Shape Magazine Tries Alternate Reality But Fails to Engage

Today’s post explores what has sometimes been called the future of mobile engagement, alternate reality (AR). While still in it’s infancy due to the complexity of implementing and the need for yet another app on the consumer’s part, some commercial efforts are out there. Below we experience a very rough implementation and learn how not to use AR.

_________________________________________________

Not long ago I was visiting my sister and picked up one of her fitness magazines, the September issue of Shape. I decided to thumb through it to see if there was much use of QR codes or even the ill-fated Microsoft Tag. There were a few QR codes, which I scanned of course, but there was also this on page 10:

image: Layar CTA

Interesting! I happened to be familiar with Layar, the developer of Alternate Reality (AR) technology, from some research my students had done a year or so ago. In a nutshell, AR uses a phone’s camera and other sensors to layer (no pun intended) a digital experience on top of an otherwise physical environment. I was going to have to download their app so I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick endeavor but I never would have thought the whole thing took as long as it did.

First, I had to get the app so I headed to Google Play, tapped in “layar” (it would have been handy to have a QR code in the magazine for this) and downloaded the app. Once downloaded I opened the app which forced me to swipe my way past 4 promotional pages to get to the Start Now! button. The time required for all this was starting to add up. With the app open I did as instructed and scanned page 10. After quite a bit of fiddling with how much of the image to include in the viewfinder the images in the viewfinder began to glow with a blue outline. It continued to glow for quite awhile (tick-tock, tick-tock) when a rotating gear showed on the screen. I don’t know what it is or what it means but it was rotating on my screen for a very, very long time.

image: Layar Shape Animation Layar Loading Image

Just as my patience was getting short the spinning gears gave way to a little blue button inviting me to “Click for More Details”.

image: Layar Button Animation

What? No fancy 3D graphics or cool animation of the model? All this for a frigging button??

And details on what? I scanned the entire 2-page spread, what exactly am I to get details on? Confused, I tap the blue button and the Layar app presents me with a selection of women’s clothing from Macy’s. None of which appeared to be the items worn by the model in the magazine.

image: Layar - Shape - Macy's Page

Perhaps the sports-bra thingy was the same but it was a different color and on a different model – this one brunette rather than blond. The pants and shoes on the model in the magazine were nowhere to be found. Where are those details??

At this point I was several minutes into this little experiment and my sister had wandered off having been ignored the entire time.

FAIL.

********************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Overall this was a ridiculous exercise in technology that did nothing that a QR code couldn’t do. The point of AR is to create a more engaging experience. That’s the payoff. I’m not sure who was really driving this experiment, Layar or Macy’s, but here’s what needed to happen.

1) Use a QR code. If all you want to do is present people with an opportunity to shop then use a technique that people are likely to be familiar with and for which they are already equipped. Readers of Shape probably know how to scan a QR code and it is certainly more likely they have a QR scanning app than a Layar app.

2) If asking people to download a new app, familiarize themselves with it, and learn to use it in order to “Snap and Shop” there had better be a dazzling payoff. Layar or whomever handled the technology side of this needed to animate the page in some way. For example, they could have had pop-out bubbles that pointed to each clothing item and gave details on that item. Tapping the bubble could then take you to that item on the Macy’s page.

3) Finally, the landing page needed to have only the items featured on the page I scanned. What else would have caused me to scan the page to shop? Mobile is about impulse so it needs to be quick and simple to satisfy the desire someone might have to wear what the model in the magazine is wearing. Sure, let me keep shopping if I want to but keep the page focused on the items featured. Then, use the same model in the shopping experience as used in the magazine to create even more continuity.

Posted in Alternate Reality, Mobile Context, Mobile Web, Strategy, User Experience | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My In-The-Moment Fail with KUOW FM

image: KUOW logo

This morning I was up early and making breakfast for the boys before shuttling them off to school (daycare, really, but we call it school). They were eating and for the moment they were pretty quiet. In that moment of rare and relative silence I thought it might be nice to turn on Morning Edition on the local NPR station. I stopped for a second to think about that because we don’t have a radio in the house. Looking at my phone I decided to try the local station’s web site, KUOW.org, because I’m pretty sure they have a mobile app for listening to the station. So I tapped the url into my phone’s ever-present Google search bar on the phone’s home screen. Why I didn’t open the phone’s browser directly and type in the URL, which I know,  I’m not quite sure.

What I got was search results and KUOW was the first result, as expected:

image: KUOW Search Result

I then simply tapped the link to KUOW News and Information – the top search result – and was taken to their NON-mobile web site! What?? I was a confused as well as frustrated because I thought they had a mobile site.

image: KUOW Site

Grr.. Well, I was here so I zoomed in, panned around and didn’t see any sort of promotion for the mobile app. I did see a “Listen Now” link on the top of the page and tried that but the only options were to use iTunes, Real Player (!!?), or Windows. Out of time, I bailed out and just enjoyed the quiet kitchen.

FAIL

******************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Before outlining a potential solution I want to point out that KUOW actually does have a mobile app and even has a mobile site, pictured below.

image: KUOW Mobile Site

In fact, the mobile site was EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR. I just wanted to listen to what was playing on-air and the mobile site features that functionality front-and-center.

So what gives? Here’s what’s going on:

1) If you tap “www.kuow.org” directly into your phone’s browser (I use Chrome) their site automatically re-directs you to “m.kuow.org”. This is good. However if you search for ‘KUOW” using Google or Bing on your phone the top search result, which most would choose, points to “www.kuow.org/news”.  But if you go directly to that URL with your phone you don’t get re-directed to the mobile site. In other words, you only get their mobile site if you go to the very top-level of their site, “www.kuow.org”. But the search engines aren’t sending people there! They need to implement re-direction on all their non-mobile pages.

2) Give the mobile app a prominent home on the non-mobile site, preferably near the top of the page and not buried – as it is now – in the pile of footer links way down at the bottom of the page. And use the term “Mobile App” instead of just “Mobile”.

Posted in mobile apps, Mobile Web, Strategy, User Experience | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Saks Fifth Avenue Forgot That We Read Email On Our Phones

image: Mobile Email

I get a lot of email. We all do.  And as if the sheer volume wasn’t enough to make you scream along came smartphones. So now not only is there a lot of email but you can access it from (just about) anywhere and are often expected to. You can’t get away from it. But being the adaptive sort of creature we humans are we find new ways to use the tools we have. Many of us – having realized that the smartphone isn’t a great device for crafting thoughtful emails –  are using our smartphones to quickly scan our inboxes weeding out the unwanted, meaningless and irrelevant emails and leaving just the ones that we need/want, many of which we will read later when time allows.  In fact many people perform this exercise before they even get out of bed.

I was doing this, too, – scanning my inbox using my new Moto X – when I came across an email from Saks 5th Avenue. I had recently subscribed to their email newsletter, though I have no idea why. The subject line was intriguing enough,

“Welcome to Saks.com. Your special offer inside…”

Cool. Let me quickly peek at what that offer is. Maybe this email is a keeper. And maybe – my hopes climbing a bit here – I’ll even find an anniversary gift for my wife! I tap the email to open it and viola:

Saks email no pics top

Wha?? This is a mess! I try to scan it and my eyes only manage to find “enter code WL2013AR7V83 at checkout”. The rest of the email appears to be images that don’t show. Plus the fonts are so small I can barely read the words. The message to me: Saks cares more about designing a fancy email than one that I can actually read. I’m going to unsubscribe now.

FAIL.

In the interest of research, however, decide to look at the entire email and begin a long scroll through illegible mouse-print:

image: Saks' Full email

 

Wow.

Let’s turn on the pictures and see what we get:

image: Saks email with pics

 

The poor lady looks like the victim of a magic trick involving large metal blades.

********************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Saks is no stranger to mobile. They have a smartphone app, a mobile web site and a text-messaging program. If you’re on your phone, they want to be with you. Unless you’re reading one of their emails, which clearly are not designed for consumption on a mobile phone. It’s a common oversight but the impacts could be significant. Fortunately the fix is not complicated and may actually free up some resources in the Saks marketing department. They need to optimize their emails for mobile. Here’s how:

1) Build or use an email template that detects the device and renders the email appropriately. This is done using Media Queries. The concept is known as responsive email design.

2) Reduce reliance on images to deliver the message. Most Android email clients have images turned off by default to control data usage. Your message should come through even without images.  Switch to rich text for the bulk of the email with perhaps a single image at the top with generous use of the <alt> attribute to display text when the image isn’t shown.

3) Leave lots of room to tap.  The average finger is around 45 pixels wide. Jay Shwedelson at Worldata says up to 1/3 of your email clicks could be accidental if you’re not leaving 15 pixels of padding around your links.

 

Posted in Email, Forgot Mobile, User Experience | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ripon Printers Uses A QR Code In A B2B Fail

Businesses who offer products and services to other businesses often lag behind in the use of new techniques to reach their customers. So I was intrigued when I saw a QR code on the back cover of the recent Chief Marketer magazine. Like the mobile nerd that I am I read only the headline, “Print and Digital Go Together Like Sugar and Spice, ” and then skipped right to the QR code (the ad was for a company called Ripon Printers). The code itself was unremarkable but there was some copy next to it that I found somewhat helpful, “Scan the mobile barcode with your Smartphone camera to download our white paper.” It was clear to me what would happen as a result of scanning the code. But what, exactly, would be downloaded? Based on previous attempts to download a document of some sort I figured it would be a .pdf, which was the first sign of potential trouble.

image: Ripon-magazine-ad-barcode

I happened to be sitting in a coffee shop so I popped out my phone and used the iNigma app to scan the code. I was taken to a web page that loaded very quickly (kudos to Ripon for that!). This being a B2B scenario the white paper was a lead generation tactic and on the web page was a form to complete in order to receive the download. Here’s the whole page:

image: Ripon-mobile-web-form

At this point I didn’t even know what the paper was about but to a degree that was my fault – I hadn’t read the whole ad, just the headline. On my phone this site was three screens long and there was no way I was going to tap out all that info using my phone’s tiny keypad just to receive a white paper.

At this point I declared this effort a modest FAIL — hardly a heinous one.

But I pressed on to see what would happen. I took the time to enter all of the required information — not a fun task with my big thumbs and the little keypad. The result was a bit confusing. The screen flashed momentarily after I tapped the Submit button but I was left on the page looking at my completed form. Did it work? It took me a while to notice the little icon in the phone’s status bar that indicated a download of some sort. I dragged the notification bar down to find that the white paper had arrived. Here we go, I thought. And this is the unfortunate result:

image: Ripon-whitepaper-on-mobile-phone

This is page 2 of the .pdf and there was no way I was going to pinch-zoom and side-scroll in order to read this thing. It was a nicely designed document but completely unreadable using a mobile phone.

FAIL.

************************

What could have saved this campaign?

There are two approaches to saving this lead-gen campaign when it comes to engaging people on their mobile phones (tablets, too, I suppose but does anyone scan 2D codes using their iPad??):

1) Shorten the form, reformat the .pdf   I understand that the sales team wants as much data on a prospect as possible but re-purposing your regular web form is the kiss of death for mobile. The form should simply ask for an email address and perhaps a name. Then, the downloaded .pdf should be one that was designed for reading on a mobile device with a single column, minimal graphics and large fonts. Lastly, make the web form give an indication that the download had started.

2) Change the channel to email   Mobile is a great way to capture impulse. In this case the web form could say something like, “Thanks for your interest in Ripon’s mobile expertise. We know you’re busy so just enter your email address and our white paper will be waiting for you in your email inbox.” There’s nothing urgent about reading the white paper. The key is to make it really easy to express that initial interest.

In either approach Ripon would at least have an email address they can use to follow-up and they would distribute many more copies of their white paper.

Posted in barcodes, Mobile Context, Mobile Web, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

******************************

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

******************************

Posted in Applications, Forgot Mobile, mobile apps, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

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.

*************************************************

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? 

 

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, User Experience, Video | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GoWallet Forgets That It’s A Mobile App

I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day, loyalty card in-hand, when I saw an image of a mobile phone on a nearby display. On it was printed, “Access Your Gift Cards – anytime, anywhere” (I’m really tired of companies who have anything at all to do with mobile using ‘anytime, anywhere’. In this case, there’s a picture of a mobile phone. I get it.) Then there was a picture of a phone with a few logos on the screen such as Best Buy and Safeway (the store in which I was standing). At first I thought it was suggesting I could load my Safeway card onto the phone, probably because I was actually holding my card.

image: MobileMarketingFail.com GoWallet Display

I was going to try it (or at least get the app – I didn’t have any gift cards at the time) and impulsively reached for my phone to scan the QR code. But in a brief moment of disbelief that quickly turned into disappointment I found no code to scan.  There was a URL for gowallet.com but it was my turn in line and I had to pay for my things.  I had enough time to scan a code and that was it.

FAIL

After checking out I looked for an empty check-out isle and found the same sign. I opened the browser on my phone and tapped in gowallet.com. After several seconds and a bit of forced patience (is it that hard to make a mobile site that loads fast?) I was offered the following on my screen:

image: mobilemarketingfail.com GoWallet site

 

Eh? This can’t be happening. This is a full web site! What am I supposed to do with this? Arrrgh..

FAIL

******************************

What could have saved this experience/campaign?

This multi-level fail needs a lot of work to make it a good mobile experience. It’s surprising that a service that has mobile at its heart is so un-friendly to the mobile user. Let’s start at the top.

1) Call-to-Action – Even with the questions about the long-term viability of QR codes this would have been the place to have one.  For those who know what to do with a QR code it is simply the fastest way to create a connection with the mobile user.  Just putting the URL is not enough. Opening a browser and tapping in URL – even a relatively simple one – is not as fast as scanning a 2D barcode.

2) Mobile Web – The GoWallet web site, whether someone tapped or scanned to get there,  MUST be made mobile-friendly. If for some reason the site can’t be made friendly at least create a landing page that briefly describes the service and allows the mobile user to easily show some initial interest (no-one will complete registration from their phone) by entering their email address or linking to a download of the mobile app.

3) Promote the App – Using basic device detection it is relatively simple to re-direct mobile phones to the mobile app in the appropriate app store. Then, tell them more about the app and the overall service once they are there and only one tap away from a download. Don’t make mobile users read a detailed web site and then hunt around for the link to get the app. Take them to the app, get them to download and walk them through the process.

******************************

Posted in Applications, barcodes, Forgot Mobile, Mobile Context, Mobile Web, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

*************************************************

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 http://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.

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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 http://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.

****************************************

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.

Posted in barcodes, Mobile Web, QR Codes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Ron and Don Show’s On-Air SMS Fail

As I was driving home from work last Friday I tuned the radio in my car to 97.3FM, a News/Talk station here in Seattle. Not sure if it’s a sign of my age or an indication of the state of radio broadcasting in this area but I recently replaced 103.7FM, which used to have great contemporary rock programming, with a talk radio station.

On 97.3FM it was time for the Ron and Don show and they had started talking about the Colorado fires when I tuned in. The worst wildfire in Colorado history has destroyed nearly 350 homes and killed two people. When you look at the images and video it’s simultaneously amazing and troubling.  One of the radio hosts was beginning a call-to-action. He wanted us to donate to the Red Cross in order to help those affected by the fires. But I was a bit confused by what he was saying.

Listen to the audio here.

He says,

“Text the word redcross…Text redcross, and then what you want to do is text #90999”

Then, after some words about how awesome the Red Cross is he goes on,

“…after the bottom of the hour news updates I’m gonna jump on my phone, type RedCross and then #90999, that’s 90999, send that to the Red Cross… “

Huh? What am I supposed to do? Text what? Redcross or #90999? Do I put #90999 in the message along with the word ‘redcross’? Is ‘redcross’ one word or two? Where do I send the message? Is there a number for the Red Cross? Should I know it? It seems like he’s saying to send a text to a short code, similar to the efforts to raise money to support relief efforts in Haiti and Japan, but I’d never heard the use of a pound sign (#).

I’ll give Ron and Don credit for trying to rally the support of the Great Northwest but this was a disaster of its own.

FAIL.

***************************************************************************

 What could have saved this campaign?

Here’s what I think happened. Ron and/or Don or perhaps their producer did a little research about how they could promote mobile donations to the Red Cross.  They found the information on the Red Cross web site and wrote it down. Then when the time came the show’s host just grabbed the paper and tried to give the instructions.

Here’s what didn’t happen: Testing. The radio host clearly is not very familiar with mobile donations and doesn’t appear to do too much texting, otherwise he would have known how confusing he was being. He needed to try the donation process before delivering his call-to-action.  Had he done that, his instructions might have been something clearer like, “Text the word ‘redcross’ (one word) to the number 90999. Text REDCROSS to 90999” or “Send a text message with the word REDCROSS to the number 90999.”

Posted in Donations, SMS | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jack in the Box Serves Up Some Mobile Fails

For awhile now, I’ve been receiving messages on my phone from Jack in the Box. To be honest, they are probably my favorite of all the fast food burger shops – in spite of the fact that I worked there as a kid in high school (Anyone remember when they blew up  clown and changed to Monterey Jack?).

I was mildly excited when I learned that I could join their Secret Society of Cool People where I’d be “privy to top-secret stuff like coupons, new products, and [Jack’s] favorite color (Kelly green).” Plus, I like the playful non-corporate language.

Disappointment came a month later.
And again the next month.
And pretty much every time therafter.

Here’s the most recent message, in two parts.

image: Jack In The Box MMS Msg part1image: Jack In The Box MMS Msg part2

The cool thing is they are sending pictures. The not so cool thing is that the pictures look like mini versions of a tray liner.

Here are the last 4 pictures they’ve sent:

(yes, they sent the Chipotle one twice)

My biggest disappointment is that there is never an offer (no coupon). What is the point of these? They are just ads. So after 3 months there has been no real benefit to being in Jack’s Secret Society.

FAIL.

*********************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

There are a few places to focus to see where the problems lie.

1) Strategy. It’s hard to tell what sort of experience Jack wants us mobile users to have. They appear to be simply using mobile as an advertising media, implying that they only want to put their name and products in front of people. A really, really, bad strategy when using MMS or SMS, which are the most personal of mobile media. Rather, Jack should be true to their original promise of delivering coupons and other Secret Society stuff and providing a special VIP-like experience.

2) Execution. On the heels of a good strategy is the ability to track success. With Jack’s current approach there is little to track other than, perhaps, whether the messages are being delivered but not all mobile operators provide consistent delivery reports. If Jack can start driving store traffic by turning these ads into coupons then the ability to track will require an in-store process and potentially integration with their point-of-sale system; a worthwhile effort IMHO.

 

Posted in MMS, Mobile Advertising, Strategy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Feeding America: Who Should Care?

Shopping malls are a popular place this time of year. And it is widely recognized that teenagers often hang out at shopping malls. Add this to the fact that teenagers are far and away the most prolific text-messagers and you have an environment ripe for a mobile marketing effort that uses text-messaging/SMS.

Which is why I wasn’t too surprised when I first read the words on a display ad in a local shopping mall that said:

“HNGR
TXTS,
2.”

Clearly, this was a play on the shorthand used when sending a text message. Right? Actually, it’s not that clear. Intrigued, I really studied the ad (I’m guessing more than a teenager would, or anyone else for that matter). I was looking for the payoff, the something to do, the call-to-action.:

image: Feeding America Full Mall Ad

One thing is clear, this is an ad for an organization looking to feed the hungry.

What’s not clear is what the ad means and more importantly, what can I do about it as I walk through the mall? Let’s look a little closer, perhaps there’s something in the details that clears things up.:

image: Feeding America mall ad closeup

Whaa? I get that there are hungry people. You’ve got my attention with the text-message-like copy.  But now you want me to remember to visit feedingamerica.org to ‘do my part’?  Is there nothing I can do right now? In fact, feedingamerica.org isn’t even designed to be read by a mobile device, sigh.

FAIL.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Feeding America has placed themselves in a bit of a tough spot here. They clearly recognize who is likely to be in shopping malls and seeing their ad; they have copy that is short and easy to grasp for a frequent texter. Lost, however, is the connection between who they are talking to and what they want them to do. First, a teen is likely not paying a nanosecond’s notice to the ad regardless of its familiar vernacular. Even if they did engage with the ad is there even the remotest possibility that they’d  write down the URL in order to ‘do their part’? Nope. These are teenagers. This ad is targeting the wrong people.

It is the parents in the  crowd that the folks at Feeding America really want to talk to. Grab them with a more standard line rather than one that looks like a crypic text-message (sorry, no suggestions here. I’m not a copy writer). Then, give them an easy way to do something right there, whether it’s sending an SMS or scanning a bar code. Once engaged, pull them along into a conversation about the cause and even solicit a mobile donation.

Posted in Forgot Mobile, SMS, Strategy, Text-messaging, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Central Security Distributors Not So Secure – FAIL

Any smartphone owner who’s downloaded a handful of apps will acknowledge the advertising that is present on most free apps. They are very much like banner ads on regular (i.e. non-mobile) web sites. And my guess is that they get about the same amount of intentional clicks, if not fewer. My personal theory is that mobile ads receive clicks (taps on a touch screen) because:
1) they are tapped accidentally,
2) new smartphone owners are tapping on things just to see how they work
These clicks are not from people truly interested in the product or service being promoted. Again, only a personal theory.

So, like many smartphone owners I’ve downloaded a free alarm clock app, which has ads. And true to my theory, I accidentally tapped this ad from CSD (Central Security Distributors) who apparently sells security systems from Paradox:

image: Paradox Security Mobile Ad

Here’s what I got. Keep in mind this is an offer for security products.

image: Paradox Security Mobile Ad Fail

Whoa! Wait a minute. A security warning on a site that sells security products? Yikes.

Fail #1.

If you look behind the certificate you’ll see the other, more common problem: a non-mobile web site. Even if I did continue in spite of the warning I’d be in for a terrible experience at a full web site that has shrunk itself to the size of my phone screen. No way.

Fail #2.

******************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

The problems with this campaign stem from, I believe, a single point of failure. This is an Adwords campaign. You can tell by the Google+ “+1” stuff off to the left of the ad and the arrow that points to the right indicating that you will be going somewhere, which is Google’s way of letting you know you’ll be ‘taken somewhere.’

Here’s what happened: whoever set up the Adwords campaign for CSD didn’t realize that Adwords will automatically put your ad on mobile phones unless you specify otherwise (generally a bad move on Google’s part). Here’s what that looks like in the Adwords system:

image: Adwords Devices Options

The default is “All available devices” and is unfortunately recommended by Google. The marketer at CSD just accepted the default not realizing that any clicks from a mobile device would be 100% wasted due to the issues described above.

Aside from the issue of why the ad was on a mobile device is why the site has an invalid security certificate associated with the content on the site. This is just bad web programming and particularly egregious for a firm selling security products.

Oddly, a similar thing happened with American Express.

Posted in Forgot Mobile, Mobile Advertising, mobile apps, Mobile Web | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Angry Birds Ads On Kindle Fire – FAIL

My wife received a Kindle Fire as a Christmas (er, Holiday) gift last year from her employer. It’s been interesting to see what role it plays among all our other devices such as the much larger iPad and the much smaller smartphones. So far its role is one of a time-killer (i.e. games) and list keeper (it’s great for shopping). As far as games go we have many for our 3yr old and one for us older types, Angry Birds by Rovio. Of course, we have the free version(s) of Angry Birds. I may be inclined to pay for it if I could install and use it on any of my devices but as it is I’d need to buy it multiple times. Sorry Rovio.

The free version is ad supported. No surprise there. But there’s a problem with the ads. Many don’t appear to fit. That is, the actual ad is too big for the screen real-estate allocated for displaying it. Here’s what I mean:

image: Angry Birds mobile ad fail 1

Uh, buy one what?

And,

image: Angry Birds mobile ad fail 2

Hmm. Something about avocados at Subway.

Then,

image: Angry Birds mobile ad fail 3

At least we know the price on this one. Finally, I tapped one of these misfit ads. What happened next made sense at first; I was taken to the Android Market (now call ed Google Play) – Kindle Fire runs on the Android operating system – where I could presumably download the game. But when I tried to install I only saw my Nexus S smartphone listed in available devices. My Kindle Fire wasn’t listed.

image: Rovio Ad Network Fail

Confused, I just backed my way out and continued playing Angry Birds.

Is this the experience advertisers can expect when placing ads in Rovio games?

FAIL.

*****************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

It’s a little difficult to tell what exactly is going on here and who is responsible for what but here’s what I think is happening: Rovio’s advertising production system doesn’t realize I’m playing on a Kindle Fire and is serving ads designed for Android smartphones. This easily explains why I was taken to Google Play instead of the Amazon apps store. Amazon, like Apple, has created a closed ecosystem for accessing content for the Kindle Fire and you can’t get apps from the Android Market.

It isn’t quite as easy to explain why the ads don’t fit, though. The physical ad space seems about the same as space on the phone version. One of two things is happening: 1) Rovio is up-scaling the ads because the device is larger even though the space is the same or 2) Rovio is serving the wrong version (i.e. size) of the ad. Either way, the process is breaking. And pretty frequently. Nine of the ten different ads I saw were misfits! And I probably saw each ad 3-5 times. Do advertisers realize that 90% of their paid impressions are being wasted on Kindle Fire?

The fix goes all the way back to the advertiser. If, as an advertiser, you know that you have purchased space on the Rovio ad network it is your duty to test those ads on the devices you know it will show up on. Then, hold the ad network/publisher accountable for failures.

What do you think is happening here?

Posted in Applications, Mobile Advertising, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Create Jobs For USA Not Recruiting with Mobile

Jobs are important. In fact they’ll likely be the leading topic during this year’s political debates and we’ll be sick of all the talk. Fortunately, Create Jobs For USA (www.createjobsforusa.org), part of the Opportunity Finance Network, is actually doing something more than just talk.

They are advertising on billboards. And asking those of us with jobs to donate a mere $5 to the cause.image: Create Jobs Billboard

As I drove by this billboard I was reminded of the Red Cross efforts to raise money in $5 and $10 increments following the disasters in Haiti and Japan. I wondered if this was a similar thing. Prepared to pull out my mobile phone at the next traffic light I looked for the instructions. But there weren’t any! Only a small, though memorable, URL. There was no call-to-action.

I stopped to take the picture but I didn’t even bother to pull up the web site on my phone. I’ve tried that before and smaller organizations, particularly non-profits, just aren’t there yet with mobile and I’d end up at a full blown site designed for a desktop computer.

From where I was there was nothing I could do for them except try to remember the URL for later.

FAIL.

*****************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Create Jobs For USA just plain forgot mobile. It never occurred to them.

Without going into the appropriateness of a mobile call-to-action on a billboard (not usually a good idea because people are driving) they could have at least tried. Here’s what they might have done:

1) Allow readers to donate via their mobile phone. If they don’t qualify for the Haiti-style approach where the $5 gets added to the mobile phone bill – there are restrictions for this – they could use text messaging to start the process then link donors off to Paypal via their mobile phone to make payment. (Atomic Mobile offers a service like this) The billboard would include something like, “Text JOBS to 12345.”  They could even leverage their partnership with Starbucks so that Starbucks would match all mobile donations.

2) Create a mobile site and link it to their desktop site. This mobile site would be laser-focused on telling the story and generating donations. Anyone driving by (as a passenger, of course) could then just use their phone to go to the site and donate. They should still do this, it isn’t too late.

Posted in Donations, Forgot Mobile, Mobile Web | Leave a comment

Kingsford Charcoal Burns Up a Matrix Code

I’m a griller. That is, I like to cook food on a grill. A charcoal grill to be specific (gas grill lovers, stand down!). So it should be no surprise that, when given the chance, I buy my charcoal in bulk. In other words, I buy it at Costco.

It’s springtime, so Costco is probably – pardon the pun – burning through the bags of Kingsford – specially packaged in a two 18lb pack just for Costco. Interesting. Kingsford offers a pack of charcoal you can ONLY get through Costco. Shows you the purchasing power of Costco, right?

image: Kingsford Briquettes with 2D code

Not only do I NOT see these ‘Competition’ briquettes anywhere else but I never see Kingsford in 18lb bags (let alone two bags).

Notice, though, the “Value Size” highlight that includes the call to action, “Scan for grilling tips and tricks”.

image: Kingsford 2D Code Call-to-Action

Next to that is a…. barcode? It kind of looks like a QR code but it’s not quite right. Looks different somehow. Having scanned many  barcodes I grab my Android phone and tap to start the i-nigma app, which seems good at scanning most barcodes. The result:

image: Kingsford Briquettes i-nigma scan result

Uh. No good. Ok, how about I try another scanner app, this one from ScanLife.

image:Kingsford Briquettes 2D code Error

Still no good. Ok, how about the ShopSavvy App?: Nope won’t scan.

Ok, um Barcode Scanner?: Huh Uh. Returns just a a number, 05415400001013127.

What about RedLaser? That’s a good app!: Grr.. won’t scan.

QuickMark app?: Same as above, just a number.

The package says go to scan.mobi to get a scanner but why should I? I already have half a dozen of them. And none of them work!

I’m done. FAIL.

***************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

The world of 2D barcodes as a marketing tactic is still relatively new. Many marketers, designers, printers and entrepreneurs understand that a 2D code can help drive traffic to a web site, video, or even a contact card. What they don’t understand is the mobile user, who doesn’t have the time or patience to download an app just to scan a barcode when they (rightfully so) have already done that in order to scan some other, similar looking code.

Kingsford (hopefully not at the insistence of our friends at Costco who’s headquarters are  a few miles away) has, for two years running, chosen to use a proprietary 2D barcode system proffered by AT&T Mobile Barcode Services. Like Microsoft Tags, codes created with this service – technically Matrix codes – can only be read by the scanning app offered by the barcode system itself. In this case, AT&T’s Code Scanner.  Who among the barcode scanning, smartphone toting world has an AT&T Code Scanner app? No one.

Kingsford has lacked the guidance that would show them that there is a serious battle among only two players in the 2D barcode world, QR codes and Microsoft Tags and any other proprietary code is the equivalent of dead on arrival.

Simply put, they needed to use a QR code.

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

5th Avenue Theater’s Mobile Site Fail

This is a guest post from Kim Sklar, a student in the University of Washington’s Masters in Communication in Digial Media (MCDM) program. Here original post can be found here. She recently attempted to use the mobile site of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater.

*************************

 disclaimer: I only say these things as helpful suggestions and observations because I love the 5th Avenue Theatre…Broadway gods please don’t smite me or take away my season tickets discounts for the criticisms I am about to make. Love, Seat 4D).

Big fan of musical theatre here (did I mention that yet?)…not a big fan of the 5th Avenue’s total lack of mobile savoir faire. Here is a comparison of their regular web site and the mobile web site.

5th Ave's regular web site vs. mobile site

As far as I can tell, the only differences are:

    • the layout
    • there are now three navigation boxes to choose from, instead of six
    • any of the buttons I might have clicked on before (buying tickets for an upcoming show, renewing subscriptions, subscriber benefits) are now gone. Only donate, summer program discounts and info for one show remain…only one of those I’d need from my mobile phone.

Maybe they used a auto-mobile convertor? The real mobil-emma (mobile+dilemma, wait for it, it’s gonna catch on) is that neither set of navigation areas actually direct me to where, as a subscriber, I need to go.  The site takes nearly a minute for all the pictures to load, and the menu button (which is most likely the button that you’ll need to use) is about 3 pixels wide and shoved in the upper left corner of the screen where you can’t actually tap it very easily. I know that season ticket holders are not the only business, however, I do feel like they are the one that would be the main mobile users.

Le sigh. This is a organization that could really benefit for a mobile site redesign.

As a subscriber who often accesses the 5th Avenue’s site at least one a month, I would love to see the mobile platform focus on:

  • Directions, contact info and
  • Parking information (the 5th offeres free parking to season ticket holders, but I can never find out which garages are participating)
  • Show information (dates, start time, cast, description, etc. I’m not looking for HD picture slideshows on my phone).
  • Subscriber perks (restaurant discounts, special events, renewal information)

*************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Well, Kim is right. The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile site. Their full site contains too many rich graphics for mobile and the content of the full site is not organized around the needs of the mobile theater goer. The theater needs to understand who their mobile customers are and define the experience they want to provide.

It appears their site is attempting a form of ‘responsive design’ or ‘graceful degradation’ – techniques used to alter the way a web site displays based on the device/browser that is accessing the site. Typically, however, these approaches use the same web content (images, copy, etc.) and just use style sheets to change the way the content is displayed by hiding certain things and changing their location on the screen. From purely a display standpoint this can work but it is nearly impossible to use these techniques to affect the  changes in IA (information architecture), content quality and UI (user interface) required for a good mobile user experience.

The 5th Avenue Theater needs a separate mobile web site.

Posted in Forgot Mobile, Mobile Context, Mobile Web, Non-Profit, Strategy, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

******************************************

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.

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bellevue Collection App Promotion Fail

I was recently at the Hyatt Hotel in Bellevue, WA and noticed the following sign as I walked through one of the many passageways and bridges that connect the hotel to the broader shopping experience that defines this shiny, affluent city.

image: Bellevue Collection Sign

It was the image of a mobile phone that caught my eye. (Side note: I feel like the iPhone is the ONLY phone image ever used in promotional materials. I can’t remember ever seeing an Android phone. Ever.) In fact, I actually had my phone in my hand – like a lot of people – and was preparing to try the Personal Concierge app that they were promoting.  Take a closer look at the picture. See if you can figure out how to get the app…..Waiting….

FAIL.

The sign has roughly two messages: one for Belle’s Vue, the fashionista blogger and the other for the mobile app. I see no clear path to downloading the app but there is a URL for the blog, thebellevuecollection.com/bellesvue. Determined, now, to see just how hard it is going to be to get this app I open the browser on my phone and tap in the not-so-short url. Here’s what I got:

image: Bellevue Collection Blog

Hmm. It’s a blog alright but it sure wasn’t meant for a mobile phone. I was using WiFi and not the mobile data network, fortunately, as the images are pretty high-quality. The links and navigation are far too tiny to tap on. I see nothing about the mobile app.

FAIL.

***************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

The problems embodied by this campaign really speak to the complexities of mobile as well as the inexperience most marketers have with the medium.

To address the complexity issue there’s no easy way for people to get the app in this case. Even if a QR code had been used – and one should have – it wouldn’t have gone to a site with the smarts to detect the device and re-route the person to the appropriate app market; that would be a sort of mobile nirvana. At best it might have pointed to a simple mobile landing page where the user could self-select their mobile phone type. But that would require building a mobile page, which adds complexity. At worst – and this is where inexperience shows – The Bellevue Collection could have made sure their desktop web page that promotes their app was at least serviceable (it isn’t) for someone dedicated to downloading the app and just point the QR code there. As is, the marketers at the Bellevue collection are relying on people to proactively go to their respective app market, search for the app, and download it. It won’t happen.

In addition to the missing mobile call-to-action there is nowhere on the blog that offers the app. (We’ll ignore the fact that the blog is not mobile-friendly) This is a case of not recognizing the mobile user. The Bellevue Collection is offering a mobile app but has presented only one clear option to anyone who is interested, a link to the blog. The mobile app should be prominently promoted on the blog.

A URL is being promoted to people who are walking by; they are mobile. Do they think someone will write down the url? On what? Well, probably their mobile phone, right? And maybe right into the browser for a quick check to see what’s there.

Posted in Applications, mobile apps, Mobile Context, User Experience | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

***************************************************

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.

Posted in barcodes, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sprint Fails in a NOW Moment

NBC’s Bravo network has been offering SMS/MMS engagements for some time now but not being a fan of that particular network I’ve never looked into what they were doing. During a conversation with a colleague about MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) I was told I could experience it for myself by sending WIVES to 27286 to start the sign-up process – one that turned out to be a bit painful – and begin receiving text and video messages – another often disappointing experience.

Naturally, I tried sending WIVES to the short code, presumably to engage with the Real Housewives television show (I’ve never watched it and never will, to be honest. From what I’ve seen it looks ridiculous.). However, nothing happened. Nothing at all. I got absolutely no response from my text message. Grrr. Committed, I went to bravo.com on my computer. (Mistake! That’s a scam site being run by RewardsFlow LLC who appears to be harvesting both email and mobile numbers. Likely one source of the growing problem with SMS spam) Eventually, I found www.bravotv.com/mobile, which had a form for mobile sign-up:

image: Bravo Mobile Web Form

Entering my mobile number and clicking ‘Sign Up’ resulted in:

image: Bravo Web Form Submitted

This appears broken and I got nothing on my phone.

FAIL.

Looking around the page I noticed ‘mobile’ in one of the nav menus:image: Bravo Menu

Clicking ‘mobile’ I get to a page that lists out the “Mobile Clubs”:
image: Bravo Mobile RH

The first one is Housewives Hub with instructions to text WIVES to 27286. But I already tried this and nothing happened! Fine. I tried again. This time it worked and I successfully signed up for ‘wifey gossip & news’ (yay?). Interestingly, the confirmation message said, “Sponsored by Sprint” at the end.  I didn’t realize, however, that I was due to receive more than I was expecting.

The following day I received one message as expected. It was an offer to play a game to test my knowledge of ‘Camille Grammer’.  I didn’t play. The other message was a surprise. You can see it below. I have since received them fairly regularly. It appears that when I signed up for WIVES I was also signed up for ‘The NOW Moment’ (apparently a play on Sprint’s NOW Network slogan). This was sneaky. Are these messages related to the WIVES stuff at all?
image: NBC Bravo SMS

The one above says ‘Online Dating’. Are they trying to hook me up? A more recent message said, “Modeling Tips”. Always willing to give things a try I tapped the link. Here’s the result on my Nexus S on the Sprint network:
image: NBC Bravo WAP page

Uh. Hello? What is this? It looks like the details of a video file of some sort. No video played and there was no link to tap to watch a video. Was the video supposed to accompany the SMS (making it an MMS)? The irony is that the service is sponsored by Sprint and yet it doesn’t work on my Sprint device.

I’ve received three of these ‘NOW Network’ messages and all three do the same thing.

FAIL.

***************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

Well, this isn’t so much a campaign as it is a regular part of the Bravo TV content offering, which is great, we all know mobile is here to stay.

I suspect the mobile offering from NBC/Universal is suffering from neglect. It appears that is has been awhile since anyone tested the program and processes across media (mobile vs. Web), across mobile operators, and on a multitude of devices. Testing is of course critical for any new efforts but is also vital to sustaining an ongoing program. Not to get too technical but shit happens and it always seems to happen when you’re not looking.

Bravo and Singlepoint (the mobile application provider in this case) really need to commit to scheduled, regular testing.

Posted in MMS, SMS, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Express Drops Guard on Mobile

‘Tis the season for gift-giving so it isn’t surprising to see American Express pushing a sweepstakes where gift card recipients have a chance at $100,000 cash prize. This large ‘carrot’ appears to be the incentive for shoppers to purchase gift cards at local shopping malls to give to their friends and family. Though, it turns out the giver isn’t entered for the prize, just the recipient. I would have thought it would be the other way around.

I’m not a fan of the gift card. I like to put a bit of thought into gift-giving. Still, I was curious about this promotion from Amex. I happened to be at the Customer Service desk at a local mall and saw a small flyer for the sweepstakes. Other signs/posters were seemingly everywhere but this little 3in x 5in flyer, unlike the other materials, included a QR code so I grabbed one.

image: Amex Sweeps Flyer.

Apparently as a recipient of one of these cards I’m supposed to go to the URL provided or scan the QR code – though there were ZERO instructions as you can see.  But I know what to do and scanning the code, my phone’s browser is opened and I get:

image: Amex Bad Cert

Security? What’s going on here? Is this site not safe for me to visit? Should I view the certificate? This IS American Express, right?? Forget it.

FAIL.

***************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

There were two things you probably noticed in this entry:

1) No instructions to accompany the QR code.  While QR scanning continues to increase it is still only familiar to very few, around 10% of mobile users.  Always include instructions.

2) There is a problem with the security certificate for the mobile site. This is really a very silly error on behalf of American Express. As a financial services company Amex should always have clean security certificates. If there’s one place you don’t want people wondering about security it’s on sites that have to do with money.

As it turns out, once past the security warning you are taken to a decent mobile site where – as a card recipient – you need to enter your card number in order to enter the $100k sweepstakes. This is likely the reason for the secure site.

Posted in Contests and Sweeps, Mobile Web, User Experience | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ignoring Details – iLoop Renders SMS Campaign Useless

This is a guest post over on Tatango.com, who offers a superior self-service interface for marketers who want to implement an SMS marketing effort.  Here’s an excerpt:

“As someone in the mobile marketing industry, I’m always signing up for things on my mobile phone. I’ll scan QR codes, click on URLs, and sign up for SMS marketing programs. Not long ago I signed up for iLoop Mobile’s ILOOPDEALS which is a program that allows you to “see mobile marketing in action”. It’s a good idea, but as it turns out, can be disastrous if not done correctly..”  Continue reading…

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

ABC Mobile: Lost In The Mobile Abyss

Like many smartphone users, I like to watch videos on my phone when I have a few minutes of down-time. (There are 200 million mobile video playbacks every day on YouTube.) I’ll even watch full episodes of TV shows if I’m going to be sitting somewhere for awhile, like on the bus or in a waiting room. It was the hope for access to full episodes of The View (just kidding) that had me typing in ABC.com on my computer to see what’s available.

At the ABC website there was a menu link for “Mobile”.  It looked promising, I mean, what other content would ABC be offering via mobile if not video? Clicking the link I was treated to the following page and there it was, Mobile Video On Demand! Nice.

Now, how do I get the vids? I don’t see an iTunes icon or little green Android that would point me to a mobile app. Checking the fine print I see that the service is indeed available on Sprint (my carrier) and, “To find out how to access ABC Mobile Video On Demand by texting ABCTV to 22288.”  Simple enough, right? Nope. Here’s what I got back; a message from Sprint:

“9230: Message failed. Shortcode may have expired or shortcode texting may be blocked on your account. Msg 1051”

What the..? How do I get the VOD? This short code was my only option!

FAIL #1.

I try the other mobile ‘offerings’ with increasing frustration.

Text Alerts:

FAIL #2: No list of shows to get alerts on! I’m offered the opportunity to figure it out for myself.

Live TV:

FAIL #3: No way to get the service, which appears to be only available on my carrier.

This is starting to get silly.  As a last resort and with little real hope, I pick up my phone and tap ABC.com into the browser. Perhaps they have a mobile site that will help me. Nope. It’s their full-site:

image: ABC.com on a phone

actual size

Not pretty, and the video links take me to the full-on video player. I try adding ‘/mobile’ to the URL:

image: ABC.com Mobile

actual size

Ugh. Same thing, a non-mobile site. It doen’t even pinch/zoom very well. In fact, the site crashed my phone’s browser forcing it to close. Neat.

FAIL #4.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

There is really only one thing to talk about here. I wasn’t able to actually get any of the content so all I can review is the way ABC Mobile is making their content available (or not available as the case may be).

1) Using a short code is a great way to allow users to discover mobile content but it should work on all carriers you claim the content is available on. In this case the content seems to be available on Sprint but the SOLE access method, a short code, is not.  ABC should remove Sprint from the carrier list or figure out how to get them to provision the short code.

2) When promoting content, in this case alerts and live TV, ALWAYS provide a simple and clear call-t0-action so interested users can actually engage on their device. Marketing 101, really.

3) Create a mobile web site and detect mobile devices that come to your top-level domain. This doesn’t have to be complex. A simple mobile landing page with instructions on how to get mobile content would be better than directing to a non-mobile site with rich content and flash elements.

To summarize, it appears the mobile efforts at ABC Mobile are fragmented, lack coordination and and exhibit little understanding of how to engage a mobile user.

Posted in SMS, Strategy, Text-messaging, User Experience, Video | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pampers Tries SMS But Leaks Out Anyway

I hate diapers. On the one hand you need them to keep your baby clean and on the other hand they are filling up landfills and decompose slowly.  And the reminders come multiple times per day. Sure, we tried cloth diapers but you may not realize how much water and electricity you go through cleaning and drying these absorbent things.  It’s insane. I’m not convinced it’s worth it. I’m back to disposables.

Which leads me to Pampers. I was taking a shrink-wrapped bundle of them to the daycare when I noticed a sticker on the pack with a long number/code on it. I’m actually surprised it got my attention because the sticker was so small. Seemed almost like a packing or shipping label of some sort.

image:Pampers GTG Sticker

Turns out it was a Call-To-Action!

Naturally curious, I tried to read the thing. Ever try to read the text on a coin? It was about half that size. I needed my glasses. It was painfully small. Here’s what I saw:

image: Pampers GTG Sticker Closeup

I guess you could text the code in as part of some sort of rewards program. I’m not a ‘member’ but not knowing what else to do I forged on sending the 15-digit code to 726777.

Expecting to be told I’m not a ‘member’ I received the following message in return:
“Sorry, we couldn’t find your mobile number. Please enter your email address. Msg&data rates may apply. reply STOP 2 quit, HELP 4help & T&Cs”

Fine. I replied with my email address. Here’s the reply:
“Sorry, we could not find your email @ Pampers GTG. Please register at pampers.com. Msg&data rates may apply. reply STOP 2 quit, HELP 4help”

(wow, those CYA bits about data rates and stop and help are really annoying)

Really? I need to go to a ‘regular’ website to register? I’ve gone so far as to stop what I’m doing, locate my glasses, find my phone, send the code, send my email and now you bail on me? This site is not meant for mobile and requires all kinds of data entry. Forget it.

FAIL.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

First, these stickers are way too small. I’m not a 20-something but I only got reading glasses in the last 4 months and rarely use them. I see fine in normal conditions. If you want people to participate, make it easy (maybe Pampers doesn’t really want participation?).

Second, follow MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) guidelines for promoting shortcode-based programs. This will keep you from being audited and subsequently shut off.

Third, allow people to sign up via mobile. Do NOT make them use your regular web site. People on their phones won’t type and confirm-type email addresses and passwords, fill in addresses and make a bunch of preferences selections. Let them sign up and then follow up with them (via email) if you want more info. This can be done on a mobile web site or using SMS. Contact Atomic Mobile to see how this might work.

Posted in SMS, Text-messaging, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft Launches a Mobile Advertising FAIL

I have a lot of apps on my Samsung/Google Nexus S. A couple are paid but the remainder are all free. Free due to advertising. These apps contain advertising slots that the developer hopes to sell to advertisers in order to generate a positive return. Alarm Clock Extreme Free is a perfect example. The bottom 1/6th of their app is dedicated to ads. Like one from Microsoft:

Microsoft Mobile Ad

I saw the ad above and thought, ‘ok, I’ve heard some decent stuff about Microsoft’s  Mango, let’s check it out.’  Tapping the ad I was asked first if I wanted to ‘View Ad,’ which was a little confusing because I’d just tapped the silly thing – of course I wanted to see the ad. Not sure if this is a function of the ad or a creation of the minds in Redmond, WA. but it seems like an unnecessary second step.

I tap ‘View Ad’ and, as expected, I’m whisked off to the land of my Windows Mobile 7 dreams.

Or not.

image: MSFT Site Cert

Now, I know that this  warning has its purpose and with only nacent experience clicking on mobile banner ads I try clicking ‘Cancel’. Bad idea. The same warning just kept coming up repeatedly, like a pop-up from a spam site that doesn’t want you to go away, and I never actually got to the site. I should have bailed at this point but it was starting to get interesting. Backing out, I found myself back in the Alarm Clock app looking at the same banner ad. Tapping it again and seeing the same warning I try ‘Continue’ and, thankfully it looks like I’m moving past the error message.

And onto a full website for Microsoft Store. Yikes.

image: MSFT Site

Yeah. This isn’t going to happen. Where are the goods on Windows Phone 7 “Mango”?? I’m at a storefront homepage, or so it seems (it’s very small).

FAIL.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

It’s hard to tell what happened with this campaign. Here are my theories:

  1. (This is bad.) The marketer who set up the ad campaign didn’t realize that it might be seen from a mobile device. Given the gravity that success for Windows Phone carries for the Redmond giant this may be inexcusable.
  2. (This is worse.) The marketer actually knew that the ad would be seen from a mobile device, thought it was an awesome idea and did nothing. This marketer should be fired.

This could be a classic case of applying what we know about web advertising to the mobile environment but it appears that even the web portion has escaped the brains at Microsoft or, more likely, their agency.

  1. There is no payoff. Warning message aside, there is nothing that treats us to Windows Phone 7 and all its glory. We are simply shuttled to a home page. Of all channels, mobile needs to show value.
  2. Security certificates. These are incredibly important for eCommerce sites. They secure transaction and payment information from casual hackers. But this home page doesn’t need to be secure at this point. Nothing has happened. There should NOT be certificate validation at the entry point to a site where I may just want to browse products in relative anonymity.
  3. This landing site was not built for access from a mobile device. The remedy is obvious. Do NOT advertise on mobile devices if you’re not ready to give the user an experience designed for mobile.
Posted in Forgot Mobile, Mobile Advertising, Mobile Web, User Experience | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

JagTag Admits Defeat, Goes With QR Instead

Women’s beauty/fashion/lifestyle magazines are crazy with the mobile barcodes. Well, to be more precise, the ads in those magazines are crazy with mobile barcodes. Rarely do I ever see an article with a barcode that says, “Check out exclusive behind the scenes video of this interview/fashion shoot/celebrity, right from your mobile phone!” I guess advertisers are quicker on the uptake than publishers.

This month, my wife received the usual Marie Claire and of course I was the first to flip through the pages (the fact that Katie Holmes is on the cover has nothing to do with it). There are 8 barcodes. Five QR codes, two Microsoft Tags (more on this in a later post), and one barcode that was confusing. It looked like a QR code with the three squares in the corners but wasn’t your typical QR code. Plus it came with a slew of instructions as you’ll see.

See? It looks like a QR code. Curious, as always, I read the fine-print to see what they are saying I should do and it becomes clear; it’s a JagTag. The instructions say to take a picture with my camera-phone and email it to them. Unless I’m on AT&T or Verizon in which case I can send via MMS to a shortcode.

I’m on Sprint so I email the pic to the address given. Several minutes later I received an email (not text-message) that said, among other things: “..Click the link to watch how Advanced Color Lock Technology works. http://jagt.ag/ColorRevitalize3” Admittedly, this was more than the magazine ad promised to show me, which was nothing. So I clicked the link – IN MY EMAIL – and was greeted by the screenshot below.

Nice, Huh? This is a verrry tiny, eentsy weentsy video player. It’s hard to tell, I know. Here’s the closeup:

This is almost exactly the size of the video that I’m looking at on my 21″ iMAC screen. Watching the video I see that it is a 30 second commercial! Very much like you would see on the TV.  No behind the scenes scientist describing how this fantastic product is so super-awesome due to it’s polymer stuff. No bloopers of a scientist giving away trade-secrets. Nothing. A stupid ad. Sheesh.

Beyond disappointed at this point I close my browser and dream of a day when desktop computers go away and all marketing experiences will be designed for mobile exclusively.

FAIL.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

I don’t need to go into the details about the use of JagTags. They were covered nicely in this post and the campaign above has identical issues. The primary issues with JagTags are:

  • Confusing and cumbersome call-to-action (MMS vs Email depending on mobile service operator),
  • The number of steps required by the user, and
  • The fact that when a user engages via email (i.e. Sprint and T-Mobile users) the content delivered is the same as gets delivered over SMS/MMS. It’s a terrible experience and one that assumes I’m reading the email from my phone.

What is really interesting about this campaign is that the folks at JagTag have finally recognized that QR codes have killed the JagTag. The ‘JagTag’ in this campaign is, indeed, a QR code. In fact the instructions even tell you that you can scan it with a QR code reader:

As a show of reluctance to give in to the QR code completely these instructions were sheepishly added at the end rather than up-front where they might have saved the user time.

Posted in barcodes, Mobile Web, QR Codes, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

15 Simultaneous QR Fails by Butler at Home

It came in the mail with the rest of the ‘junk.’ Every U.S. household receives them in one form or another. Sometimes the coupon offers are stacked inside a Valpak envelope. This one, from The Butler At Home, is in booklet format in glossy full color.

This month, as you can see, there is a QR code displayed just above the mailing label.  Nice. It even comes with at least some attempt at instructions, “Scan with Smartphone”, though I’m not sure anyone new to the whole QR code thing would get it. (In fact, there was an older student in the course I teach at the University of Washington who, when told to scan the QR on the coffee cup simply waved his new iPhone phone over the code in a conjuring motion, like waving a magic wand. He had no idea what ‘scan’ meant.)

I went ahead and scanned the code and, you guessed it, I was directed to the Butler at Home main web site. To be fair, the home page wasn’t too bad. Clicking through, though resulted in long lists of offers in type too small to tap with fingers like mine (they’re not sausages but they aren’t dainty either). Oh, well.

I then spent the next 15 minutes or so flipping through the coupon book for other QR codes. There were 14 others on a variety of ads for companies ranging from restaurants to furniture:

  1. Pearl Bar & Dining
  2. Valentine Roofing
  3. Intuitive Integration
  4. Le Grand Bistro
  5. Discount Tile Outlet
  6. Solatube Daylighting
  7. Solarstar Attic Fans
  8. Queen Anne Upholstery
  9. Woodmark Homes
  10. Ballard Refinishers
  11. Agave Cocina& Cantina
  12. Bath Simple (more about this one below)
  13. RC Concrete
  14. Eastside Insulation

Not ONE of these codes direct you to a mobile web site/page. Not one.

A couple of the sites were marginal at best; if I were really motivated I might find what I was looking for. The rest were what you’d expect. Terrible.

There was one I couldn’t test though, the one for Bath Simple. Here’s a pic.

The QR code had been reduced to such a small size that my QR scanner wouldn’t scan it.

Notably, all but the Butler at Home and Bath Simple codes were created using MyQR.co – I noticed the common domain before being redirected. The former two were linked directly to their respective sites. It’s almost as if the QR effort was coordinated centrally by The Butler at Home. Maybe they shouldn’t do that.

FAIL.

*****************************************************************************

What could have saved this campaign?

This is one the flimsiest efforts at ‘doing mobile’ that I’ve ever seen. It appears that there was some level of central coordination by Butler Publications but the result was the same mistake made over and over and over. Here are a couple redeeming thoughts:

  1. Point the QR codes to mobile web sites/pages. This is painfully obvious but so basic.
  2. Have the QR codes actually deliver the offer to the mobile device. The QR could start a text message that requests the $10 lunch certificate. Then I might actually go there for lunch in the next day or two.
  3. Dedicate some space at the front of the booklet describing these new fangled square things.  Tell them that they need a scanner app and where to get one.
  4. Coach your advertisers on how to give a decent mobile experience by building a simple mobile landing page. There are free services they can use to do this.
Posted in barcodes, Mobile Web, QR Codes, User Experience | 2 Comments