Tag Archives: fail

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.

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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? 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Feeding America: Who Should Care?

Shopping malls are a popular place this time of year. And it is widely recognized that teenagers often hang out at shopping malls. Add this to the fact that teenagers are far and away the most prolific text-messagers and you have an environment ripe for a mobile marketing effort that uses text-messaging/SMS.

Which is why I wasn’t too surprised when I first read the words on a display ad in a local shopping mall that said:

“HNGR
TXTS,
2.”

Clearly, this was a play on the shorthand used when sending a text message. Right? Actually, it’s not that clear. Intrigued, I really studied the ad (I’m guessing more than a teenager would, or anyone else for that matter). I was looking for the payoff, the something to do, the call-to-action.:

image: Feeding America Full Mall Ad

One thing is clear, this is an ad for an organization looking to feed the hungry.

What’s not clear is what the ad means and more importantly, what can I do about it as I walk through the mall? Let’s look a little closer, perhaps there’s something in the details that clears things up.:

image: Feeding America mall ad closeup

Whaa? I get that there are hungry people. You’ve got my attention with the text-message-like copy.  But now you want me to remember to visit feedingamerica.org to ‘do my part’?  Is there nothing I can do right now? In fact, feedingamerica.org isn’t even designed to be read by a mobile device, sigh.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

Feeding America has placed themselves in a bit of a tough spot here. They clearly recognize who is likely to be in shopping malls and seeing their ad; they have copy that is short and easy to grasp for a frequent texter. Lost, however, is the connection between who they are talking to and what they want them to do. First, a teen is likely not paying a nanosecond’s notice to the ad regardless of its familiar vernacular. Even if they did engage with the ad is there even the remotest possibility that they’d  write down the URL in order to ‘do their part’? Nope. These are teenagers. This ad is targeting the wrong people.

It is the parents in the  crowd that the folks at Feeding America really want to talk to. Grab them with a more standard line rather than one that looks like a crypic text-message (sorry, no suggestions here. I’m not a copy writer). Then, give them an easy way to do something right there, whether it’s sending an SMS or scanning a bar code. Once engaged, pull them along into a conversation about the cause and even solicit a mobile donation.

ABC Mobile: Lost In The Mobile Abyss

Like many smartphone users, I like to watch videos on my phone when I have a few minutes of down-time. (There are 200 million mobile video playbacks every day on YouTube.) I’ll even watch full episodes of TV shows if I’m going to be sitting somewhere for awhile, like on the bus or in a waiting room. It was the hope for access to full episodes of The View (just kidding) that had me typing in ABC.com on my computer to see what’s available.

At the ABC website there was a menu link for “Mobile”.  It looked promising, I mean, what other content would ABC be offering via mobile if not video? Clicking the link I was treated to the following page and there it was, Mobile Video On Demand! Nice.

Now, how do I get the vids? I don’t see an iTunes icon or little green Android that would point me to a mobile app. Checking the fine print I see that the service is indeed available on Sprint (my carrier) and, “To find out how to access ABC Mobile Video On Demand by texting ABCTV to 22288.”  Simple enough, right? Nope. Here’s what I got back; a message from Sprint:

“9230: Message failed. Shortcode may have expired or shortcode texting may be blocked on your account. Msg 1051″

What the..? How do I get the VOD? This short code was my only option!

FAIL #1.

I try the other mobile ‘offerings’ with increasing frustration.

Text Alerts:

FAIL #2: No list of shows to get alerts on! I’m offered the opportunity to figure it out for myself.

Live TV:

FAIL #3: No way to get the service, which appears to be only available on my carrier.

This is starting to get silly.  As a last resort and with little real hope, I pick up my phone and tap ABC.com into the browser. Perhaps they have a mobile site that will help me. Nope. It’s their full-site:

image: ABC.com on a phone

actual size

Not pretty, and the video links take me to the full-on video player. I try adding ‘/mobile’ to the URL:

image: ABC.com Mobile

actual size

Ugh. Same thing, a non-mobile site. It doen’t even pinch/zoom very well. In fact, the site crashed my phone’s browser forcing it to close. Neat.

FAIL #4.

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What could have saved this campaign?

There is really only one thing to talk about here. I wasn’t able to actually get any of the content so all I can review is the way ABC Mobile is making their content available (or not available as the case may be).

1) Using a short code is a great way to allow users to discover mobile content but it should work on all carriers you claim the content is available on. In this case the content seems to be available on Sprint but the SOLE access method, a short code, is not.  ABC should remove Sprint from the carrier list or figure out how to get them to provision the short code.

2) When promoting content, in this case alerts and live TV, ALWAYS provide a simple and clear call-t0-action so interested users can actually engage on their device. Marketing 101, really.

3) Create a mobile web site and detect mobile devices that come to your top-level domain. This doesn’t have to be complex. A simple mobile landing page with instructions on how to get mobile content would be better than directing to a non-mobile site with rich content and flash elements.

To summarize, it appears the mobile efforts at ABC Mobile are fragmented, lack coordination and and exhibit little understanding of how to engage a mobile user.

iLoop Mobile Demo Fail

Having attended one of the many webinars put on by mobile marketing firm, iLoop Mobile, I visited their web site and noticed the following among their rotation of hero banners on their main page: Of course I did what I was told. I texted ILOOPDEALS to the number. Almost instantly I was a confirmed member.

“iLoop Mobile Deals Alerts: you are now a member. 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMay Apply. Reply HELP for help. Reply STOP to cancel. HELP: 877.561.8045. TC:iloopmobile.com”

No problems there, though it wasn’t all that engaging. Two days later I received two text-message ‘offers’ (Oops! I was only supposed to get 1msg/week). The first offer was for TGIF restaurants and included a link to a mobile site to sign up for TGIF Rewards (Do people really go to TGIF so often?) The other offer was as follows:

I was immediately confused. Whose sweepstakes was this? Dodge? Maybe, but it didn’t really say. The TGIF message started out with “TGIF:” so I knew it who it was from. Confusion aside, I tapped on the bit.ly url anyway and was taken to a page that took a very long time to load (not usually a good sign).  My patience was not to be rewarded, however. Here is what I got:

Really? A non-mobile web site with a painfully long form to fill out? This picture is just about life-size so you can see how small things are. It’s clearly a web site built for large computer monitors. No way.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

There is absolutely no excuse for this. iLoop Mobile bills itself out as experts in mobile marketing. Their demo should be flawless.

  1. If they say 1 Msg/week then they should have stopped after the TGIF message. Is their system broken? Are they disorganized?
  2. Few things ruin a mobile web experience more than being sent to site that wasn’t designed to be viewed on a mobile device. This one is doubly painful as it immediately asks you to fill out a huge form and doesn’t tell you anything about the sweepstakes.

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.


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 DunkinDonuts.com.”

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, “..to learn more about Dunkin’ Perks or opt out go to www.dunkindonuts.com/mobile..” (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

Ugh.

FAIL.

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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.