The Quick Response (QR) Code as a marketing vehicle is a nice idea but one that has so many variables connected to it that as a general rule of thumb, it is pointless to include them in your marketing. Aaron Strout in his 2013 article The Death of The QR Code, neatly lists out the reasons why QR Codes are just not worth it…and it all still applies today in 2015.
I am sure you, like myself, see QR Codes on a regular basis and don't bother to scan them. Why do marketers bother using these at all, especially if they don't bother execute the underlying program well? I don't know either.
However over the last few months I have encountered QR codes on bottles of Heinz Ketchup and Downes Family Vineyards Wine, which I thought were actually excellent opportunities to engage consumers. In both instances the QR environment for the marketer was as close to ideal as possible: high probability of access to internet (specifically wifi), confined audience, audience opening to being entertained, and smartphone ubiquity.
Heinz Ketchup’s Trivial Pursuit Family Edition QR Code
With Heinz Ketchup I was in a family restaurant with three adults and seven children, aged four to 12. With the service slower than normal the natives restless and threatening mutiny, I thought the cavalry had arrived when I spotted Heinz’s QR Code for Trivial Pursuit Family Edition.
That cloud of dust in the distance, not the cavalry, rather just another poorly executed QR Code mobile experience.
What was wrong?
Not a truly mobile experience.
While these screen shots of the Heinz Trivial Pursuit game are easy to read, I can assure the actual overall experience on the phone was sub-par starting with the site being hard to read. It was as if they “sort of” mobilized the site.
Heinz mistook this engagement opportunity for an email generation program requiring an email address with the explicit promise of spam (sorry Heinz, I gave you a fake email; some-random-string-of-letters-@random-string-of-letters DOT com).
Poor game mechanics.
For those that did made it past the login, the mechanics of the game were not smooth nor always intuitive adding to the poor overall experience with a corresponding negative impact to the brand. So poor was the experience we did not get past question one.
No value to the company.
The Trivial Pursuit Game was really the Trivial Pursuit Game with real trivia question about Galileo and the like. As good as that game is, this was not good for Heinz. This should have been a game about Heinz. Founded in 1869, making thousands of products on six continents, I can’t imagine that Heinz can’t come up with a few interesting factoids about their products and corporate history…guessing ketchup alone could have its own Trivial Pursuit edition. What a lost opportunity to increase share of cart by having questions about one of Heinz many other products that may not be going into my shopping cart today.
Heinz does a great job with brand marketing and truly has great quality products but they really missed the mark with this program
For a more detailed technical account and some general commentary on Heinz’s QR code you can read QR Code Reviews – Heinz Ketchup Trivial Pursuit
If you are interested in reading about Heniz’s QR blunder sending users to a pornographic website you can read the BBC’s Heinz QR porn code too saucy for ketchup customer
Downes Family Vineyards Wine QR Code
Downes Family Vineyards Wine also had ideal QR code conditions when I encountered theirs. In fact many of the conditions under which wine is consumed in the United States are ideal for QR codes with high probability to access to wifi and wine consumer also consumers of wine information, especially while drinking it.
Home with my wife enjoying a post dinner glass of wine on the patio, I looked over the bottle for some information about the vintage. There was really nothing about the wine but there was a large QR code on the label. “Ahh, perhaps this QR will bring me to all kinds of information about this wine and perhaps other wines the vineyard produces”.
What was wrong?
No value to the consumer. Not a mobile experience.
I have no idea what kind of information Downes Family Vineyards had on their website because it was not mobile optimized (not even in the “sort of” the kind of way Heinz’s was) and while interested in the wine, I was not interested in going on a pinch and zoom hunting expedition and decided to “X” out of the site.
Clearly Downes Family Vineyards lost a great opportunity to engage with a consumer who actively raised their hand and said “yes tell me more about your product”. Engagement, cross sell, upsell all wasted opportunities.
As with the Heinz QR, Downes Family Vineyards damaged their brand in my mind sending me to a lack luster non-mobilized website.
Critical Success Factors
There are not a lot of opportunities to have successful QR Code campaigns. But if you do find an opportunity for success (like Heinz and Downes Family Vineyards) think it through and do it right.
Some critical success factors to remember with QR Codes
- Conditions the consumer will be in when viewing the QR code.
- Are consumer doing something that they would be willing to stop and scan your code?
- Access to internet (wifi in particular). Make sure wherever your QR Code ads are running there is high probability of good access to the internet.
- Provide value your organization
- Provide value to the consumer
- Make sure your objectives are actually achievable through the QR channel
- An optimized mobile experience is a requirement, not a nice to have.
Remember, poor execution leads to more than just poor results, it leads to brand damage.
A number of years ago, when they were new, I planned on doing a story on QR codes and my experiences scanning as many ads as I came across. While I never got to write that article I can tell you that very few organizations ever got it right or even close to right. Unfortunately the two examples here seem to be a continuation of that pattern.