8.22.2013

What People Don't Understand About QR Codes

In response to ScanBuy's recent announcement regarding Microsoft Tag, the article below was written. See my comments in bold.

Microsoft Learned QR Codes Don't Work 
By Laura Stampler, August 19, 2013

2DBS: Ms. Stampler, the title of your article is a bit vague and somewhat misleading. Microsoft probably realized QR Codes do, in fact, work and that's why the company started to include them with the Tag product/platform offering over a year ago. To include an open-source technology with a proprietary technology, I believe, speaks volumes. To know that the company hardly supported and marketed the Tag product after about a year or so since its inception also, I believe, speaks volumes about how serious the company was, or was not, when it came to playing in the bar code space. 

Microsoft announced that Microsoft Tag— the company's customizable QR code alternative — is shutting down in August 2015. To which the tech world replied, "Wait ... QR codes are still a thing?" (The answer is yes. Gillette even incorporated the Rorschach-like, black-and-white, scannable blocks on a recent Kate Upton ad.)

2DBS: Ms. Stampler, I was unaware that the entire tech world was polled about the recent news, because I know plenty of people and companies that still believe in and support the use of QR Codes. Also, if you truly followed the space, you would know that Gillette's Upton campaign is hardly recent. You probably did a quick search for QR Codes and found this as an example. Such brilliant research. 

Scanbuy is taking over the support for Microsoft's Tag technology next month.

Even though some research has shown that people are increasingly scanning QR codes, Aaron Strout at Marketing Land predicted that 2013 will be the last year of the QR code. "What I haven’t been able to find are statistics that show repeat usage, Strout wrote. "My guess is that there is a reason for that."

2DBS: To Ms. Stampler and Mr. Strout, I'm not sure I understand what you are referring to with respect to repeat usage statistics. A consumer reads a QR Code-based ad, billboard, package, etc., scans the code, goes to the link page/content and interacts from there. If the consumer wants to revisit the page/content all they have to do is go into their code reader app's history and click the link to the resolve page. The code does not need to be scanned again. So, are you referring to scanning the actual code repeat times, or are you referring to visiting the scan resolve content repeat times? If it's the latter, this can certainly be measured by an advertiser, but it's up to them to release this type of statistic. I can understand if they, the advertiser, would want to keep this information private. 

In addition, to Mr. Strout's comment, if memory serves, many like-minded visionaries, experts, what have you, saw the demise of QR Codes in 2010, 2011 and 2012, yet the technology is still out there and being used effectively. Is 2013 going to be the the year, I kind of doubt it.

To reinforce the point, we have collected some of the worst QR code mishaps ever. (Note: I omitted these from this post.)

2DBS: Ms. Stampler, you are like everyone else, so quick to find the fails, but so slow, or hesitant, to celebrate the wins, of which several dozen are listed on this blog. 

Ms. Stampler, thank you for adding absolutely nothing to the discussion.

8.19.2013

Microsoft to Close Tag in Two Years

Today, a lot of people are talking about the long-term license agreement ScanBuy entered into with Microsoft for its mobile bar code platform known as Tag (see press release). While that's certainly important news among Microsoft and ScanBuy customers, investors, etc., what I believe is even more important is Microsoft's announcing that it plans to shut down the Tag platform on August 19, 2015.

On the surface, through this announcement, it seems as though the bar code industry is consolidating with respect to code providers. What I notice, however, is that the industry is really consolidating with respect to code technologies, and the winner is the open-source QR Code.

A couple of years ago, we saw the proprietary code platform known as JAGTAG get bought by Augme Technologies, only never to be seen again, and I believe the same will happen with Tag, especially now that ScanBuy is involved. Who will be next, the last remaining proprietary platform SnapTag? Time will tell.

As a result of the license agreement and the eventual shutting down of Tag, I believe, the barriers to bar code use and adoption will become that much less, for both marketers and consumer alike. Marketers will have an easier time selecting a bar code platform/technology to use and implement, and consumers will find it easier to scan codes, because there will be one less code type to have to recognize and know about.

As great as it is that a winner (i.e., QR Code) seems to be emerging among the various bar code technologies that have been developed and marketed over the past several years, I wonder if this will be short lived given the legal actions NeoMedia Technologies has been taking over the past several months. But, perhaps, that's a topic for another article altogether.

7.22.2013

Are QR Codes a Terrible Idea?

On retail-week.com there is an article titled "QR Codes Are A Terrible Idea. Why Is Image Recognition Even Worse?" and I have a couple of comments/questions for the author Frank Hayes. The article is shown below, with my comments/questions in italics.

QR Codes Are A Terrible Idea. Why Is Image Recognition Even Worse?
By Frank Hayes

QR codes are ugly. They’re intrusive. Most designers hate them because there’s no way to make them look any less like the brick-full-of-blocks they are, especially when they’ve been slapped next to a great-looking retail marketing image.

2DBS: Mr. Hayes, it's true, many designers don't like QR Codes, but it's not true that QR Codes cannot be made to "look any less like the brick-full-of-blocks they are." On the contrary, QR Codes can be customized with respect to embedded logos and images, colors and shapes, and if one were to conduct a search on "designer QR Codes" a number of very imaginative and innovative code designs would appear. 

That’s why the idea of leaving out the QR code entirely and just getting a mobile phone to react to the image itself is so appealing. It looks so much better that it’s easy to forget why it’s a bad idea. That ugly, intrusive QR code screams “point your camera at me!” An ordinary image doesn’t. As a result, if potential customers know what they’re supposed to do with a QR code, they can easily do it. But how are they supposed to know that there’s any special significance to the image in an ad or brochure?

2DBS: Mr. Hayes, the answer is simple, education. Just like with QR Codes, advertisers using image recognition will have to (should) spend the time and expend the energy to inform and educate consumers on what image recognition is and how it can be used and interacted with. From the dozens of real-life uses of image recognition technology in magazines, most advertisers and publishers have done a very thorough jobs of introducing and educating readers about the technology.  

This comes up because of a story we saw about LTU Technologies, which claims its image-matching tech is so good that just pointing a a smartphone’s camera at an appropriate image can trigger the same kind of response - a web page, a coupon, additional details - as a QR code. We’ll take the company at its word for that (though of course if you’re thinking about using it, you’d be crazy not to test it thoroughly).

2DBS: Mr. Hayes, LTU is a leader in image recognition and their product does work when correctly implemented. With respect to linking an image, logo, etc. to a web page, a coupon, etc., yes, this works much in the same way that a QR Code can link to similar content. Also, in regard to testing, it goes without saying that any technology to be used or offered to customers should be tested. I have long advocated that this be considered a best practice. 

Unlike digital watermarking, this is pure image recognition. You don’t have to load the image up with too-subtle-for-the-human-eye markers, you just upload the image to LTU along with indications of which parts of the image are most recognizable. It does the matching and sends the customer whatever information or redirect you’ve specified. It’s a clever idea, and it seems like it should work perfectly once it’s everywhere. The customer points her phone at a logo and gets a website, at a magazine ad and gets a coupon, at a billboard and gets directions to the nearest story. But it’s not everywhere. And the vast majority of logos, ads and billboards aren’t waiting for customers to point a phone at them. Point the phone and nothing will happen. After a while - a very short while for most customers - the charm will wear off.

It’s hard enough to get consumers to point their phones at QR codes, where they can be sure something is encoded in the brick-full-of-blocks (even if it’s something the consumer really doesn’t want). They’re slowly being trained by a few specific applications such as Peapod’s virtual grocery stores and the occasional giant billboard, but QR’s use is nowhere near what its proponents expected.

And that’s with a technology that trumpets the fact that it’s there. Pure-play image recognition, where the few images that can be recognized are vastly outnumbered by the great many that give no response, hasn’t got a chance - at least out on the street.

2DBS: Mr. Hayes, at this point you lost me. I'm not really certain I understand the point you are trying to make. Scan a QR Code in an ad and it might lead to a landing page. Scan a second and it might lead to a map. Scan a third and it might lead to a mobile coupon. The same with image recognition-based ads, billboards, promotions, etc. The charm will wear off and consumers will lose interest in scanning codes, images, whatever, when the interactive brand/product experience and engagement is less than what's been promised and/or expected. Or, if there is no value, meaning, relevance or benefit to the consumer. As with QR Codes, it will take time for consumers to understand that each image scan will result in a different resolve, but it will happen.

Then there are the technical issues. A QR code actually contains information that can be decoded without a network connection or a vendor on the other end. In a cell dead spot with no Wi-Fi? Customers can point cameras all they want, and nothing will happen. (And there are a surprising number of dead spots, even in urban areas.) Nothing discourages the use of technology like that tech mysteriously stopping and then starting again.

That said, once you get customers in off the street and into a situation you control, this might work brilliantly. In-store, with customer-accessible Wi-Fi and images you’ve already uploaded to a vendor, customers can point at lots of images and get a reaction. You could even pitch it as a reason to come into the store. Prepping all those images is plenty of work, but so is adding QR codes to everything. And trying out image recognition might distract some customers from actually shopping, but that’s a risk of any in-store technology.

2DBS: Mr. Hayes, I understand you wrote the article for a retail audience, which is fine, but let's not make excuses for what a CMO, or the like, should know. There is a time and place for different strategies, tactics and technologies. What might work out of the store, might not work in store and vice versa. A marketer needs to understand the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages of any particular technology before deploying it into the field. Also, let's not make excuses or cut corners for when it comes to simple testing and research. Who's to say that some experimentation cannot be done with different technologies?

Of course, you could get around the most-images-don’t-work problem by putting some kind of logo near images that trigger recognition — something that flags those images as special. Something like, say, an ugly, intrusive brick-full-of-blocks?

2DBS: Actually, many magazine publishers who have made use of image recognition, as well as digital watermarks, have developed a certain logo or icon to inform readers of the special editorial or advertising content that lies behind the scanning of an image or watermark.

In summary, I believe the most important take away from what Mr. Hayes writes about is that marketers need to do their homework when it comes to using print-to-digital technology and, it's just as important, to learn about how consumers are interacting with, accepting and making use of such technology. Nothing is a given, and what works for one company, might not work for another.

7.10.2013

B2B QR Code Failure...Why?

Bemis, the product packaging company, is currently running a B2B print campaign, which features a QR Code.

When the QR Code is scanned, the reader of the ad is brought to a page on the desktop version of the company's website. Nothing more, nothing less. And this strategy or tactic will generate sales leads how?


I believe it's widely understood and/or assumed that a major objective of B2B advertising and promotion is to generate qualified leads to keep the sales pipeline full. So, how does the marketing brain trust at Bemis explain this print ad and the way the QR Code is being used? Once on the scan resolve landing page, there is no call-to-action, reason, incentive, motivation, etc. for the prospect to engage and/or interact with, so the chance of them moving further along the purchase decision path is minimal. If that's the case, what could the objective of a campaign like this possibly be?

Forget the QR Code for a moment. Why are marketing fundamentals disregarded when it comes to B2B marketing, advertising and promotion? What does Bemis hope to gain from this marketing spend? Better yet, how will they justify it? With all of the talk about marketing ROI, metrics, analytics, etc., in my mind, it all boils down to commonsense and fundamentals. And, with this ad there's nothing commonsense or fundamental about it. 

If I'm wrong about all of this I hope someone from Bemis can explain it to me.
 
2D Bar Code Litmus Test: FAIL

6.30.2013

QR Code Done Right by Sherwin-Williams

Here's a great example of a print ad that delivers value and service to the consumer, instead of simply interrupting the consumer with meaningless copy, imagery and branding. It's interesting to note, the ad also features a QR Code, the execution, of which, is done rather well.

Sherwin-Williams, the paint company, has developed an app which helps consumers match everyday colors with Sherwin-Williams' colors. To promote the app, the company created this double-page print ad.


When the QR Code in the ad is scanned, the reader of the ad is brought to a mobile website, which provides the following: detailed information about the app's features; a link to download the app, which auto-detects the app version that's compatible with the smartphone being used; a retail store locator; customer service days/hours; customer service feedback form (wow, that's new and different); a link to the main corporate website; and a link to a professional's website (i.e., professional painters). Very complete, and all just to promote an app. But that's service. That's value.


While it's great to see that the professional's website is mobile optimized, it's less than great to see that the corporate website is not mobile optimized. The company does such a good job with this campaign, why disappoint here? I noticed another disconnect as well.

When you go to the company's main website, there is no mention of the ColorSnap app. Pourquoi pas? Why no link to be able to download the app from the main website? Seems like the mobile team thought things through pretty well, but the desktop team did not. Hence the disconnect.

Getting back to the scan resolve content...the one item I found to be missing that should be a part of this and most any other scan resolve is a way to easily share the content. If the experience merits sharing than the company should make it easy to do so.

A couple of minor hiccups but, overall, a solid execution.

2D Bar Code Strategy Litmus Test: PASS

6.18.2013

The Gap - Part 3

This is the last part of my gap.com saga.

Yesterday, I could not help myself, I sent an email to Gap's CEO and Chief Marketing Officer to inform them of my dissatisfaction with their customer service, just to see what the response would be. By the end of the day, I received two emails from the company, both of which expressed how they wanted to right the wrong and offer me $20 off my next purchase. Here too, the company messed up.

The first email was boilerplate, plain and simple. Sorry to hear that you were dissatisfied with our customer service, here's $20 off your next purchase. The email was signed  Customer Service, with no name attached, and I loved the subject line, which read, "A Special Treat For You." Am I a dog? What about "Our Apologies To You" or something of that nature?    

The second email, which came from "Kimberly" in Customer Service, was a bit more detailed in its apology, but much the same in tone. It too offered $20 off my next purchase.

(The only reason why the second email was sent is probably because Gap realized they sent a boilerplate response the first time and thought to perhaps impress me with a more "personal" email the second time. Know something, it didn't work. I was not impressed.) 

Wow, $20 off my next purchase, how very unimaginative. What's a pair of jeans cost Gap, $10 maybe $15 a pair, I'm just guessing. The pair I bought cost me $49. Gap couldn't see its way clear to say, Mr. Marquis, for all of your trouble and inconvenience, and because we don't like to hear that our customers are disappointed with our service, the pair of jeans you bought are on us. How's that?

For an investment of $10 or $15 (i.e., the cost of the jeans), why doesn't Gap try to make me a loyal raving fan, one who will sing its praises, as opposed to speaking negatively about the company? Diapers.com and its sister companies do this better than anyone else...you have a problem with a product and sometimes the company will simply say keep the merchandise or donate it. We'll send you something else or a new one with no ifs, ands or buts. Now that's customer service. For company's like Gap, they need to realize that not all of the dollars spent are expenses, sometimes they're investments. Investments in the brand, as well as the customer.

Last point worth noting...instead of taking the time to forward and explain my email to someone in customer service (i.e., Kimberly), why didn't the CMO just take the time to pen a personal response to me and make the same offer and apology? Bewildering, isn't it? I guess he has more important things to do like run a broken customer service operation. 

6.17.2013

Seriously, Who Writes This Stuff? - Part 2

This is a follow up to my last post about gap.com.

Yesterday, I called gap.com about the email I received regarding my recent order for a pair of jeans. When I reached a customer service representative (CSR) on the phone, I had two questions to ask. 

Question #1
Could the retail store inventory system be searched to find the pair of jeans I ordered, so they could be shipped to me directly from the store, as opposed to my having to wait until mid-July, when they would be shipped from the main warehouse? 

The CSR said that she could do that for me and, if I wanted to hold on the phone line, she would be able to tell me whether or not she was able to locate a pair in the retail store system. When I asked her to email me the information she was able to find out, the CSR got a bit flustered. Why? Because it seems as though front-line, client-facing employees, such as the CSR I was speaking with, do not have the ability to send personal emails to customers. Do the words empowerment and trust mean anything to the leadership at gap.com, as well as get with the program? But wait, it gets better. I asked the CSR if a manager or supervisor could send the email instead and she said, no, they can't either. And gap.com calls it customer service why? What kind of strategy is this?  

Listening to how ridiculous this was getting, I stopped there and moved on to my next question. 

Question #2
Could gap.com compensate me in some manner for the inconvenience of my having to wait approximately six weeks for me to receive my pair of jeans?

The CSR really did not know how to respond, so I gave her some suggestions. Could she offer a gift card, a discount, a free pair of jeans, etc.? The CSR said that she could offer me a 20% discount on my next order, which sounds nice but, in reality, it does not amount to much. On most any given day, merchandise is discounted up to 25%, so where is the real savings, offer or we're truly sorry for the inconvenience? When I mentioned this to the CSR, she offered her discount on top of any existing discount, so in essence I could save up to 45% on my next order. That sounded fine, so with that I said, thank you, and ended the call. 

Was world-class customer service delivered during this call? Hardly. Will I want to do business again with gap.com? No, not really, even if they are willing to give me a discount on my next order. 
The moment the company realized it was going to take six weeks to fulfill my order, when normally it would be one week, is when the company should have stepped up to the plate to win me over and keep me as a customer. Someone in marketing needs to re-think the process and realize just wants meant by the words customer service.

6.14.2013

Seriously, Who Writes This Stuff?

On June 2, I ordered a pair of jeans on gap.com. According to the original order confirmation, the jeans should have been delivered by June 13. Today is June 14 and I have yet to receive the jeans, but I did get this email from the company.

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > >
 
Dear Roger Marquis,

Thanks for shopping gap.com. We will be unable to ship the merchandise listed below until 2013-07-12T23:59:59-04:00. If you don't want to wait, you may cancel your order by calling our toll-free customer service number, 1.800.GAPSTYLE (1.800.427.7895). If you have already been charged for the merchandise you will receive a full refund.

If we do not hear from you before we ship the merchandise, we will assume that you have consented to this shipment delay.

If we may be of further assistance, please reply via email at custserv@gap.com.

Thanks again for your order and remember if you want the merchandise, there is no need to call.

Sincerely,

gap.com
Customer Services

> > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > > 

And, so I ask, who writes this stuff? Better yet, who approves this as their corporate communications strategy and believes it makes sense?

First, if a company is going to personalize an email, shouldn't the personalization be stylistically correct to begin with? Who writes a business letter, or even a personal letter, using first and last name in the greeting? If the company has the data, which I assume is already parsed in the database, why not simply write 'Dear Roger' or 'Dear Mr. Marquis'?

Second, why am I getting an email a day after the date I was originally suppose to receive the merchandise just to inform me that the merchandise has not shipped on time? Wouldn't the company know ahead of time, instead of at the last minute, that shipping dates were slipping? Why should an email like this come after the fact?

Third, why am I being given the year, month, day and time when the order will now ship in a format that's not easy to decipher (2013-07-12T23:59:59-04:00)? Is that July 12 or December 7, 2013? And, do I really need to know the time it will ship? Is that Eastern Time, Pacific Time, Greenwich Mean Time, Zulu Time? Why not take the 'time' to filter information, so it makes sense and, more importantly, seems as though a human actually wrote the email in the first place?

Fourth, why does the company jump to the immediate conclusion, or make the immediate assumption, that I no longer wish to wait for or want the merchandise any longer (If you don't want to wait, you may cancel your order by calling our toll-free customer service number...)? Wouldn't it be more friendly, and go that much further with respect to building customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth, if the email read, "Thank you for your recent order. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship your merchandise by the date stated in your original order confirmation, so please accept this discount coupon, free t-shirt, you fill in the blank, as our apology for this inconvenience. Your order will be shipped on, etc., etc...."? Sure, no company what's to give out discounts and free merchandise if it doesn't have to, but to do so in a strategic and calculated manner, a customer-driven manner, I believe, more than justifies the cost.

Fifth, does the word 'consented' really need to be in an email like this (If we do not hear from you before we ship the merchandise, we will assume that you have consented to this shipment delay.)? It's hardly customer-friendly and strikes me as though I have moved from simply being updated on the status of an order to interacting with some sort of legal document.

Sixth, what's a few extra letters in an email address? The company can't spell out customerservice@gap.com, instead they have to abbreviate it custserv? Is that supposed to be cool and hip and reflective of the brand, like using the word 'thanks' instead of 'thank you'?

Seventh, can't the email be signed by an individual in customer service or any other department, as opposed to the impersonal and very generic gap.comTo me this indicates that no one in the company really wants to take ownership of a customer service issue, let alone anything else. How unfortunate. At a time when an individual or group can shine, just the opposite takes place here.

Enough, I'll stop there.

If this email is a reflection of how gap.com conducts business, I truly wonder how they are able to retain customers and grow sales. And, the kicker of it all, I'm not even given a reason as to why my order can't be processed on time, let alone in another month. Is my size so out of the norm, did the container fall off the ship, did the company run out of denim? What can cause a 30-day delay? Can't the company find the jeans I want in a bricks-and-mortar store and facilitate the order that way? Oh, that's right, on-line and off-line are probably looked upon as silos and kept separate from one another. Does the term omni-channel retailing mean anything?

At a time when online business is supposed to be quick and easy (i.e., frictionless), my interaction and experience with gap.com has been anything but. Will I ever shop there again, probably not. Stay tuned.

6.12.2013

Usage-Based Marketing - Anything New Here?

This article was forwarded to me by Terry Ribb at Relevens. See my comments in the summary below.

Marketing's New Frontier: Intelligence After the Sale
by David Edelman, Partner Leading Digital Marketing Strategy Practice, McKinsey & Company

I was just speaking at SAP's impressive Sapphire Conference, a massive gathering in Orlando of their customers and partners. What struck me as I listened to the other presentations was how much everything in the technology field is becoming real-time and on-demand. So much of the software that’s now going to the cloud becomes data that can then be analyzed to understand usage, see trends, or target marketing messages. The implications are immense. With the customer decision journey lens I usually use, this trend means more resources and emphasis will finally shift towards helping customers after purchase by finding opportunities through "product data analysis" to further build satisfaction and engagement with the brand.

For example, if a company is able to track how customers are or are not using features of their software, they can immediately launch programs to help people make better use of their services, e.g. send a prompt to try a feature that someone has not used yet or offer a promotion to someone whose usage has slipped. Going further, an NFC tag on an item that activates an app on your mobile phone when tapped could change when the item is on a store shelf versus after it is purchased. Once home, tap the tag and it shifts from hyping the product to now providing a video on how to use it. Tap it a few months later, and your phone shows new ways to use the product that others have posted.

When done as a way to enhance the customer experience and build loyalty – i.e., done in a way that isn’t spam or like creepy spying – then marketers can build real and helpful connections with customers. For software companies, this opens up massive opportunities for CRM programs that have just not been there before. For sales and service partners, this opportunity will create a lot of complexity as the ownership of the customer relationship becomes less clear.

An important implication of this development is that marketers need to be involved in the software development process to highlight those “tags” that need to be added in order to generate the necessary data. And legal has an important role, of course, to balance the needs of privacy. As data keeps flowing after the sale, instead of stopping at the sale, there are new opportunities for touchpoints throughout the journey.

How much are you investing in usage-based marketing? Is it paying off in higher satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy?

Summary
One part pre-sale marketing, plus one part post-sale marketing, plus two parts technology and you have Mr. Edelman's recipe for "usage-based" marketing. Other than the use of technology, how is any of this really new and/or different? Sure technology helps collect, sort and analyze pre- and post-sale data, but the importance, need and value of marketing towards customers post-sale has always been present and considered by many a best practice. Do the terms cross-sell and up-sell come to mind? In my mind, all of this boils down to how bad a company wants to build retained business, referred business, long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth. Yes, Mr. Edelman's scenario sounds slick and makes perfect sense but, in reality, it's Marketing 101, or should be.

5.29.2013

Mercedes-Benz Offering Service Through Mobile

This morning, I'm quoted in an article posted on Luxury Daily about a new Mercedes-Benz mobile ad. My comments and summary are in bold.

Mercedes plugs new E-Class in mobile ads 
By Erin Shea

Mercedes ad on CBS News app German automaker Mercedes-Benz is boosting its new 2014 E-Class vehicles through two banner advertisements on the CBS News mobile applications.

A click-through on the ads takes consumers to a page where they can view details on the new E-Class vehicle. Mercedes is likely trying to reach the affluent followers of CBS by placing the ads on its mobile app, which is constantly updated with content.

“Through its long history and through programming including 60 Minutes, CBS News has attracted a sophisticated audience,” said Jeff Hasen, Seattle-based mobile marketing consultant.

“Likely many who have affinity for the brand have found it on mobile devices,” he said.

Mr. Hasen is not affiliated with Mercedes, but agreed to comment as an industry expert. Mercedes was unable to comment before press deadline.

Staying informed
As the CBS app is constantly being refreshed with new content, it is likely that many people would see the Mercedes ads since consumers are likely to check the app throughout the day to get the latest news.

Both ads contain a simple call to action and a small arrow that guide consumers to click on it.


One of the ads says “The automobile. E-volved” and the other one reads “The 2014 E-Class. Experience the E-Class.” Both have the Mercedes-Benz logo.

.

A click through on the ad leads consumers to a pop-up screen that provides details about the E-Class vehicles.

The site reads “Explore the E-Class features below” and offers three choices, which are 577-horsepower, supercar performance and the 4Matic all-wheel drive.

Clicking on one of the choices brings up short facts about the vehicle at the top of the screen.

The site also includes a link to the E-Class page on Mercedes’ mobile-optimized Web site. A click-through on the link brings consumers to a landing page that shows off the E-Class sedans and lists their prices.


Through the mobile site, consumers can also view gallery images of the cars or visit Mercedes’ Twitter and Facebook.

Although the ads are likely helping Mercedes build awareness for its E-Class vehicles, consumers who are seriously interested may want to find out more.

“Yes, showing details or explaining why their cars are different or better than the competition is perfectly fine for a mobile-based ad,” said Roger Marquis, expert on print-to-digital technologies and author of 2D Bar Code Strategy, New York. “But my question is ‘What is the goal of the ad?’

“Maybe consumers are less interested in knowing the details of the car and more interested in purchase offerings,” he said. “This is what testing can bring out.”

Going mobile
Recently, Mercedes has increased its presence on mobile platforms.  

For instance, the automaker created an mobile-optimized Web site to provide on-the-go consumers with branded content and media.

After overhauling its Web strategy in 2012 to offer a magazine-style site, Mercedes optimized the platform for smartphone users. Luxury marketers are now more than ever looking to make their Web sites and multichannel campaigns accessible on mobile so that consumers have a seamless brand experience (see story).

Also, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services is boosting its customer service by offering its mobile app in new vehicles to help owners manage their accounts on the go.

The mobile app called My MBFS allows customers to manage their Mercedes-Benz account and finances from their mobile devices and now in their vehicles through the cloud-based infotainment system available in new models. Mercedes is likely looking to one-up its competitors to be the first auto finance company to offer this service in vehicles (see story).

“The automotive industry has had great early success with mobile, mostly from the manufacturers and dealers who are delivering personalization options – as in build your own car on your device – and current inventory for those who are inclined to visit a dealer for a test drive,” Mr. Hasen said.

“Apps are just part of the mobile solution,” he said. “Car manufacturers and other brands should give consumers choice on how to interact via mobile.”

In summary, there is one word that Ms. Shea mentions that I believe sums up the entire article, "service." Whether it's through the company's mobile ad, mobile optimized website, mobile financing app, etc., Mercedes is offering consumers and customers a variety of services that all point to making the experience between consumer/customer and brand memorable, lasting, meaningful and convenient. This all relates to the comments I made in a previous post about MaaS (Mobile as a Service).

With respect to my comment about, what's the goal of the ad, here I was just trying to look at the ad from the company's perspective. While it's great that they are embracing the mobile channel, and want to integrate it with others, I'm just wondering what the company is trying to accomplish by placing mobile ads versus any other, and if they are basing these mobile ads on testing that has been done.

5.22.2013

Mobile Response Time

This afternoon, I came across this interesting bit of mobile related research from a company called Keynote Systems. And it makes you wonder.

Keynote Systems developed an index called "The Keynote Mobile Financial Services Performance Index US,"  which is defined as a listing of "the average response times, success rates and download speeds for downloading the homepage of selected US financial services mobile sites on popular smartphones using Mobile Web Perspective over Air. The mobile financial services sites that appear in the Index were selected to provide an industry benchmark for well-known company sites."

The top chart ranks companies in order of how fast (in seconds) their home page downloaded. The bottom chart ranks companies by rate of success (by percentage) a consumer has in downloading a company's home page.

Keynote Mobile Financial
Week ending 19 May 2013

Rank by Response Time (seconds)
Rank Target SecondsBytes
 1 Charles Schwab 4.51  4659
 2 Wells Fargo 6.37  45575
 3 US Bank 8.45  126051
 4 Citibank 11.25  94569
 5 KeyBank 13.77  197091
 6 Discover 13.96  213548
  Index 14.14  286922
 7 PNC 14.51  92475
 8 American Express 15.27  219827
 9 Chase 18.47  307278
 10 SunTrust 19.66  241974
 11 Bank of America 27.17  656383
 12 Fidelity 28.93  1065757
 13 TD Ameritrade 32.55  896272
 14 Capital One 33.12  396868

Rank by Success Rate (percentage)
RankTarget%Bytes
 1 Wells Fargo 99.80  45575
 2 Charles Schwab 99.29  4659
 3 Discover 99.27  213548
 4 Bank of America 99.13  656383
 5 KeyBank 99.08  197091
 6 Citibank 99.07  94569
 7 American Express 98.98  219827
 8 TD Ameritrade 98.61  896272
 9 SunTrust 98.50  241974
 10 US Bank 98.35  126051
  Index 98.30  286922
 11 Chase 96.85  307278
 12 Fidelity 95.72  1065757
 13 PNC 95.42  92475
 14 Capital One 94.99  396868

In looking at the charts alone, the first question that I have is, what's Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo doing so well that Capital One isn't? Why should their pages load so much quicker? My second question is, how aware are companies, namely Capital One, of this type of research and, more importantly, what are they doing to try and make the interactive mobile experience better for their customers?

Granted download times are all relative to the network, location and type of phone a consumer may be using but, if the index keeps the playing field even, something is off somewhere between top-ranked companies and bottom-ranked companies.

Just food for though.

5.15.2013

Talking About Luxury Watches and QR Codes on Luxury Daily

In today's Luxury Daily, I'm quoted in an article which discusses a new QR Code-based print ad by luxury watch maker Christoper Ward. My comments and summary are in bold.

Christopher Ward aims for mobile sales via QR code
By Erin Shea May 15, 2013

British watchmaker Christopher Ward is aiming to trigger mobile sales through a QR code on its print advertisement in the spring issue of Aston Martin magazine.

The QR code links to Christopher Ward’s U.S. Web site, which allows consumers to learn more about the C900 Harrison Single Pusher Chronograph and make a purchase. Although the site is not mobile-optimized, it contains images and a video that can be viewed from the pinch-and-zoom site.

"We currently place QR codes on all our ads," said Mike France, cofounder of Christopher Ward, Berkshire, England.

"We know that those in our target market are high users of smartphones and also like to use mobile technology for both researching and buying luxury products, so the QR code allows immediate access to more information about our watches and, if necessary, a purchase," he said.

"The Aston Martin magazine has an upscale readership that correlates very closely with the upper quartile of our market."

Print to purchase
Christopher Ward placed the QR code on the top right of its print ad, so that it is easily accessible to consumers. The ad shows the C900 Harrison Single Pusher Chronograph, priced at $3,365.

 Print ad 

Scanning the code brings consumers to the watchmaker’s U.S. Web site, which is not mobile-optimized. The landing page shows the same watch in the ad.

From the Web site, consumers can explore close-up images of the timepiece, watch a short video, read about the product’s features, read  reviews and make a purchase.

Christopher Ward site 

The 56-second video shows a quick overview of the timepiece and its details.

The images show multiple views of the product.

However, since there is no call to action on the ad, consumers may not even scan the QR code.

“If there is no call-to-action or any meaningful reason for a consumer to scan the code then I do not believe the code will generate many scans,” said Roger Marquis, expert on print-to-digital technologies and author of 2D Bar Code Strategy, New York.  

Buying dilemma
Many watchmakers use QR codes on their print ads, but few offer a purchase option through the code.

Hublot, Bell & Ross, Franck Muller and other watchmakers use QR codes to drive consumers from print to mobile, but this effort could be ineffective since often products cannot be purchased online.

QR codes can effectively take magazine readers from a print ad to a mobile site where products can be explored and purchased. However, luxury marketers need to up their strategy to engage consumers with QR codes, experts say (see story).

Even though Christopher Ward offers a purchase option on its Web site, consumers are likely going to use their computers to purchase since the site is pinch-and-zoom on a mobile device.

"For a company all about time, Christopher Ward inexplicably takes mobile users back with a non-mobile-optimized site that disappoints," said Jeff Hasen, Seattle-based mobile marketing consultant.

"Magazine readers who go there have no clear path to educate themselves, learn more about the products and, most importantly, buy," he said.

"Rather than drive purchases, I think that it puts a huge hurdle in the way."

Summary
In addition to the comment made above, I don't believe luxury marketers need to "up" their strategy to engage consumers with QR Codes, as much as they need to simply "think about and plan" their strategy more from the consumer's perspective. Great that a purchase option is offered, as this should be considered a best practice, but if it's not easy to make the purchase on a non-optimized mobile site, how useful is this? Not a whole lot.
 

The company does do a good job placing the code, as upper left- and right-hand locations are most prominent, based on left- or right-hand ad placement, but code placement is only half of the equation, the other being call-to-action. Enough said.
 

Lastly, if the company knows that most consumers will not purchase a luxury watch online, whether it be off a desktop, tablet or mobile phone, how does the company go about breaking down this resistance? What hurdles are being removed and, by the same token, what incentives or rewards are being given?  From what I can see, none across the board.

5.05.2013

Furniture QR Codes Go Toe-to-Toe

Every so often, I'll read a magazine and see two separate companies, both in the same industry, making use of QR Codes, and I say to myself, let's see which one of these companies gets QR Codes, and mobile in general, and which one doesn't.

The two companies are Carlyle and Resource Furniture, both furniture retailers.

First, the Carlyle ad. The QR Code stands alone with no descriptive copy nor any call-to-action. Scan the code, and the reader of the ad is brought to the company's desktop website. Need I continue?


Second, the Resource Furniture ad. The QR Code stands alone with no descriptive copy nor any call-to-action. Scan the code, and the reader of the ad is brought to the company's desktop website. Need I continue?


Both companies offer something unique and different, but it gets buried. Buried in an interactive, if you want to call it that, mobile-based experience that is nothing more than, here's our main corporate website, read through it as you wish Mr./Ms. Consumer, and best of luck finding your way further down the purchase decision path.

On the heels of the article I posted the other day, the one talking about mobile as a service, here is a perfect example of how two companies simply don't see mobile that way. The marketing staff at both companies probably thought it was hip and cool to use a QR Code and just leave it at that. What a waste. What a shame. So much could have been done with these two campaigns and QR Code scan experiences from a service, as well as a sales, perspective, but why should I just give it away. Maybe the marketing team can think better of their ways and put out something worth scanning, acting on and possibly even sharing with others.

With so much written about best practice, I'm at a loss to understand the motivation for putting out sub par code and mobile-based experiences. It just doesn't add up. Or, should I say, given the nature of the businesses being reviewed, sit well?

2D Bar Code Litmus Test: FAIL and FAIL

4.29.2013

MaaS (Mobile as a Service)

At the recently held Custom Content Conference, Julie Ask (VP, Forrester Research) gave a presentation titled "Real Time Marketing," which focused on three main topics about mobile: 1) the state of mobile today, 2) the key trends in mobile and 3) the implications that mobile has for marketers. While Ms. Ask's 56-slide presentation was packed with useful information, there was one sentence/concept that I found to be more insightful than others, which was "Mobile will be a service layer." Simple concept, but I wonder how many marketers really view and consider mobile in this manner, as opposed to concentrating on how to monetize mobile in some manner, or how to conduct search and/or advertise on mobile.

While the offering of an app might be considered a "service," I believe what Ms. Ask is saying goes much deeper than that. To me, it seems as though mobile can become an extension of a company's desktop website, call center, product owner's manual, advertising and promotion, packaging, sales representatives, marketing collateral, retail location, trade show booth, etc., etc. In some shape or form, mobile can work to extend all of these aspects of a company's business and marketing and, as a result, serve to enhance the overall interactive, and very personal, experience a consumer might have with a brand, product and/or service. And, it's also very much worth mentioning and realizing that all of this can happen in real-time. Pretty powerful stuff or, at least, the potential is certainly there.

To illustrate all of this, pick two campaigns that I have reviewed on the blog, one labeled "pass" and the other labeled "fail," and you'll notice that the "pass" has more components of mobile as a service than the "fail." Maybe it was a listing of local retailers, maybe it was the offering of a white paper, maybe it was the offering of a time or location sensitive coupon, as opposed to simply showing a self promotional corporate video or linking to general/generic web content.

As the functionality and capabilities of mobile continue to evolve and mature, there's little doubt that marketers will be lured into many different directions. But to keep the use of mobile focused and in perspective, as well as to extract the greatest long-term value out of the channel/medium/platform, I believe, marketers need to heed Ms. Ask's advice and concentrate on mobile as a service enabler more than anything else.

4.24.2013

Ubleam, I Bleam, We All Bleam

There's a new and different print-to-digital technology/platform on the market and it's name is Bleam.

Developed by Ubleam, a French company, Bleam offers advertisers an alternative to QR Codes in that they are designed in a totally different manner and, it's reported, they can be scanned more easily. Instead of the overall square design and format of a QR Code, Bleams are circular by nature and use a configuration of dots to encode the underlying data.

While Bleam is a proprietary technology, the app that the company makes to scan and read its codes can also scan and read QR Codes. Smart of the company to do that, as QR Codes are not going away anytime soon. With that being said, how does the company plan to get in front of QR Codes? I think of JAGTAG, Microsoft Tag, SnapTag, and some others, and none have been able to knock QR Codes off the mountain top, as the leading print-to-digital technology. As I have always said, I don't see this industry as a zero sum game, but I do believe that it would be extremely difficult for any company to introduce something new and expect that it will over take QR Codes in a relatively short amount of time. Please don't misinterpret my comments here, I believe it's great that a new company wants to push the envelope and launch something different into the marketplace, as this is what keeps everyone on their toes...I'm simply raising the point for thought, consideration and discussion.

As a side note, as a company in general, I believe Ubleam has to be more on the 'strategic marketing' ball. Ubleam, if you are a company that is looking to conduct business in the U.S. then make sure all of the copy and content on your website is written in English or, at least, provide a translation service. And, with respect to your References, it's great that you have them, but instead of simply linking to their corporate home pages, why not write a use case and let people see exactly how and why they are a reference.

Good luck Ubleam, time will tell.  

  

4.20.2013

QR Codes and Brand Value

The other day, I had a conversation with someone about QR Codes and brand value, and it went something like this:

Question: Does a QR Code in a print advertisement add value to a company's brand?
2DBS Answer: No. 
Question: Why not?
2DBS Answer: Because QR Codes are merely a technology, a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. 
Question: Then, what does add value to the brand when a QR Code is placed in a print advertisement, or on a billboard, or on a package, etc.?
2DBS Answer: When a QR Code is placed in an advertisement, the value to the brand comes as a direct result of the engagement or interaction a consumer experiences once the QR Code is scanned. If the engagement/interaction provides value, meaning, relevance, benefit and usefulness to the consumer then brand value will rise. If the engagement/interaction is anything less than that then brand value will suffer. In addition, when the engagement/interaction happens flawlessly and seamlessly, meaning all content to be viewed and experienced is mobile optimized and there are no interruptions or glitches from start to finish, brand value will rise. Just the opposite and brand value will fall. It's all a matter of managing expectations...pretty simple. 

To see the above in action, look at the double-page spread found in Cigar Aficionado from cigar company Room101Brand.

When the QR Code is scanned, the reader of the ad is brought to the page shown below, which displays a symbol/logo of some sort, and small icons for Facebook and Twitter. Yup, that's it. So, based on the above conversation, do you believe this QR Code-based campaign adds value to the brand or not? I'm pretty sure you know my thoughts.


When I touch on the Facebook icon, I'm brought to a Facebook log-on screen, but what happens if I don't have a Facebook account? Game over. You lost me Room101Brand. When I touch on the Twitter icon, I'm brought to the company's Twitter page. As I start to read the page, I ask myself, why am I reading this? From what I can tell, there's virtually nothing that I see that would lead a consumer to want to actually purchase the company's cigars, or move in that direction. Yes, I know there are restrictions to cigar advertising and promotion, but I'd like to believe the marketing and creative team can do better than this. I say that, but then these are the same people that developed this very ad. It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

While I don't know the true objective of this ad (there is an objective, isn't there?), I'd assume it's to sell more cigars. If that's the case then how will this ad, and the QR Code, work to achieve this? And, to the point of adding value to the brand, how does the company see this happening when the scan experience is lackluster (i.e., no value, benefit, relevance, meaning, usefulness, etc.).

Lastly, if the marketing and creative team knew anything about QR Codes, they would use a URL shortener to generate the code, so the code is less pixelated and easier to scan.

2D Bar Code Litmus Test: FAIL

4.19.2013

Quoted on QR Codes in Luxury Daily

In an article in today's Luxury Daily, I'm quoted about the use of QR Codes. Enjoy.

Kiton bridges print, mobile via QR code experience 
By Erin Shea 
April 19, 2013 

Italian apparel brand Kiton is connecting its print and mobile marketing through a QR code on its advertisement in Bentley magazine’s spring issue.

The one-page ad has a simple image of a man wearing a suit with its London boutique’s address is displayed at the bottom next to a standard QR code. Scanning the code leads consumers to Kiton’s mobile-optimized Web site where consumers can contact the brand, find a location or view the collections.

“It is always a 50/50 chance that a reader will notice, scan and interact with a QR code placed in a print advertisement,” said Roger Marquis, expert on print-to-digital technologies and author of 2D Bar Code Strategy, New York.

“To increase the odds of success, it is in the advertiser’s best interest to place the QR code in an area of prominence on the page, use a relevant and meaningful call-to-action with the QR code and make certain the scan resolve content is of value, benefit, relevance and meaning to the consumer,” he said.

Mr. Marquis is not affiliated with Kiton, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Kiton was not able to comment before press deadline.

Bridging the gap 
Kiton’s ad is fairly simple and shows Wishnu Wardhana, an Indika Energy executive, wearing one of its suits and holding a cup of coffee.

The ad has the brand logo and tagline “The best of the best,” and then has a quote from Mr. Wardhana saying “More than a feeling.”


Kiton ad

Scanning the code leads consumers to Kiton’s mobile-optimized site’s main screen that gives the choices of visiting the Web site, emailing Kiton, calling Kiton and finding a location.

Clicking through to the Web site leads consumers to another menu with additional choices.


Menu

From there, consumers can learn about the company, view various catalog collections, see a list of shop locations, read about and view images on the making of various products, contact the company and view orders.

Creation of a tie

Although the mobile-optimized content seems valuable, many consumers may not make it over to the mobile site since the QR code is not prominent on the print ad.

“With this specific ad, the advertiser could have chosen a more prominent location to display the code,” Mr. Marquis said.

“If the code is placed in the gutter of the magazine, chances are it will not be noticed as much as if it were placed on the outside edge of the page,” he said.

“The overall experience from start to finish must be seamless and flawless, meaning the scan resolve content is optimized for mobile and the code is sized and displayed in accordance to best practice.”

However, Kiton is going after its target audience by putting this QR code on a print ad in Bentley magazine.

“Magazines are the No. 1 media outlet for QR Code scans,” said Matt McKenna, founder and president of Red Fish Media, Miami, FL.

“Placing a QR code ad in Bentley magazine brings Kiton closer to engaging and interacting with its target market,” he said. “The largest demographic of people who scan QR codes are affluent males ages 18-44, which coincides with the readers of the magazine.”

Sensitive placement
QR codes can be effective marketing tools if used correctly. Marketers that choose to use them should make the transition from print to mobile as easy as possible for the consumer.

“QR codes can be sensitive and when using them, a brand really does not want to leave anything to chance, such as the code being too close to the bind and not being in full view,” Mr. McKenna said.

Also, telling consumers why they should scan a code can encourage more consumers to do so.

“A call-to-action goes a long way to act as an incentive or enticement for a consumer to scan a QR code,” 2D Bar Code Strategy’s Mr. Marquis said.

“There needs to be a reason, cause and purpose for a consumer to want to interact and engage,” he said.

“Without that, why should a consumer bother?”

4.10.2013

AT&T and Scanbuy Partnership, What Does It Mean

If, at first, your company doesn't succeed, partner with another company. Such is the case with AT&T.

Some time ago, AT&T developed a proprietary mobile bar code platform, which enabled companies to generate Data Matrix bar codes. The mobile bar codes were proprietary in that they could only be scanned by AT&T's code reader app (not very consumer friendly, but I digress). The company also offered rudimentary metrics to track and measure code scan performance. After a soft roll out of the platform, it seemed as though AT&T caught wind of the popularity and acceptance of QR Codes in the marketplace, so the company changed its game plan a little and enabled the generation of QR Codes, as well as the scanning of QR Codes via their code reader app (sounds a little like the JAGTAG and Microsoft Tag stories, doesn't it?). Now, it seems as though the company realizes it needs some outside assistance to help build out a comprehensive and competitive QR Code platform, so it has partnered with a leader in the mobile engagement field, Scanbuy.

Working with Scanbuy, AT&T will be able to provide its business clients with the ability to use a variety of code call-to-actions/triggers, create mobile-optimized landing pages, create designer QR Codes and access real-time reporting on code scans and usage.

With a partnership of this size and scope, the question can be asked, will other QR Code-based partnerships start to take hold, and might we start to see some consolidation in the industry? Hard to say but, in my mind, it doesn't really matter. Why? Because QR Code service providers like AT&T, or Scanbuy for that matter, can offer however much or however little they want, at the end of the day, all that truly matters is if advertisers and agencies truly understand the technology that's at their disposal and how best to implement and make use of it from a best practice perspective. That's the game changer.

4.08.2013

SnapTags Are the Best, or Not

In a recent article (see below), the author compares, and touts, a print-to-mobile technology called SnapTag to QR Codes, but does so knowing very little about QR Code technology. Or, at least, that's the impression given based on the comments made. Take a closer look. My comments/questions are in bold.

SnapTags: The beautiful (and more useful) alternative to QR Codes
By: Aby Sam Thomas
April 5, 2013

While it is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code, one has to admit that it is hard to see what exactly is “quick” about the QR code. Sure, there is something to be said about the ease with which one can scan a QRcode and be directed to some kind of information about a brand or a business,but at first glance, there is really nothing a customer can instantly gleanfrom what is essentially an enhanced version of a barcode.

Now, take a look at Spyderlynk’s alternative to the QR code: the SnapTag. First ofall, it is definitely more aesthetically pleasing than the Rorschach blot-likeappearance of the QR code. SnapTags allow brands and businesses to put theirdefinitive stamps on the codes they present to their customers—the SnapTag’s“code ring” is almost like a halo over a company’s specific logo, andbrand recognition can be easily achieved.

2DBS: QR Codes do not have to be printed in the generic version (i.e., black and white modules/pixels). Instead, QR Codes can be customized with respect to shape, orientation, size, embedding, logo design and/or colors, just ask QR Code customization expert Philip Warbasse, CEO of Print2D. To say "there is really nothing a customer can instantly glean from what is essentially an enhanced version of a barcode" is simply not true. 

Butthere’s more to SnapTags than just their obvious visual advantages. To use a QRcode, a customer needs to have a smartphone with an app to scan the tag, whichthen transports them to what is almost always a static link. On the otherhand, a SnapTag has a wider user base—a customer needs only a phonewith a camera to work with a SnapTag, and the responses can be a lot moreinteractive than those obtained through the use of a QR code.

2DBS: First, we need to define what's meant by "static" link.  If the author is referring to a link that leads a consumer to a simple website page, fine. QR Codes can certainly do that but, if the complaint/argument is that the link goes to a simple website page, that has to do with the way the advertiser set up the scan resolve content, it has nothing to do with QR Code technology in and of itself. QR Codes can be just as interactive as SnapTags, as they offer the ability to link consumers with a webpage, a video/audio file, click-to-call, email, coupons, radio tie-in, maps, social sharing (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), product payment, vCard and many other functions. 

Second, if the word static refers to the code itself, as opposed to the scan resolve content, here too QR codes shine. QR Codes can be created to be static or dynamic. In this sense, static refers to when the scan resolve content of a code stays the same from one day to the next, from one campaign to the next. Dynamic, however, is much different. With a dynamic code, an advertiser can use the same code, but with different scan resolve content. For example, a retailer might offer a 10% mobile discount coupon on Mondays and on Saturdays change the discount coupon to read 25%, all from the same code.

Third, if it's a matter of an advertiser wanting to play to a "wider user base" (i.e., feature phone users, as well as smartphone users) then they can easily add descriptive copy to a QR Code-based advertisement explaining how the consumer can access the scan resolve content via a text message or email.  Last I checked, ads that use SnapTag technology work in much the same way. SnapTag scan resolve content can be accessed by an app, taking a picture and sending an email, or by texting a short code. So, what's SnapTag's great advantage or difference in this area? (Note, the argument for playing to a wider audience diminishes from month to month, as from month to month more and more consumers are purchasing and using smartphones.) 

"You’re not dependent on an app,” explains Jane McPherson, chief marketing officer atSpyderlynk. “A consumer can take a picture of a SnapTag and text [or email] itto us. We read the SnapTag and return the marketing response.” Of course,smartphone users have the option of using SnapTag reader apps as well.These readers can be installed by brands into their ownspecific apps, and thus, customers can be given a very user-friendly, engagingexperience.

This level of engagement is made possible thanks to the variety of responses thatcan be delivered with the use of a SnapTag. Unlike a QR code that directs usersto what is usually just a singular website, a SnapTagresponse is much more customizable users can be sent a video, or alink to a Facebook page. According to McPherson, the SnapTag platform allowsmarketers to customize the responses so that consumers have a more“personalized experience” when interacting with a brand.

2DBS: As mentioned above, QR Codes can be just as interactive and just as customized as a SnapTag. Let's not confuse how an advertiser might decide to use QR Codes with the technology and its capabilities. They are two drastically different things. Also, to the article's author, I believe there is a big difference between customization and personalization, might want to look that one up.  

Brands can also configure SnapTag responses to be specific to a campaign, but sincethis is done by changing the positioning of the gaps in the “code ring,” thedifferent SnapTags will look virtually the same to the consumer. The SnapTagplatform also allows for marketers to measure analytics for alltheir various campaigns with SnapTags, and this data allows marketers to betterunderstand their customers and their preferences.

2DBS: QR Codes scan rates can also be easily tracked and measured. And, depending on the advertiser's level of sophistication and knowledge as it relates to deploying QR Codes, analysis can also be done on the web pages and content that are linked to the code.

With so many advantages to using the SnapTag, it’s not a surprise to learn that manybig brands have already implemented this revolutionary new technology for theirbusinesses. Spyderlynk’s long list of clients includes names likeCoke Zero, Dior and Toyota, and if all goes well, they could soon be addingWonderful Pistachios to their impressive resume, since Spyderlynk is a finalistin the Mobile Commerce Challenge at ad:tech San Francisco’s Startup Spotlightthis year.

2DBS: SnapTag technology is not new and not revolutionary. The technology is many years old, as is QR Code technology. With respect to big brands using SnapTag technology, my guess is that for every one brand using SnapTags there's probably 1,000+ brands using QR Codes.  

What the author fails to mention in the article is that SnapTag is a proprietary code platform, not an open-source platform like QR Codes. From JAGTAG to Microsoft Tag, other proprietary platforms, SnapTags have seen very limited use in the marketplace and an advertiser really should consider this when deciding which format to use. There are reasons why JAGTAG is no longer on the market. There are reasons why Microsoft Tag and SnapTag are hardly ever used by advertisers. QR Codes have become the de facto standard in the print to mobile space, and for good reason...the technology works.  

Lastly, if its a matter of questioning the viability and feasibility of SnapTag, let's ask Spyderlynk's CMO this one question. How many paying clients have used SnapTag technology for more than one campaign (i.e., how many repeat, paying customers have there been)?  Yeah, I thought so.

Catch Spyderlynk as they present SnapTags as a viable means to drive mobile purchasesfor Wonderful Pistachios at the Startup Spotlight Mobile Commerce Challenge at ad:tech April 10 at 3.30p.m. Note that the company will be also present for both days of the conferencein the Innovation Alley on the expo floor at Booth #2459.

In publishing an article like this and making the comments that I do, my goal is to help others learn, plain and simple. Time and time again, people want to make it seem as though QR Codes are plagued with problems and, the fact is, they aren't. The technology works, period. Some implementations and executions of the technology work better than others, but that's only because the marketers behind those campaigns make use of best practice, the user experience and ask, "what's in it for the consumer, not the company?" Good luck to Spyderlynk in the Commerce Challenge.