Monthly Archives: August 2011

HenryGill’s QR Fails In The Wild Blue Yonder

Not long ago I was flying. Well, actually, I was sitting while the Frontier Airlines pilot was flying. And as we sailed along I had the opportunity to check out the seat pocket in front of me as a way of killing some time without having to work. I pulled out the May edition of Wild Blue Yonder, the in-flight magazine for this little airline.  The cover promised information about Colorado, which happened to be my destination. Nice.

Thumbing through the short articles (did you know Frontier Airlines will accept bicycles as regular checked baggage?) I came across an article on The New Mobile Office. Butimage: HenryGill QR chaos ad before I started to read I noticed the full-page ad on the opposite page. “Turn chaos into a quick response,” it shouted in all caps. Above those words, and taking up almost half the ad was a cleverly designed QR code. Each ‘pixel’ was made up of some type of media device. There were TVs, boomboxes, newspaper receptacles (more of a media receiving device, I guess) and billboards.

Notably, all the ‘devices’ were decidedly old-school but wrapped into a new media interaction technique. A technique that required me to use my mobile phone, which was powered off as is customary and required during air travel.

How was I supposed to scan a QR code while 30,000 feet above the ground? Even if my phone were on (and in ‘airplane’ mode) how would I possibly connect to whatever destination the QR would take me? Sigh.

FAIL.

I put the magazine in my briefcase. I intended to scan the code when I got on the ground.

[Update] Since the in-flight fail two things have happened.

  1. I scanned the code a day or two later when I returned to the office and emptied my briefcase. The scan directed my phone to the decidedly non mobile-friendly HenryGill web site. Fail #2.
  2. Re-scanning the code for this blog entry resulted in, well, nothing. I couldn’t get any of my many scanners to recognize the QR.  Fail #3.

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What could have saved this campaign?

Here’s what I think happened. HenryGill’s designers created what they thought was a clever ad as part of their print media campaign. Then they handed it over to the media buyers who purchased space in Wild Blue Yonder and probably – well, hopefully –  several other magazines. Media buyers aren’t there to question the ad design and they aren’t used to thinking about context in which an ad will be read – or rather, interacted with. This is where they were set up for the initial fail. HenryGill as an agency just isn’t up-to-speen with mobile across their various departments. Specifically, the media buyers didn’t realize that the design was a QR code that was meant to be scanned by a mobile phone connected to the Internet.

The second fail was something all too common, a non-mobile web site; the remedy for which should be obvious. Companies need to stop pointing their QR codes at their regular web site. It’s an automatic fail from a user experience perspective.

The third fail is something new! It’s a problem with the design. The images they used as ‘pixels’ for the QR code aren’t a solid color and there isn’t enough contrast between the little images and the white background of the page. Without enough contrast QR scanners can’t read it. The ink used for print has faded just enough in 4 months as to make the code un-readable.


Old-School Doritos Fails With Smartphones

In an odd twist in the world of mobile marketing Doritos’ recent mobile promotion seemed geared more toward non-smartphones..

I recently bought a small bag of Doritos to accompany me on my drive home from work. Advertised on a full 1/4 of the bag of Cool Ranch chips they lead with the offerimage: Doritos Promo that “You could become a Green Lantern in an upcoming comic” and also “win 1000s of other prizes plus a free digital comic”. This was intriguing (me? the next Green Lantern?) and really made me want to learn how.

The process was laid out in three numbered steps. The first one said “Text HERO to CHIPS”. Hmm. Ok. Opening the messaging app on my Nexus S I type ‘chips’ into the To: box and ‘Hero’ into the message body and hit Send. Oop! I get an error that says, “Cannot sent this message. Your message has no valid recipients.” Grrr..

Fail.

Step two says to “enter the 9-digit code from the front of the bag” but at this point I have nowhere to enter it. I don’t even try step three seeing how I can’t even get past step 1.

Fortunately they also offered a QR code for us smartphone users. Scanning it, I was taken to what I figured was a web page but what now appeared to be just an image that only filled a portion of the screen and had text too small to read.

image: Doritos Site
Confused, I tried zooming in. Nope. Can’t zoom. Hmmmm. Try again. No zoom but this time my pinching scrolled the page a bit; there was something below the image. I scrolled deliberately this time and revealed text that told me that the campaign ended on 7/31. Bummer, I really wanted to be the next Green Lantern.

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What could have saved this campaign?

First, this wasn’t a complete fail. People carrying feature phones (i.e., non-smartphones) were probably able to address their text message to ‘Chips’, though it is unclear what that experience might have been. Also, scanning the QR code did result in a page that appeared to be built for mobile viewing.  Here’s what might have happened:

1) Just use the short code in the SMS call-to-action. In the printed context there is no need for the assisted recall mechanism of having a real-word equivalent. The use of real words in place of shortcodes was made obsolete by smartphones, which don’t have number/letter dial pads. If you do use the word then also indicate the number so smartphone users can play.

2) Give instructions for scanning the QR code. According to Comscore only 15% of smartphone users scanned QR codes in June 2011. That means there are likely a lot of people who don’t know the process.

3) Provide on-going engagement. Printed promotions like this will often be picked up and tried even after the promotion itself is over. This is an opportunity to engage in a variety of ways including asking for opt-in to future promotions.