Category Archives: QR Codes

QR Code On A Real Estate Sign: Missed Expectations

The mobile phone has been an indispensable tool for real estate agents. If someone can’t get hold of you a sale could be missed. And few of the agents I know can afford to miss a sale.

Real estate agents – and brokers, too – also recognize the opportunity for connection that came with the development of smartphones. Of course, for sale signs always have a phone number you can call. But now people can engage with the signs through the use of that strange mark called a QR code. By scanning the QR code with a smartphone a potential buyer can get information on the home; more than one would get on the paper flyer, such as videos and many more pics. That is, if the agent has thought through the process.

On my way home last week I drove by a house offered through Windermere Real Estate by agent Kirk Mitchell and was curious about some of the details including the number of beds/baths, lot size and asking price. Pulling into the drive I noticed that the box of flyers was empty. Bummer. I noticed, however, a very prominent QR code.

For Sale Sign

Perfect, I thought, I’ll just scan the code and get the information. After all, right below the QR code it says, “Property Information”.

QR closeup

And, admittedly, someone was thinking when they made the code so big you didn’t even have to get out of your car to scan it. So, I scanned it from the front seat of my car, curious and hopeful. The result:

Phone Screen

 

Whaa? Where’s the ‘Property Information’? This just shows a picture of the home and its address. I already have this information – I’m parked in the driveway! No, I don’t want to call anyone and I don’t want to email either. Not only is this more work but that will undoubtedly kick off a conversation that I’m not yet ready to get into (i.e., Do you have a house you need to sell? Are you pre-qualified? What is your ideal home? What price range are you looking at?). I just wanted to know the basics of this house. Grrr.

FAIL.

***********************************

What could have saved this campaign?

I really was hopeful with this one. I wanted it to work like I think it should. It was so close with that big scan-from-your-car QR code. The basic fix is pretty obvious but there’s more.

1) Keep your promise – if you provide a QR code that promises ‘property information’ then provide it. At least give people what they might otherwise get on the printed flyer. I’d also argue that this is the wrong time to ask for contact, anyway.

2) Use a service designed specifically for real estate sales – Kirk is using nanoqr.com, a French company who has tricked him into thinking that what they offer is the “right” thing for him. They promote it clearly on their site:

nanoqr site

 

Though it’s more expensive Kirk should consider a service like Qfuse, who clearly understand his market better than the folks in France.

3) Finally, Windermere Real Estate has a serviceable mobile site. This QR code could have directed me to the exact listing for that house. It even includes a phone number and email address for Kirk. I think this is what most people would expect by scanning a QR code on a home for sale sign.

 

 

 

Ripon Printers Uses A QR Code In A B2B Fail

Businesses who offer products and services to other businesses often lag behind in the use of new techniques to reach their customers. So I was intrigued when I saw a QR code on the back cover of the recent Chief Marketer magazine. Like the mobile nerd that I am I read only the headline, “Print and Digital Go Together Like Sugar and Spice, ” and then skipped right to the QR code (the ad was for a company called Ripon Printers). The code itself was unremarkable but there was some copy next to it that I found somewhat helpful, “Scan the mobile barcode with your Smartphone camera to download our white paper.” It was clear to me what would happen as a result of scanning the code. But what, exactly, would be downloaded? Based on previous attempts to download a document of some sort I figured it would be a .pdf, which was the first sign of potential trouble.

image: Ripon-magazine-ad-barcode

I happened to be sitting in a coffee shop so I popped out my phone and used the iNigma app to scan the code. I was taken to a web page that loaded very quickly (kudos to Ripon for that!). This being a B2B scenario the white paper was a lead generation tactic and on the web page was a form to complete in order to receive the download. Here’s the whole page:

image: Ripon-mobile-web-form

At this point I didn’t even know what the paper was about but to a degree that was my fault – I hadn’t read the whole ad, just the headline. On my phone this site was three screens long and there was no way I was going to tap out all that info using my phone’s tiny keypad just to receive a white paper.

At this point I declared this effort a modest FAIL — hardly a heinous one.

But I pressed on to see what would happen. I took the time to enter all of the required information — not a fun task with my big thumbs and the little keypad. The result was a bit confusing. The screen flashed momentarily after I tapped the Submit button but I was left on the page looking at my completed form. Did it work? It took me a while to notice the little icon in the phone’s status bar that indicated a download of some sort. I dragged the notification bar down to find that the white paper had arrived. Here we go, I thought. And this is the unfortunate result:

image: Ripon-whitepaper-on-mobile-phone

This is page 2 of the .pdf and there was no way I was going to pinch-zoom and side-scroll in order to read this thing. It was a nicely designed document but completely unreadable using a mobile phone.

FAIL.

************************

What could have saved this campaign?

There are two approaches to saving this lead-gen campaign when it comes to engaging people on their mobile phones (tablets, too, I suppose but does anyone scan 2D codes using their iPad??):

1) Shorten the form, reformat the .pdf   I understand that the sales team wants as much data on a prospect as possible but re-purposing your regular web form is the kiss of death for mobile. The form should simply ask for an email address and perhaps a name. Then, the downloaded .pdf should be one that was designed for reading on a mobile device with a single column, minimal graphics and large fonts. Lastly, make the web form give an indication that the download had started.

2) Change the channel to email   Mobile is a great way to capture impulse. In this case the web form could say something like, “Thanks for your interest in Ripon’s mobile expertise. We know you’re busy so just enter your email address and our white paper will be waiting for you in your email inbox.” There’s nothing urgent about reading the white paper. The key is to make it really easy to express that initial interest.

In either approach Ripon would at least have an email address they can use to follow-up and they would distribute many more copies of their white paper.

Target’s In-Store App Promotion Fail

For the longest time Target (the department store chain) has avoided mention in this blog. In fact, I’ve used some of their mobile efforts in presentations to show the way to win (vs. fail) in mobile. Both Target and their mobile partner Deloitte Digital have done fantastic work on their mobile app and mobile site. So I was surprised to find myself standing in a Target store looking at this sign.

image: target in store mobile fail

It’s a simple sign with a clear message but how do I get the app? Are they relying on me to go the app store on my phone (Google Play, in this case), do a search for “target” and download it that way? I guess they are because they’ve provided no more convenient alternative.

FAIL

******************************

What could have saved this experience/campaign?

Well, it isn’t the most egregious fail. I guess the solution is pretty obvious but I’ll spell it out.

1) Give a Call-To-Action
This is what surprises me most about the Target sign. Sure, someone who is really motivated will figure it out. But when you are engaging people in-person tell them what to do. Give them a call-to-action. And in a purely mobile environment such as retail a call-to-action should be short and sweet. Don’t force people to think about how to do something, tell them. And make the process as short and quick as possible. There are some ways they could have made things easier for me:

  • A short URL – something like, “target.com/app”. This is easy to enter and easy to remember.
  • A code for me to send via text-message – something like “Text TARGET to 28594″. This has the added benefit of providing Target with an opportunity to get me to opt-in to receive their text-alerts.
  •  Maybe a QR code – They’re not dead (as some will claim) and are the fastest way for someone to get your app. Though plenty of people still don’t know what a QR code is or what to do with them, signs like this can be a good place to use them. However, I probably wouldn’t have put one on this sign as it was 8 or so feet off the ground; the code would have to be really big to be scan-able.

2) Put some smarts behind the URl/QR code.
To keep the sign clean and the call-to-action clear you need a QR code or URL that points to multiple app stores.  With a little device detection and redirection a single url can be used by any phone/device with a good resulting experience.

Interestingly, that same day I saw this sign at Home Depot. When you text to the code you get a url the directs your phone to the correct app store. Well done.

Home-Depot-in-store-mobile-promo

******************************

Rotocube Displays A QR Fail

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table reading a magazine as my wife voluntarily updated my LinkedIN profile, which she said was not quite “up to par.” I’d finished an article and was leisurely flipping through on my way to the next when I saw an advertisement. I’m not really even sure why I looked but I suspect that it was the QR code included in the ad that caught my attention. Having quickly read the ad I was genuinely curious about the product. I didn’t completely understand what “RotoCube Bulletin Towers” were and the ad seemed to promise a video if I scanned the QR code.

I’d long since stopped scanning QR codes in magazines as they seem to alway disappoint me; they never really seem to make the whole scanning effort worth it. But this morning I had some extra time and my phone happened to be within an arm’s reach (Aren’t they always within and arm’s reach? It’s a little sad.) So I grabbed my now aging Nexus S, tapped open iNigma, my sole scanning app, and aimed the camera at the QR code.

image: Rotocube magazine ad

I actually held a glimmer of hope that this time I’d get a product video that showed how these things worked. Again, however, my hopes were dashed on the jagged rocks of Failville.

Rotocube-QR-Result-fail

My phone was directed to a web page.  And one of the worst one’s I’ve ever encountered on my mobile phone. It was not, of course, designed for mobile devices. But, more importantly, where’s the video?? I scanned to get a video not a web page!  The phone screenshot above is approximately the real size of my phone. Look how tiny that page is! Do you see a video? Or even anywhere one might possibly be? Arrrrgh!.

Fail.

*************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

With risk of stating the obvious, there’s one simple thing that could have saved this debacle: linking the QR code to an actual VIDEO.

Fulfill the promise
The folks who put together the print ad had a good idea; that the phone can be used to supply more information about the product than the ad can deliver. They even went so far as to anticipate that a video would be a great way to do that – I agree. But this is mobile. You can’t promise a video and then link to a page where someone has to pinch/zoom and pan around to find a possible video to click on. In mobile, you have to give them what you promised in as few clicks as possible.

But you’re not done yet
Providing a direct link to a product video would have been great and really all one could expect. But if you’re really going to capitalize on the power and impulse of mobile the video needs to work hard. Not only does it need to deliver a clear message in a short period but it needs to allow people to engage. In this case Rotocube might have asked the viewer to provide their email address in order to receive more information or a phone number where a sales rep could call them. The video should leave them with a call-to-action and an easy way to continue the engagement.

 

What do you think they should have done? 

 

GoWallet Forgets That It’s A Mobile App

I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day, loyalty card in-hand, when I saw an image of a mobile phone on a nearby display. On it was printed, “Access Your Gift Cards – anytime, anywhere” (I’m really tired of companies who have anything at all to do with mobile using ‘anytime, anywhere’. In this case, there’s a picture of a mobile phone. I get it.) Then there was a picture of a phone with a few logos on the screen such as Best Buy and Safeway (the store in which I was standing). At first I thought it was suggesting I could load my Safeway card onto the phone, probably because I was actually holding my card.

image: MobileMarketingFail.com GoWallet Display

I was going to try it (or at least get the app – I didn’t have any gift cards at the time) and impulsively reached for my phone to scan the QR code. But in a brief moment of disbelief that quickly turned into disappointment I found no code to scan.  There was a URL for gowallet.com but it was my turn in line and I had to pay for my things.  I had enough time to scan a code and that was it.

FAIL

After checking out I looked for an empty check-out isle and found the same sign. I opened the browser on my phone and tapped in gowallet.com. After several seconds and a bit of forced patience (is it that hard to make a mobile site that loads fast?) I was offered the following on my screen:

image: mobilemarketingfail.com GoWallet site

 

Eh? This can’t be happening. This is a full web site! What am I supposed to do with this? Arrrgh..

FAIL

******************************

What could have saved this experience/campaign?

This multi-level fail needs a lot of work to make it a good mobile experience. It’s surprising that a service that has mobile at its heart is so un-friendly to the mobile user. Let’s start at the top.

1) Call-to-Action – Even with the questions about the long-term viability of QR codes this would have been the place to have one.  For those who know what to do with a QR code it is simply the fastest way to create a connection with the mobile user.  Just putting the URL is not enough. Opening a browser and tapping in URL - even a relatively simple one - is not as fast as scanning a 2D barcode.

2) Mobile Web – The GoWallet web site, whether someone tapped or scanned to get there,  MUST be made mobile-friendly. If for some reason the site can’t be made friendly at least create a landing page that briefly describes the service and allows the mobile user to easily show some initial interest (no-one will complete registration from their phone) by entering their email address or linking to a download of the mobile app.

3) Promote the App – Using basic device detection it is relatively simple to re-direct mobile phones to the mobile app in the appropriate app store. Then, tell them more about the app and the overall service once they are there and only one tap away from a download. Don’t make mobile users read a detailed web site and then hunt around for the link to get the app. Take them to the app, get them to download and walk them through the process.

******************************

Brain Quest Should Think Smarter About Using QR Codes

I have a 3yr old who loves the Brain Quest flash cards. For those not familiar, these are cards with questions that teach things like counting and spelling but also interesting stuff like the order of things (for example setting up a fish tank starts with putting in the plants, then adding water and finally adding the fish) where the cards ask you to put things in the right order.  They’re great.

image: Brain Quest Box

So when it came time to get a present for my son’s friend’s birthday I thought these would be great and headed down to Costco to get the same set my son has. After much rifling through the stacks of card decks I couldn’t find the ones I wanted. Looking at the box of a more advanced set, however, I noticed a QR code. With a small bit of hope I thought perhaps they have a site that can tell me where else I might buy these. Though, it does mention something about an app right above the code (Would the code lead to an app download?). Well, it was worth a shot at least.

image: Brain Quest QR code

I noticed the the designers at Workman Publishing – the creators of Brain Quest products – added their own design touches to the usually plain QR code. I’d recently done a webinar on 2D barcodes, which covers how and how not to add design to a QR code, so I was particularly interested in this code, which included a small cartoon and some colorful swirls.

So out came my Nexus S and with a swype and a tap I had i-Nigma running and I was ready to scan.

Scanning, scanning, scanning… Nothing! i-Nigma couldn’t read the code! Hmm. Rotating the box into better lighting didn’t seem to help, either. I tried another barcode scanner, Red Laser. Nope, didn’t work. Then I tried Scanlife, QuickMark and QR Droid. None of them worked. (Try it yourself and let me know if you are able to get a good scan.)

Disappointed in the failed code, I opened a browser on my phone and just went to the URL printed just under the code. Not surprisingly, it was not a mobile-friendly site but I was determined. After a very slow loading time and much panning and zooming – a painful experience to say the least – I was able to learn that the flash cards were also available down the street at Barnes and Noble. Sheesh.

Fail.

*************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

In many ways this is like so many other failed QR efforts. But the fact that they used a custom designed code sets it apart and the campaign finds itself here on www.mobilemarketingfail.com.

Designer QR Code – Generally, I don’t recommend brands do much if any design alterations to QR codes. Only a minority of mobile phone users know what they are and what to do and the less they look like a QR code the less likely people are to engage. That said, QR codes come with a certain amount of error correction that allows the code to work even if parts of the all-important pixels are obscured. Unfortunately in this case the combination of the cartoon and the swirls rendered it unreadable. Had they simply done one or the other the code would work (I tested this by removing the swirls using an image editor).

Testing – I say this so often my eyes roll involuntarily when I do. So, once again, had this QR been tested prior to a full production run of packaging (by scanning the print proof) this could have been caught and fixed.

Instructions – QR codes in general are still not mainstream. Only smartphones are capable of it and less than 25% of smartphone holders scan codes. If you want to create engagement with the code you need to add instructions (learn more on how to use QR codes).

A Mobile-Friendly Experience – If a 2D barcode is directing to a web site, it had better be designed for mobile. If not, the scan will be the end of the engagement.

Shameful Mobile Fail by the American Marketing Association

Not long ago I did a mobile marketing workshop for the local chapter of the American Marketing Association. It was well attended and they didn’t hiss at me or continually clear their throats so I think it we well. Fast forward to July and I figured I’d actually join the AMA and look for more ways to participate with the membership. So I signed up online at www.marketingpower.com and created my member profile.

About two weeks later I get a small package in the mail from the AMA. I figured it was just a Welcome packet – and it was – but I wasn’t expecting a membership card (Seems kind of old-school; am I supposed to flash this at the Maitre De for special restaurant seating privileges? Probably not.).

Image: AMA Member Card

I also wasn’t expecting to see a QR code on the back of the card. And wisely, they put some instructions next to the QR for those members of the marketing world who don’t know what to do with a QR code.

Image

But wait. Reading the instructions, I see it says to get a QR reader. Ok, fine. I already have one. Then it says, “Then take a picture of this code to go directly to your personalized web page.” What? Take a picture? I’ve seen, “scan this code” and even “snap this code” but never “take a picture”. That doesn’t even make sense. You take a picture with a camera app and you scan with a scanner app. Fail.

With a sigh and a sense of rising disappointment with my fellow marketers I pull out my phone and scan the code, almost afraid of what will happen. And, I got what I expected…and then some.

Image

This is, of course, a non-mobile web site. Fail.

After my eyes roll back down into position I look closer at the page by zooming in.

Image

That’s right. It’s a page that uses Flash and apparently is also needs the latest Flash player because I need to download a new version to see the content. This is painful from a user’s perspective and embarrassing from a marketer’s perspective. Fail. I have to stop now.

****************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

I’m really struggling to figure out what happened here. The issues with the whole execution are pretty obvious – I’ll go over those in a sec – but what I can’t figure out is how this could happen at an association of marketers? Of all business professionals I’d expect marketers to ‘get’ mobile.

  1. Call-To-Action – It was great that they tell you to get a scanner app. Not everyone has one. But to say, “..take a picture..” implies that they don’t actually know how smartphones, applications and QR codes work. It is pretty standard to say ‘scan’ though there is some debate about ‘snap’
  2. QR Formation – This QR code was created by directly encoding the url rather than creating a short url using bit.ly or some other service and encoding the short url. By encoding the main url into the QR you lose the ability to track how many people scan the code and you can never change the destination url without having to create a new QR code. You’re locked in with no visibility.
  3. Destination Website – I won’t belabor this point. This site needs to be designed for mobile. Period.
  4. Non-supported content – Even if a site isn’t designed for mobile specifically it may still be useful to the most dedicated smartphone user. However, this site has flash components that are dicey on Android devices and not supported at all on iPhones. Do NOT use Flash on mobile sites!

This was/is a fail straight out of 2009 and I’m amazed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the AMA and how this profound a fail can still be happening.

Kingsford Charcoal Burns Up a Matrix Code

I’m a griller. That is, I like to cook food on a grill. A charcoal grill to be specific (gas grill lovers, stand down!). So it should be no surprise that, when given the chance, I buy my charcoal in bulk. In other words, I buy it at Costco.

It’s springtime, so Costco is probably – pardon the pun – burning through the bags of Kingsford – specially packaged in a two 18lb pack just for Costco. Interesting. Kingsford offers a pack of charcoal you can ONLY get through Costco. Shows you the purchasing power of Costco, right?

image: Kingsford Briquettes with 2D code

Not only do I NOT see these ‘Competition’ briquettes anywhere else but I never see Kingsford in 18lb bags (let alone two bags).

Notice, though, the “Value Size” highlight that includes the call to action, “Scan for grilling tips and tricks”.

image: Kingsford 2D Code Call-to-Action

Next to that is a…. barcode? It kind of looks like a QR code but it’s not quite right. Looks different somehow. Having scanned many  barcodes I grab my Android phone and tap to start the i-nigma app, which seems good at scanning most barcodes. The result:

image: Kingsford Briquettes i-nigma scan result

Uh. No good. Ok, how about I try another scanner app, this one from ScanLife.

image:Kingsford Briquettes 2D code Error

Still no good. Ok, how about the ShopSavvy App?: Nope won’t scan.

Ok, um Barcode Scanner?: Huh Uh. Returns just a a number, 05415400001013127.

What about RedLaser? That’s a good app!: Grr.. won’t scan.

QuickMark app?: Same as above, just a number.

The package says go to scan.mobi to get a scanner but why should I? I already have half a dozen of them. And none of them work!

I’m done. FAIL.

***************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

The world of 2D barcodes as a marketing tactic is still relatively new. Many marketers, designers, printers and entrepreneurs understand that a 2D code can help drive traffic to a web site, video, or even a contact card. What they don’t understand is the mobile user, who doesn’t have the time or patience to download an app just to scan a barcode when they (rightfully so) have already done that in order to scan some other, similar looking code.

Kingsford (hopefully not at the insistence of our friends at Costco who’s headquarters are  a few miles away) has, for two years running, chosen to use a proprietary 2D barcode system proffered by AT&T Mobile Barcode Services. Like Microsoft Tags, codes created with this service – technically Matrix codes – can only be read by the scanning app offered by the barcode system itself. In this case, AT&T’s Code Scanner.  Who among the barcode scanning, smartphone toting world has an AT&T Code Scanner app? No one.

Kingsford has lacked the guidance that would show them that there is a serious battle among only two players in the 2D barcode world, QR codes and Microsoft Tags and any other proprietary code is the equivalent of dead on arrival.

Simply put, they needed to use a QR code.

FedEx Ships A Failed QR Code

Marketers placing QR codes on vehicles is nothing new. FedEx is only the most recent example. Check out the coverage over at www.wtfqrcodes.com. Others include Steven’s Pass Ski Resort’s QR on a bus and Tissot’s QR on a Nascar vehicle.

The FedEx QR warrants special coverage, however, as it provides a unique experience:

image: QR code on FedEx Van

image source: Tag It Up, LLC

The copy accompanying the QR codes says, ”It’s a whole new package. Help us open it!” A but cryptic but one could argue that it might generate curiosity.

Assuming the van is stopped and your curiosity is piqued you can grab your smartphone, open the scanner app (when oh when will barcode scanning software be embedded in the regular camera software??) and scan away. Just be sure you’re not stepping into traffic as this particular QR is on the street side of the van. Now, scan!

image: FedEx QR Scan Fail

Ouch. Who is this ‘ScanLife’ anyway? Are they related to FedEx? Either way,

FAIL.

******************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

As far as QR codes on vehicles go it could be argued that FedEx trucks spend a decent amount of time parked at drop-off and pick-up locations. And while there, shipping-related personnel might have the opportunity, inclination and time to scan the QR code. While this is a cognitive stretch, I won’t dwell on it. Generally, however, vehicles are just not good candidates for QR codes.

Aside from the vehicle issue the other problem is testing and follow-through. FedEx is using a service called ScanLife to create QR code campaigns. The person in charge of the campaign has apparently neglected to activate the campaign in the ScanLife system. There is one sure-fire way to catch this sort of problem, testing. It is not enough to slap a QR code on marketing materials and call it a day. Testing must occur at all points of the campaign as noted in our handy How-To Guide. Testing would surely have saved this one.

Shazam Sacked Advertisers at the SuperBowl

I know the Superbowl is long over and forgotten but there is a lesson in mobile marketing that has emerged.

In mobile marketing circles there was quite a bit of hype about how mobile would be used by advertisers this year. There were one or two on-screen QR codes but viewers needed to be lightning fast to scan them. Then there were audio ID apps that monitored broadcast audio and delivered – or attempted to deliver – a second screen complement to what was playing on the main screen. Shazam is one such app that viewers could use to ‘get more’ about nearly half the advertisements in the game.  But I think both the folks at Shazam as well as the advertisers they worked with either failed to recognize the true SuperBowl experience or ignored it. It’s my opinion that the advertisers got sacked on this one. Read why user context is so critical for mobile in Greg Hickman’s review of this fail over at the Thumbfound blog.

-K