Tag Archives: QR code

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.

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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.

 

 

 

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

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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

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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.

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.

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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

Stevens Pass: Pure Fail

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.

image: Stevens Pass Bus QR

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.

image: Stevens Pass Web on mobile

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.

FAIL.

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.

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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.

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.


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..

Fail.

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.

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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.