Tag Archives: mobile marketing

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.



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.




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.


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.


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..


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 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




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.

How Not To Use A QR Code On A Catalog

SOG Specialty Knives and Tools has just released their 2011 product catalog. It’s a very nice piece with 60 pages of full-color product pictures and specifications. Having thumbed through it I think the Arcitech (A01 -p) model with the jigged bone handle and Arc-Lock suits me best. At almost $500 it’s a bit on the pricey side, though worth every penny, I’m sure.

The interesting thing is what they put on the back cover of the catalog. Along the bottom is a one-inch high space that includes a standard barcode on the right, a badge from the American Knife and Tool Institute (who knew such a thing existed?) on the far left and in the center is a QR code. Under the QR code is some instructions to, “Scan the QR Code to find out more about SOG Knives & Tools.” Hmm. OK. Not really sure what else they could tell me that isn’t in this gorgeous catalog already but I’ll give it a go.

image: SOG Knives Catalog

Back Cover

Whoops! My NeoReader app doesn’t recognize the code. I try Google Goggles but it only recognizes the text, not the QR code.

Sigh, another QR code fail.


What could have saved this campaign?

The problems here are many but the primary issue is that the QR Code has been cropped by the designer or layout person. It needs to have a white border of at least a few pixels. The border was there when the code was created but was cropped out when placed onto the catalog. Of course, some basic testing prior to print would have caught this.

I guess the good news is that the placement of the code makes it appear to be something required by the postal service. No one will scan it.

We can only presume that the code is pointed to www.sogknives.com. Had the scan been successful we’d have had a different kind of fail; their web site is – as you might guess – rich with images and flat-out not fit for viewing from a mobile device.

Rutgers FAILS Promoting Mobile MBA

Last week Rutgers announced a new ‘mini’ MBA Mobile Marketing program. The program, offered in multiple formats and taught by assorted Rutgers professors and industry professionals, requires 30-36 hours and 10 full sessions to complete.  It sounds like a very interesting program:

“The Mini-MBA certificate program helps participants design, manage, and track mobile-marketing programs and campaigns. It provides the business case for integrating and leveraging mobile into marketing plans, as well as practical and tactical uses of mobile tools.”

Also interesting is that the course materials are delivered on a program-supplied iPad and iTouch.;  though it doesn’t state if those are yours to keep after you ‘graduate.’

All this is very cool until you discover the QR code they are using to promote the program, presumably in an effort to walk-the-talk and give a glimpse into how mobile can be used to bridge digital and non-digital realms.

image: Rutgers MBA QR

There’s nothing wrong with the QR code itself. It’s fine. It’s a standard 2D code and scans easily enough. The problem, an inexcusable one given the context, is that the code takes you to a website that is not optimized for mobile viewing.  You’ve got to be kidding me.



What could have saved this campaign?

Well, I think the answer here is obvious, create a mobile-optimized site or landing page where mobile users can have a good experience and perhaps learn more about the program.

You might argue that there isn’t a real solid use-case here for mobile and that the QR code shouldn’t have been created in the first place. After all, who’s going to research continuing education from their mobile phone? But Rutgers chose to create a QR code – which are mobile almost by definition – and is positioning themselves as qualified to teach mobile marketing. Perhaps they’re not.

ASUS Computers Gets a 404 Fail

From Randy Leslein (edited):

This week’s mobile campaign was found in the lastest (Oct. ’10) edition of Wired magazine. I found the ad by scavenging the entire magazine in hopes of finding some sort of mobile campaign taking place. Oddly enough, the QR code presented on this ad was the lone thing I found in this technology magazine that is just saturated with marketing.

image: Asus QR

Asus ad in Wired Magazine

To participate with the QR code you must have a mobile device capable of reading and an internet connection. Well, that is if you want to experience the delight of a “Page not found” (image) site. Because once you scan the code, that’s where you are taken.

Once again, the world of QR code fails.

There was no payoff, and again I was left curious as to the mystery of what the code contained. I even spent a good amount of time googling variations of “Asus nx90JQ wired qr code”, with nothing left to be found. I’m starting to think that making these things available to the searchable internet may be a good idea for the campaign creators.

Having such technology in a venue that targets people who usually have smart phones also seems wise. Maybe next time they will do some more internal testing.


What could have saved this campaign?
Randy pretty much sums it up. Testing. The QR code was clearly created before the magazine went to print. If someone had simply tested the code before finalizing the ad this failure would have been avoided. This should be SOP.
Unfortunately, ASUS didn’t use a QR generator that supports redirect which would have allowed them to change the URL (it was missing “Jq” at the end), fixing the error.
ASUS still could just replicate the landing page at both URLs. Why they haven’t done this is a mystery. Perhaps they still haven’t tested it?
Then again, the corrected url simply points to a full, non mobile-friendly landing page where you have to pan the screen in all directions or zoom out and make the text too small to read. *sigh* – Kelly

Ski Utah Does a Faceplant

Ski Utah is the marketing firm owned and operated by the 13 statewide ski resorts thatimage: Utah Ski QR Code make up the Utah Ski and Snowboard Association. Their most recent campaign tagged, The Utah White Sale, promotes “..big savings on lodging, rentals, and lift tickets..”. As part of the campaign, Ski Utah, threw down for a two-page spread in SKI magazine.  With this ad they prominently display a QR code with the copy, “Use the QR code or visit SkiUtah.com to check out all the amazing deals!”

I happen to know what to do with a QR code so I pull up NeoReader on my HTC Hero and scan the code, which worked perfectly and I’m asked to confirm that I want to visit the resulting URL. Sure I do!

Waiting, waiting. The site takes awhile to load but load it does and I’m looking at the top left corder of what appears to be a full, image-rich web page. I see approximately 10% of the page. Yikes!  Dragging the pageimage: Utah Ski from Mobile Device right and left trying to see what’s on it is disorienting so I use the multi-touch feature on my phone and zoom out so the site fits the screen. The problem now is, I can’t read the text.  (The image on the right is full-size.)


I do notice a graphic in the bottom left that says, “Ski Utah Mobile Apps”. Bingo! I tap the phone image and the site tries to open another browser window but I get an error that says I have too many windows open (there are 4) and I can’t get to the page. Apparently the content-rich pages have eaten up all the browser memory. Sigh.


What could have saved this campaign?
Ski Utah had a couple of options here but both start with providing the reader directions on how to use a reader to scan the QR code. These codes are still new to most people. Then:

  1. They could have made a version of the promotional page that was optimized for mobile viewing by reducing imagery, increasing font sizes and removing the Flash elements. This would, of course, involve device detection, which the site doesn’t appear to do, or
  2. The QR code could have taken me directly to their mobile site at m.skiutah.com. (I know, they actually have a mobile site but instead the QR code takes me to the regular site.)

Reebok Fails with MMS

From Madeline Moy

I have discovered that my LG enV Touch phone can’t read QR codes or Microsoft Tags. However, it does take great photos.

So when I saw a Reebok EasyTone ad in “Shape” magazine that involved taking a photo of a “SnapTag” and sending it to an e-mail address or phone number, I thought, cool, I can finally participate in one of these mobile campaigns.image:Reebok in Shape

The directions next to the tag said: “Snap a picture of the Reebok EasyTone logo and send it to reebok@snaptag.mobi or 949.331.8147. You will receive an exclusive workout video from Reebok and automatically be entered to win a collection of Reebok gear.”

I took a photo of the SnapTag and sent it to the e-mail address. Nothing happened. I took another picture, and I sent it to the phone number. This time I got an immediate response. Unfortunately it said, “We are unable to read the image you sent. If it looks fuzzy to you it is fuzzy to us. Send another photo of the logo with the ring. Std Msg rates apply.”

The photo I sent didn’t look fuzzy to me, but I went ahead and took another photo. I sent it, and I received an SMS message with just a YouTube URL.  I couldn’t click on the link from my phone so I tried to access it on my computer, but all I got was a page that said, “The video you requested is not available.”


At this point I gave up. I had known that I probably wouldn’t have been able to watch the Reebok video on my phone, but it was disappointing not to be able to even access them using a computer. And I was put off by the tone of the text messages I received. They weren’t friendly or helpful and seemed to blame me for not being able to use my phone properly.

Kelly: I also tried this campaign sending the image to the email address I received an email response with subject=”Reebok” (that’s it?) and the body of the message was just a YouTube link. Was I entered to win a collection of Reebok gear or not? It doesn’t say. The video was a huge let-down. Some actress giving a light endorsement of Reebok EasyTone shoes. All this work for an infomercial? Sheesh.


What could have saved this campaign?
It was not with clear understanding that Reebok picked a technique that didn’t require a smartphone. That is, the SnapTag only requires a phone with a camera and MMS abilities – far more phones that just smartphones. The problem, of course, is that the payoff was a YouTube video (and ONLY a video), which is the domain of smartphones almost exclusively.
1) The return SMS should have included a statement about being included in the contest as well as an easy link to type into a browser for those who can’t watch YouTube videos. Better yet, bypass YouTube and use a mobile streaming service, which works on far more devices.
2) The video needed to offer more; more entertainment, more information, even just a more exclusive, behind-the-scenes feel to it as promised.


REI Fail

From Meg Brown:

One of the primary challenges faced by the majority of brand marketers today is how to effectively integrate rapidly evolving technology advancements into their marketing plans. What happens when a marketing team is charged with facilitating deadlines with their mobile Agency of Record, their internal IT department and their direct mail printer?  image: REI FlyerUnfortunately, it can be a recipe for a huge marketing failure.

For example, REI’s Fall Sales catalogue arrived in my mail yesterday. On the back of the mailer there is a large, bright orange coupon advertising 20% one full-priced item. To the right of that coupon, in much smaller and non-descript print, there is a QR code. This is a not a strong call to action for the mobile campaign when placed right next to the bright coupon. Plus, I do not think the average consumer automatically recognizes that the QR code is intended for them. Due to the placement it could easily be confused as a tool for the  Postal Carrier.

One thing that REI did right was clearly explaining how to download a QR reader to “watch the magic happen”.  Nice. Where did they go wrong? Well, when I scanned the code it took me to a page with an error message. The page informed me, “We are making updates to the mobile site. Please view our store locator on the REI.com HTML site.”  The mobile site was down for maintenance on the very day that they launched the mobile campaign.image: REI Site Down

Huge Fail.

Imagine the typical consumer experience.

  1. Placement of the QR code was a huge miss because it is competing with the bright coupon.
  2. Weak call to action because it isn’t tied to an offer, just a store location (finder).
  3. Majority of consumers don’t have a QR scanner and if they do they aren’t aware of it.
  4. A small percentage will actually take the time to go into the app store and download a QR scanner.
  5. Consumer scans code and the site is down.

Kelly: The whole thing is so underwhelming and would be even if the site was up. Store locator? Really? What REI member does not know the location of their nearest 3 REI stores?


What could have saved this campaign?
Besides stating the obvious way that they could improve this mobile campaign (working mobile site), there are other ways to set this up for success in the future.

  1. Give the consumer a better pay off. Tie the QR code to a compelling offer with a time restrictions. For example, bring this into the store in the next 24hrs for 25% off any full priced item or even, get the coupon to the left sent to your cell phone now.
  2. Give the QR code prominent placement. Don’t place it next to all of the Post Carrier messaging. Put it on the inside cover with an eye-catching explanation.
  3. Provide an SMS option to retrieve the URL and link to the mobile web site.

Marketing departments need to learn that they can’t implement the newest technology into their media plan unless they have developed a clear strategy with their IT department.