By now it’s not news. QR codes are popping up everywhere. Sometimes they offer real value for the extra effort and result in a generally positive experience. More often than not, though, it seems like marketers (or non-marketers as the case may be) toss common sense out the window. The typical QR fail is one that simply dumps you off to a desktop web site that is impossible to read and navigate. There are far too many of those to write about on this blog. QR fails you’ll read about here will have something special to them and hopefully be more instructive than “you need to build a mobile web site”.
Last week, in the pouring Seattle rain, I pulled behind a city bus and noticed an ad for a local ski resort called Stevens Pass. It boasted some copy about a $50 special and a QR code. I’d heard about QR codes on buses but I’d only ever seen SMS codes (i.e., text BLAH to shortcode). I didn’t even try to scan it. I took a picture of it, which isn’t easy (or safe) when driving in the rain at night.
I’ve scanned enough QR codes in different environments to know that there was very little chance of getting this code scanned. I’ll talk more about why later.
Once I got home I loaded the picture onto my computer. I had to do some touch ups to get a good scan but it worked. And then I waited as my poor little phone browser struggled to load www.purepnw.com. It loaded but it was nearly impossible to tell what I was looking at.
I tried panning and zooming but the way the site was built neither of those tricks of the mobile browser worked. Of course no mention of a $50 special.
Just to find out what they really wanted me to see I opened the web site on my computer:
A nice desktop experience with videos of the resort, a twitter stream and rotating hi quality pictures in the background. In the center was an embedded YouTube video player. No wonder my phone couldn’t handle it. If ever there was a site not appropriate for mobile this is it.
What could have saved this campaign?
First, we’ll need to make the assumption that Stevens Pass did more advertising than on the backs and sides of city buses. If so, there may have been a reasonable place to put a QR code. So here’s how we fix it:
1) Remove the QR from the bus. Not only is it unsafe to ask people to scan and drive but there are so many factors introduced that can and do render scanning difficult if not impossible: one or more moving vehicles, window glass, weather, lighting, reflection, camera angle.
2) Build a mobile landing page, if not a complete site, and direct your QR code there.
3) Put information on the site related to the ad. In this case there was no mention of the $50 promotion.
4) Give people a reason to scan. In this case ad copy that might have said, “Scan this to get your $50 voucher,” depending on the nature of the promotion.