Category Archives: Contests and Sweeps

American Express Drops Guard on Mobile

‘Tis the season for gift-giving so it isn’t surprising to see American Express pushing a sweepstakes where gift card recipients have a chance at $100,000 cash prize. This large ‘carrot’ appears to be the incentive for shoppers to purchase gift cards at local shopping malls to give to their friends and family. Though, it turns out the giver isn’t entered for the prize, just the recipient. I would have thought it would be the other way around.

I’m not a fan of the gift card. I like to put a bit of thought into gift-giving. Still, I was curious about this promotion from Amex. I happened to be at the Customer Service desk at a local mall and saw a small flyer for the sweepstakes. Other signs/posters were seemingly everywhere but this little 3in x 5in flyer, unlike the other materials, included a QR code so I grabbed one.

image: Amex Sweeps Flyer.

Apparently as a recipient of one of these cards I’m supposed to go to the URL provided or scan the QR code – though there were ZERO instructions as you can see.  But I know what to do and scanning the code, my phone’s browser is opened and I get:

image: Amex Bad Cert

Security? What’s going on here? Is this site not safe for me to visit? Should I view the certificate? This IS American Express, right?? Forget it.



What could have saved this campaign?

There were two things you probably noticed in this entry:

1) No instructions to accompany the QR code.  While QR scanning continues to increase it is still only familiar to very few, around 10% of mobile users.  Always include instructions.

2) There is a problem with the security certificate for the mobile site. This is really a very silly error on behalf of American Express. As a financial services company Amex should always have clean security certificates. If there’s one place you don’t want people wondering about security it’s on sites that have to do with money.

As it turns out, once past the security warning you are taken to a decent mobile site where – as a card recipient – you need to enter your card number in order to enter the $100k sweepstakes. This is likely the reason for the secure site.

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..


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.


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.

No Mobile Slam Dunk for Dunkin’ Donuts

As a retailer, Dunkin’ Donuts is no slouch. They know their customers and give them good reasons to keep coming in. They even have a rewards program. That is, I *think* they have a rewards program.

Halfway through an iced coffee I noticed that I could, “Text CAP to 386546 & play at”

image: Dunkin' Donuts Cup

Sounds like a game or something and with a few minutes to spare as I drank my coffee I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t about to type the URL into the browser of my phone so I just sent CAP to the short code.  What I received in return was the following:

Image: Dunkin' Donuts CAP ReplyEh? This looks like they want me to enter a sweepstakes or something. What happened to ‘play’? No game? No fun? It looks like I need to go to a website. Why?  Though I’m not much of a gambler I click the link to see just what they’re up to. At this point, however, my expectations are diminished; they lost me at ‘play’.

The ‘Lab’ as it appears to be called starts to load on my phone. Very, very,  slowly. This is suspicious. I think I know what’s happening… And, yes. The site loads and I’m staring at the top left corner of what appears to be a graphics-intensive page, non mobile-optimized.image: Dunkin' Donuts LAB I can’t even pinch-zoom to see the whole page. Nor can I scroll around the page. These functions appear to be disabled for god-knows what reason.  This is seriously broken.

Going back to the text message I reply with HELP to try and learn more. The reply says, “ learn more about Dunkin’ Perks or opt out go to” (there’s the hint at a rewards program) Fine. Another web site to try, though this one appears to be specific to mobile somehow. This URL, however, generates a very different experience:
image: Dunkin' Donuts LAB




What could have saved this campaign?

Well, in case it isn’t obvious, any url that is placed in a text message should lead a user to a site that is both available and optimized for mobile devices. This is the very least that could have been done to make this campaign work at its most basic level. But that really isn’t enough.

  • The call-to-action on the coffee cup needs to provide some incentive to text CAP to the short code. Create some mystery or promise some value in the form of entertainment or product discounts/coupons. Why should they bother and risk getting spammed (yes, many people are very concerned about text-message spam from marketers)?
  • When promoting a contest via mobile allow mobile users to enter the contest via mobile. Don’t force them to wait until they are home in front of a computer and expect that they will remember you have a contest they might want to enter.