Mobile and offline media: bridging the gap

In this age of digital marketing, one might believe the days of outdoor and other traditional advertising platforms are numbered. However, the emergence of new media platforms has provided several opportunities to use these traditional media in interesting ways.

The inclusion of digital services within traditional marketing creates a call to action scenario, ultimately transforming a push message into an interactive pull communication.

The three most common forms of mobile calls to action are commonly referred to as text, scan and tap.

Text: Long before there were smartphones, brands have been using SMS as a tool to provide one-on-one communication. Today, SMS remains a commonly used marketing channel because of its simplicity and ubiquity.

Scan: A more recent tool for mobile engagement is the QR code. QR codes aren’t new but the fact that your smartphone’s camera can scan and read data from a QR code has made it a popular choice for out-of-home engagement. Commonly, QR codes will simply open up a URL but they can be programmed in different ways.

Tap: Near-field communication (NFC) is a technology that uses radio fields for contactless communication. Tags can be hidden in stickers or integrated into posters or billboards. Many new smartphones now support NFC, enabling devices to simply tap a tag without having to open any apps.

When integrating text, scan or tap mobile interaction into offline advertising platforms, there are five key considerations to keep in mind.

1. Placement

A good call to action should always be prominently visible. Simply putting a tiny QR code or NFC tag at the bottom of a bus shelter ad is not going to drive much engagement. Try to reserve some dedicated space for your call to action so that it is easily noticed and not lost in the display. Walmart Canada had a great campaign with Mattel where outdoor ad space in busy train stations was used to create a virtual toy store for busy parents, featuring the must-have toys for the 2012 holiday season. With a clear, eye-level call to action, passersby were made aware of how to interact. One of the key selling points, free shipping, was featured prominently.

Walmart virtual toy store

Billboards and other large outdoor ads are typically seen from a distance. When scanning or tapping is not possible, SMS is always an option. Make sure both the keyword and SMS number are clearly visible.

2. Reach and limitations

SMS is supported by all mobile handsets and therefore has the biggest reach. QR codes work on most smartphones, either natively or via a free QR reader app. NFC devices are growing in popularity with most new Android and Windows phones having NFC chips built in. SMS works well for competition entries, text-based alerts or simple vouchers. Interactive, media rich promotions are normally targeted at smartphone users where QR codes are more suitable. NFC offers the most seamless option but tags come at a small cost and are not suitable for all print media. When running a joint QR/NFC promotion in Australia today, expect to see a 75/25 split with NFC growing steadily.

3. Relevance

The type of call to action you want to generate will influence what channel you use and how to market it. If a movie distributor wants to run a campaign with the intention of getting consumers to watch a movie trailer, it would makes sense to use a QR code as viewing the trailer would require a smartphone and the code can take them directly to the website hosting the trailer. If the call to action is to get consumers to enter a competition, SMS campaigns work well with most consumers willing to pay the cost of sending a SMS for the chance to win something. A recent study in the UK showed that 90% of consumers believe that interactivity makes an ad more effective in capturing their attention with three in four likely to interact again. Even so, don’t expect consumers to interact with you if there is no clear benefit. Campaigns that entice, educate, reward or surprise tend to drive the best interaction rates.

4. Device targeting

If you use one of the mobile channels to direct users to a URL, make sure you use a good redirection platform so you can serve up content that looks and works best on the user’s phone. This way, you can show a link to your brand’s new iPhone app exclusively to users on an iOS device – no need to show an Android user what they can’t get. Similarly, you might want to limit mandatory fields to the bare minimum for users on non-touchscreen devices as typing can put people off when using a numerical keypad.

5. Reporting

SMS campaigns, when set up properly, are a great way to build up an opt-in database of mobile numbers, a clear advantage over NFC/QR-based campaigns in some cases. Whether you use SMS, QR codes or NFC, make sure you use different identifiers for all your campaigns and if possible even for every individual ad you run. That way you can measure the performance of every single ad, any time of day. Whether your goal is to drive site traffic, Facebook likes, newsletter subscribers or sales, mobile technology can make traditional media fully accountable on a micro level.

 

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Smartphone primary device for 68%, social the ‘crack driving addiction’

It’s time to forget the ‘second screen’ and focus on mobile, with social the “crack that drives mobile addiction”, marketers were told at a breakfast conference hosted by a group of WPP agencies yesterday.

Smartphone users dedicate an average of 34% of their media time to the device, in a series of small chunks typically around three minutes in length, research from TNS presented at the ‘DNA://13’ event found.

These snack-sized sessions deliver a highly engaged audience, prompting executive director at TNS, Jonathan Sinton, to question the value of longer session on a desktop versus a shorter, more immersive experience on mobile.

“On PCs you tend to see people sit down and use the PC in big chunks of time, so it might be an hour or half an hour in one go. On mobile, it’s very small chunks… typically it’s very close to that moment of truth – the point of purchase.

“It really is a question of what’s better: is it 20 minutes of time on your site via a PC or three minutes of time on your site via a mobile?”

Findings from TNS’ ‘Mobile Life’ study, conducted in January, illustrate most people are now comfortable using their mobile phone for a wide range of tasks. One in two (53%) smartphone owners access social media, 58% play games, 68% access the mobile web and 45% watch video.

It’s not just a substitute device now, it is a primary device, Sinton said. “68% of people in Australia are using the mobile as their primary technology device.

“The crack that drives mobile addiction is undoubtedly social,” Sinton added, revealing that 53% of smartphone owners check social networks via their mobile, as often as hourly among frequent users, although many new smartphone users aren’t driven by social.

One of the highest growth areas over the past year was watching video on mobile, which shot up to 45% of smartphone users from 11% a couple of years ago. Bite-sized chunks, not longer formats like TV shows, dominate and videos are often watched in the home, despite the presence of the TV, as users stumble on clips. “This creates opportunities for marketers, not just for pre-roll ads, but also for demonstration videos, reviews of products… but remember it’s bite sized chunks,” Sinton advised.

Mobile Life also found women have become the queens of mobile gaming, with 61% gaming on their phones compared to 54% of men.

In terms of commerce related activity, the ‘showrooming’ trend (consumers checking out products in store to buy online) continues to boom, up to 46% of smartphone owners, from 30% in 2012 and 9% in 2011.

The completion of actual transactions via mobile however is still much lower, at 21%, while 31% research products and services on their phones. The use of QR codes continues to flounder with virtually no growth in the past year to remain at 21%. 46% of smartphone owners still don’t know what QR codes, lending weight to arguments that short code calls to action are more effective.

Sinton however still believes in QR codes, calling them a ‘sign post’ that says ‘go online to find out more’, but in the absence of efforts to promote them and educated people on how to use them they continue to languish as a marketing tool.

Conducted in January among around 1000 Australians, TNS’ global ‘Mobile Life’ study places smartphone penetration at 66% of Australian adults, one of the highest measured across the 43 countries covered in the research. One in three Australian households now own tablets.

 

Mobile will take 50% of budget in 2017, but held back by skills gap: study

Marketers will spend 50% of their budgets on mobile by 2017, but for the moment are hampered by their lack of understanding of the medium and difficulties in quantifying return on investment, according to Experian Marketing Services.

Only 4% of the 320 marketers involved in Experian’s mobile marketing study are regularly implementing mobile marketing activities, despite a widespread belief it will be one of the most important ways to communicate with customers in the future.

Head of research and consulting at Experian, Dave Audley, puts the slow uptake of mobile down to three key reasons: a skills gap in the industry, difficulty in demonstrating ROI and the tug of war for budgets between traditional and new channels.

“There’s some confusion and difficulty when it comes to budget allocation,” Audley says. “Marketers are finding its quite difficult to quantify return on investment by channel. Organisations are reluctant or not committing to investing in the [mobile] channel just yet until they fell confident that they can measure the return that they get.”

Mobile has also added another layer of the complexity to the tug of war for budget between traditional channels and new, Audley adds. “Rather than out with the old in and with the new, organisations are looking at retaining old channels; traditional offline channels are also becoming increasingly important.

“Finding the priority to put the focus that’s needed into making a successful mobile strategy come to life is quite a challenge.”

As a result, almost six in 10 are yet to test the waters with mobile, while 41% have created a strategy but haven’t started implementing it.

When asked to rate the importance of marketing channels, 53% of marketers said face-to-face communication was one of the top three most important channels. Email was rated by 50% of marketers as a top-three channel, and social media mentioned by 42% of marketers as a top three channel.

Early adopters of mobile report good results, the study found. The vast majority of respondents believed the various mobile techniques asked in the study to be effective, with mobile-optimised websites, m-commerce and MMS emerging as the most likely to be perceived as ‘highly effective’.

Email ranked down the list slightly, while custom apps were the most likely to be perceived as ineffective.

Search, display and video pre-roll were not asked as part of the study.

Perceived effectiveness of mobile techniques among marketers

experian

“In the next five years Experian predicts more than 50% of marketing budgets will be associated with mobile, particularly as traditional, above the line channels, such as TV and billboards become more interactive and entwined with mobile,” Audley predicts.

“Clever companies will integrate mobile with existing channels, without compromising other activity. Because mobile is cost effective, easy to implement and is nimble, it creates a dynamic platform where brands can create a two-way dialogue.”

 

62% of Australian consumers don’t know what QR codes are

Two in three Australian consumers remain unfamiliar with QR codes, the ‘hot potato’ of the mobile marketing industry, according to Econsultancy.

QR codes have been the topic of spirited debate in the industry for a while now, and the topic of many a post on Marketing, including some in support and others against.

“QR codes seem to invoke a general divide amongst marketers – you either love or hate them,” wrote Jake Hird, Econsultancy Australia’s director of research and education.

But despite the growth in their use, a factor mobile expert Joe Barber puts down to increased use in the US and Europe, Econsultancy found 62% of Australians don’t know what they are or how they work.

In a study of over 1000 people conducted in conjunction with research firm Toluna, ‘quick response’ codes were found to have disappointing awareness levels even among technology savvy groups.

Awareness of the square bar code graphics was highest among 18–34 year olds, at 51%, while it sat at 34% for 35–54 year olds and 17% for over 55 year olds. It was more prevalent among males at, 44%, compared to 35% among females.

“Despite a general enthusiasm amongst marketers for the mobile channel, it turns out that the majority of consumers seemingly don’t even know what a QR code is,” Hird says.

Among those who are familiar with the codes, only half had used them in the past three months, suggesting uptake after awareness is low.  Usage was not much higher among the more tech savvy younger or male audiences.

 

How (not) to use QR codes

One of the most asked questions of me over the last three to four months is about QR codes – those funny-looking, two-dimensional graphic images that you scan from a mobile. The renewed interest I believe is due to the significant growth of the QR code in the US market and the volume of stories emanating from both Europe and the US about mobilised campaign successes using QR codes.

QR stands for ‘quick response’, and the codes were first created in Japan over 20 years ago to aid in manufacturing lines for the automotive industry. The benefit of two-dimensional codes is the ability to contain vast amounts of information.

There is no doubt that if the QR code is implemented properly it can have an incredible result. But there is also the risk that the volume of poor implementations could create consumer apathy and they become challenging to engagement.

I don’t believe that we are at that level yet and some smart adoptions or at least some understanding of their use will help. Often the best way to outline best practices is to explain what not to do. Some of these examples may seem extreme, and are taken from Australia, the US and Europe.

Here are the top six ways never to use QR codes:

  1. Don’t print a QR code so small such that most scanners won’t read them,
  2. don’t put QR codes in places that are dangerous to try and scan and in reality won’t work anyway – like freeway signs, flags, sides of buildings, moving vehicles (truck side advertising) or roadside billboards,
  3. don’t display in busy thoroughfares where people can’t easily stop and engage. There have been a few attempts to replicate the Tesco model, but instead of using an area where people can comfortably stand, read and absorb the campaign, the product posters with QR codes are displayed on stairwells, in busy corridors and other thoroughfares where consumers can’t stop,
  4. don’t give a lame experience, but ensure the QR code delivers some value and doesn’t just link back to a website that most likely isn’t even mobile friendly. Consumers expect some benefit with mobile. It’s no different to SMS campaigns. Linking back to a website achieves little,
  5. don’t simply link back to the same place or area – placing a QR code on a restaurant menu that simply displays the restaurant menu is wasting everyone’s time – as is a QR code on a website that links back to a website, and
  6. don’t try to embed the entire message in a QR code so that it is a massive code that has the potential to fail. One retail campaign had codes so big that my QR code reader crashed on every single scan. Use a URL or a link shortener as the code – the added benefit is that you can then continually change the target data (link, offer, product, price, video, coupon) and all the printed codes in the community remain active and fresh.

There have been some incredible campaigns with QR codes and the growth in the US is at a stage where consumers are almost hunting out codes, as they expect a deal, coupon, offer or some other experience that makes the effort worthwhile.

The key to all mobile campaigns, be they SMS, MMS or some 2D barcode like a QR code, is to deliver value. Make the experience something that generates word of mouth referrals. Consumers give something of value as a reward for the time it’s taken to scan.

There are some really exciting aspects for a marketer with QR codes. First, if you link to a landing page that has geolocation processing, you can track the location of scans and determine the best response locations based on the discovery points – is it railway station posters and, if so, which stations work best? Is it transit papers or magazines? Is it newspaper advertising or on product codes? Do people scan in supermarkets or wait until they get home? You can start to build some amazing analytics that can be fed back into the next campaign to maximise response rates.

Next, the life of the code can far outlive the life of the advertising or display point. If you intelligently use a shortened URL approach, it means you can change the target of the scan daily or even hourly depending on the campaign. Consumers will never scan something that says ‘Competition closed three weeks ago’ – instead you can deliver a different experience post-competition. You can run treasure hunts and implement a range of mobilised gamification experiences and, even though the codes may exist ‘in the wild’ for three months, especially when in bus shelters, posters or on a train, every consumer that scans will get an experience relevant to the time or date they scan.

So let’s look at some of the successes. Most of these are overseas and show the creative approach to engaging. A quick digression: scanning a QR code requires a smartphone (or feature phone). Australia has one of the highest penetration rates of smartphones and yet has none of the top 50 or so QR code campaigns. Are we that boring that we can’t get more creative?

A well-documented success was a beer company campaign at a festival where ‘personalised’ QR codes were created on a PC (personal computer), then printed and stuck on people at the concert. When scanned, it displayed a personal message created by that user. They far exceeded expectations in terms of uptake.

Another beer company produced a glass with an etched QR code that was only scannable when filled with their ‘dark’ beer. Any other fluid wouldn’t provide the necessary contrast. Very creative.

In retail in the US, some of the claimed successes have been using codes on pop-up shops, posters on street furniture and in newspaper advertising. One large US retailer used codes in-store to drive something as simple as joining its mailing list, but gave an instant 10% off coupon for the effort. The coupon was valid for 60 minutes only, but very contextual and appropriate.

Astonishingly, one of the most common mistakes made is the delivery of content that is not mobile ready – this includes links to normal desktop sites without an offer and for seemingly no purpose.

Therefore, the biggest tip I can give is that when you link to a website from a QR code, make sure that website is mobile friendly. You need to deliver a two- to three-second response time and so the format of the mobilised landing page is critical and the planning behind using splash pages and linked content is an important consideration.

I scanned six retail-oriented codes in the last week here in Australia and found that all six simply linked to a website front page with four of them linking to a non-mobile-ready page. All of these were wasted engagements. Why not create a customised landing page that at least elicits an email or mobile number and potentially a name and then delivers the customer to a ‘specials’ page with a few items in order to drive an impulse purchase.

The advantage of QR codes, at least for the short-term, is that the consumer knows what is expected of them. No longer are there long, complex explanations needed on how to scan and where to download a reader. Consumers are now savvy and experienced and most likely already have some scanner on their device.

One interesting piece of research from Econsultancy shows that over 50% of people have scanned a QR code and 18% of them have then purchased. Data from ScanLife indicates that 60% scan from home and, of all the stats, the most interesting is that the age group 25 to 44 represents over half the audience. When you take into account that around 28% of people never go online with their mobile and around 16% don’t even use messaging, then the scan rate and awareness of QR codes is significant.

I also find quite staggering the lack of creativity with QR code creation. They don’t have to be square and they don’t have to be black and white. As long as there is contrast they will work. You can embed logos and colourise to suit.

QR codes can be engineered to blend and fit almost any brand creative and yet still be obvious enough for the consumer to start interacting. Despite some negative commentary about QR codes, I believe they work very well over other strategies emerging like image recognition, because it’s obvious what the objective is: ‘scan me’. Other approaches are a little like having a phone number on the advert, but not putting the words ‘Text your name to enter’. QR codes can deliver great results and can be used to track and measure as well as engage with customers.

QR code campaigns are no different to other mobile channels: they won’t fix bad execution. Make the offer compelling, deliver some value and don’t waste the user’s time with branding informational messages only. Get creative with the visual aspects of the QR code, look at self- registering ideas, consider carefully what you redirect to and make sure, above all, that you reward a customer’s action.

 

QR: the ice-breaker for consumer engagement

This instalment of Nick Spooner’s regular blog for Marketing is guest authored by Melle Staelenberg, product manager – mobile at Salmat Digital. Over the past seven years, Melle has developed and delivered several successful interactive mobile campaigns in Asia Pacific, and is passionate about all things mobile.

 

The quick response (QR) code is the marketing equivalent of speed-dating, connecting consumers to brands so they can scan to buy, discover and consume new content or just engage in conversation. The possibilities are infinite, each with the potential to create long-term customer relationships.

Compared to the traditional linear barcode, QR codes can contain a greater volume and variety of data. The technology was originally invented and used in the mid-nineties as a way for the automotive industry to track parts during the manufacturing process. As they have an open ISO standard and are easy to generate, QR codes have recently become a popular tool in the mobile marketing space. To read a QR code on your mobile handset, you may need to download a (free) QR reader from your app store, which uses the camera in your smartphone to scan the code.

Below are five examples on how a QR code can extend a user’s experience from one medium to the mobile handset.

Shopping

In an attempt to drive mobile sales, the windows of two Sportsgirl’s stores in Melbourne and Sydney now serve as virtual shops, displaying a range of changing products alongside a QR code. By scanning the code, shoppers can view and buy the item on their mobile. Shopping centres and train stations across the country are expected to follow next.

Last month, Tesco in Seoul (South Korea) extended their virtual stores from subway stations to bus shelters. Much like a real supermarket, their billboards and posters resemble aisles and shelves filled with all the products you would normally see at Tesco. By scanning the products’ QR codes, the items are added to a virtual cart and can be delivered at home. It already is the most popular shopping app in Korea and Woolworths is trialling a similar concept on the walls of Town Hall Station in Sydney.

Print to video

American sports media company Sports Illustrated is offering their magazine buyers extra content through their Swimsuit Viewer App. When scanning one of the many images of the Sports Illustrated models, behind-the-scenes videos are instantly streamed to the reader’s mobile. This way, extra content can be provided exclusively to the ones who buy the magazine, representing a significant value-add. Last year, traditional QR codes were used. This year Sports Illustrated evolved the scanning part further, by using an embedded watermark solution, ‘hiding’ the code as a pattern in the actual pictures.

Feedback

In the US, a team of health care professionals of the local Pennsylvania State University developed a QR code based application to allow hospital patients to inform participating hospitals of their experiences in (near) real-time. According to the developers, it is becoming increasingly common for people who are having a negative experience to tweet about it as they are waiting. As online reputation can affect hospitals’ revenue streams, the QR based survey gives hospitals the chance to address an issue on the spot before it finds its way into the public domain.

Facebook Likes

QR codes can be used to drive Facebook ‘likes’. When the code is scanned, the user is directed to a mobile landing page containing the official Facebook Like button. As QR codes can contain and retrieve geolocation, custom codes are great for retail outlets and advertisements to track where your customers ‘liked’ your Facebook page.

SMS

A popular way of building a database of mobile numbers is to set up an SMS competition. Rather than asking your customers to text in a word to a number, a QR code can populate a SMS message with a predefined message and number. Combined with geolocation, this makes a powerful marketing tool.

So what?

Brands need to invest in connecting with consumers through the various touch-points that they encounter. This means having a cross-channel strategy that will complement the advertising messages and engage the consumer in the longer-term. And QR codes are a cross-channel marketing enabler. They allow brands to integrate their advertising messages in a consistent and complementary way to optimise the customer experience and drive an effective outcome.

 

Digital OOH – What’s up Australia?

News from the UK’s Outdoor Media Centre (OMC) shows UK digital out of home (DOOH) revenues continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Why? It’s the happy convergence of OOH operators spending a very large amount of money on digitising a meaningful proportion of their inventory, and advertisers big and small diving into the space with gusto. That mirrors an emerging trend worldwide, with OOH (and DOOH within it) broadly tipped to be the second fastest growing medium in 2012, behind online.

In financial terms, the UK outcome translates into £39.3m in DOOH spend in Q4 2011, taking the 2011 total  to something near £124m or 14% of all OOH, which in turn is about 9.4% of all UK display advertising. DOOH numbers aren’t measured or distributed by the industry association in Australia, in part because only a very small number of OOH companies have really committed properly to the space, and in part because some of the niche DOOH players are not part of the Australian Outdoor Media Association.

So was it the chicken or the egg in the UK? Was this truly the market demanding everything that DOOH provides and operators following that lead? Or was it the other way around? My view is that it’s a bit of both.

After a fair bit of hesitation in the mid-2000s, the largest OOH operators have dived headlong into DOOH, particularly in indoor environments. Airports, malls and train stations have been the main focus areas. I don’t think it’s unfair to say some of the early efforts were a little haphazard, but good, meaningful networks are now in place in key environments: well-built, well-positioned and with good technology. Some brands were in from the outset, some took a while to join the party and some still remain on the outside, looking in.

The biggest difference between DOOH in the UK and Australia for me, though, is how brands are using it. In Australia we’ve seen any number of campaigns that run good, interesting, eye catching, effective animated content. They do a great job of using digital to bring their brand to life and long may they last. And we’ve seen a few that go a bit further: day parting, RSS feeds, interactive and so on. In the UK (and scale is undoubtedly important here) the curiosity of marketers and creatives has pushed the boundaries much more aggressively. Campaigns that are event or date specific, day parted, interactive, or augmented in some way are so frequent that they are almost commonplace. And whilst I don’t get to see every post-campaign analysis, I’m pretty sure that this momentum is a direct outcome of good results on previous campaigns encouraging further experimentation and breakthroughs.

With the momentum seen in the UK, we need to ask is there structural difference to Australia driving that, or are we just at a different point in the cycle? Digital billboards are an important part of the media mix in the UK and their numbers have exploded in recent years. With the current governing regulations, no animation is allowed on billboards on main roadways, but timeliness, flexibility and SOV are all being used in spades. From a regulatory perspective, Australia lags a little but hopefully more widespread deployment of outdoor digital billboards shouldn’t be too far away.

But digital billboards are only part of the UK story. By far the biggest investment in terms of dollars and scale has been (in chronological order) airports, malls and train/tube stations. Smaller cheap and nasty businesses have generally disappeared, some consolidation has occurred, format uniformity and consistency are being delivered and campaigns are working for brands. OOH companies are building DOOH starting with the customer proposition, not the technology. That very obvious fact took quite a while to sink in and plenty of failed businesses and disappointed clients resulted, not just in the UK but Europe, North America, and to some extent, in Australia.

Just like the UK, there are luddites here too, both OOH companies and advertisers. Obvious self interest aside, DOOH is not the be all and end all. But it’s a segment of a traditional sector that is moving fast. The core strength of OOH right now remains in the more ‘traditional’ space. But for how long? I’ve written previously about QR codes and how they are working with OOH – mobile technology in all its forms will fundamentally change OOH as much as it will  change other media. DOOH won’t answer all of your needs, but it can be an important part of a campaign. Demand it, and demand it be done right. Dare to be different – challenge OOH companies to deliver and use the medium to its greatest capacity.

There’s a raft of UK DOOH case studies here for those that are interested. Or for those that like QR codes, scan here to get there:

 

Warning: not a mobile friendly site [Ed's note – These guys might not be happy about that, Jeremy. Or this guy].

 

QR codes in the wild

 

A couple of weeks ago I offered four tips on how best to use QR codes in out-of-home media. Since that time, I have had the chance to get ‘in the field’ in London, New York and Los Angeles – the perfect opportunity to further test whether the theory plays out in the real world.

My initial observation is the yawning gap between QR code usage in Australia and the UK and what is being done in the US. It seems you cannot walk a block in Manhattan without encountering a QR code in a store front, on street furniture, point of sale material, labels and price stickers, menus and flyers. In the ‘indoor out-of-home’ spaces of malls and airports, QR codes were equally visible. In this post I have attached a couple of examples of the good, the bad, and the impossible to scan.

A word of warning though: these photos were taken from my iPhone in the real environment. All were taken from a natural standing position, at what I consider a natural distance. That means some are hard to see due to size, position or environmental factors, but I guess that’s the point…

 

 

So first up, the good:

 

This is a store directory panel in one of EYE’s New York malls. The mall owner, Simon Property Group, has developed a great iPhone app and runs a QR code campaign as well. They also have an SMS service to allow shoppers to text for a mall map to be delivered to their phone. The codes are positioned throughout the mall. The QR code is a little small and a little high, but it’s everywhere, which means shoppers get used to it. It works, and the functionality on the back end, like the app, is genuinely useful.

 

And now for something a little unusual: the world famous Bleecker Street Pizza has an A-frame on the footpath with QR codes that link to TV coverage of the pizzeria and its products. Straightforward instructions on what to do and interesting content (if a little too long) means it’s a simple, effective way to grab those people uncertain about whether to enter the restaurant or not.

 

This one is really strong. It’s not ‘creative’ creative, but the proposition is clear – scan here for retail discounts at the airport. There are very clear instructions, the code is accessible and prominent, and the offers are instantly redeemable and relevant to the location. Nice.

 

The not-so-good:

Hmmm… a really interesting visual that scanned easily. It’s in the window of an Ed Hardy store in Atlanta and it caught my eye. I wanted to see what the code led to, but the landing page is not great from my perspective. Clearly I am not Ed Hardy’s target market, but an online catalogue that requires a few click throughs tests the patience a bit. And there is no online store offering; it’s just a catalogue. On the positive side though, you have the catalogue with you on your phone, so you can keep browsing after you’ve left the mall.

 

This code is for a new apartment block in Chelsea, situated right next to the High Line. The code is very visible as you walk along the line and is a great opportunity to get more information on the spot about the property, the surroundings and so on. But the sunlight was the enemy. Try as I might, I could not get this code to scan – the sunlight reflecting off the windows simply killed the ability for the code to be scanned.

 

At the Staten Island ferry terminal, the actual code on the billboard is very large – several feet across. But it is high up and impossible to scan at a distance. Getting close enough to fill the viewfinder created such a tight angle that the reader couldn’t scan the code. I took a photo and scanned that (yes, I know, get a life…). The link is to a video promo for the college. Pretty neat, but another lost opportunity.

 

This one is a mystery QR code. What is it? Why is it there? What do I do? Should I bother? Here we have a digital panel (running too many ads in a loop) with a fixed QR code. No relevance, no visible offer, no call to action. I suspect this might be a good example of using a QR code because that’s what people are doing these days, not because there is a comms plan behind it.

What to make of all of this? I stand by the comments in my last blog and would like to add some more. There are a few new key take-outs for me:

  1. 1. Indoor environments work better. You can get close to the QR code, it is a more controlled environment, and size is less important. All of which makes for an easier scan and a better connection with the consumer.
  2. 2. Height is your enemy. At or near eye level works best for QR codes.
  3. 3. The creative still needs to convey the consumer benefit behind scanning the code. The proposition needs to be clear enough and relevant enough to get the interaction started.
  4. 4. Where you land is as important as where you launch from. Immediacy of the content and offer is so important. More than a couple of touches required on my phone and you lose me.