this one actually promises, “Watch exclusive video from our shoot with Boris, Lance, and Blair now!” Expectation = set. It’s not me, people. The result? Same. No behind the scenes video. Just the front door of the Essence channel.


At this point the effort was a failure. I did, however, play the role of super-enthusiastic reader-with-too-much-time and I tried all options on the page. Subscribe wanted my Google password – nope. Uploads contained just that, uploaded vids but not the one I was looking for as far as I could tell. And Playlists had something called Extra on Essence but nothing happened when I clicked it. More FAIL.


What could have saved this campaign?
This one would have been easy to move to the Win column of the mobile marketing tally sheet simply by pointing the barcodes (Microsoft Tags, actually) to actual videos. That assumes that the videos have been uploaded, of course (details, details).  Had someone at Essence (with an eye toward the user) actually tested the barcodes prior to going to print I think this miss would have been caught.