Thursday, 29 December 2011

QR Code Fails of 2011

(This article will take you 4 minutes to read)

QR Codes have grown in popularity in 2011, even if just with marketers, as I am not convinced yet of the wholesale adoption by consumers.

The problem with QR codes as far as I can see is that it seems to be used as a afterthought - "oooh we must have a QR code in our campaign, quick get one in the mix.." and then the lack of thought and planning then plays out to giving QR codes a bad rep.

When used cleverly and intelligently and with a well thought out execution, I still think they have a place in the marketing mix going forward.

I myself had a stab using some QR codes in our marketing in 2011 and I am not saying that I got it right, because I actually tracked the usage of our QR codes (that can the subject of another post), and they usage wasn't huge, and this was in an IT based environment, but I definitely did learn some lessons.

The point of this post is to highlight some of 2011's QR code fails as cited by Mike McGuiness, VP of Sales at  If you are a marketer considering QR codes into 2012, or like me you have used some QR codes in your marketing in 2011 you will either avoid the faux pas in these executions in 2012 or smile wryly with your own experiences behind you.

Red Bull

Red Bull ran a campaign using QR codes where the placement of the advertising was in a subway...yep, you are thinking what I am thinking, 3G, no connectivity, what's gonna happen when they scan that code. 

Lets hope they at least put the ads on the platform side...;)  Nice one Red Bull !

The takeaway: Think about the environment in which the user will interact with the QR code - walk the experience as a user.

Continental Airlines

So the airline decided to use QR codes in their inflight magazine.

For strike 1, Continental Airlines do not offer WiFi on their planes. (I believe they will in 2012 however.) So their audience was limited to the brief period before take-off and after landing. But lets get a reality check, not many people hang around on a plane after the plane has landed to flick through the in-flight magazine.

For strike 2, the execution of the QR Code took passengers to a page that was not well formatted for mobile devices - the page offered two buttons and a pop-up window that was mainly located off the screen area, causing few passengers on mobile devices to actually click through.

The takeaway: With a little user experience planning and testing this could have been avoided. Pages that a user is directed to should be designed with a mobile view in mind.

The Washington Redskins

This American Football team managed to create a proprietary QR code for inclusion on their FaceBook page.  This meant that it could not be read with some of the free QR Code readers available. 

Admittedly this was in 2010 when QR codes were even less then understood than in 2011, however the key message and takeaway here is to ensure that you produce standards based QR codes for your campaigns, that can be used by the myriad of free scanning applications available across the mobile platforms: Apple, BlackBerry, Android.

Esquire Magazine

Esquire's endeavor into QR codes seemed like a good one until the magazine was packaged for mailing and everyone realized the address label block covered the QR code.

Not a major issue I guess if you are expecting your consumer to rip open the packet, but a missed opportunity I would suggest of capturing the non-intended market of those that came in contact with the magazine while still wrapped.

Esquire Cover with QR Code

Nirvana's Nevermind 20th Anniversary Edition

The QR code used to promote the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's classic album looked cool, but proved very hard to scan, especially when featured on billboards.

Check our the QR code here at the bottom right.  Imagine the poster being on a billboard high up out of reach...

The takeaway:  Again comes down to the user experience. If the creatives had thought the execution through it would have dawned on them that to get up close enough would have required a ladder and a head for heights.

The common thread through most of these examples are the user experiences, or lack of in most cases.  If time is taken to think through how the consumer will interact with your QR Code, starting with how will they scan it, can they scan it, once and if they can scan it, where will it take them, what will they then do, is the resultant page or action designed for mobile devices, will it actually fulfill your original brief or objective.

Thanks for reading my article - if you liked it or found it useful, please click the FaceBook Like or Tweet/ReTweet my post if you are on twitter, so that others may enjoy and benefit from it.  Thanks for your support.

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