Our QRazystuff.com clothing sales have started to rocket, as tech savvy youth get to grips with QR Codes and Social Media.  Wearing your Facebook profile and expanding your Friend network whilst out and about has to be the coolest ‘must have’ fashion accessory out there at the moment.

Our mission from day one has been to create consumer awareness of QR Codes through their use in mainstream advertising, in the hope that as consumers understand QR tech, they will join the QR revolution and wear their Codes with pride.  This has started to become a reality in the UK over the past couple of months, as brands rush to bring their offline advertising to life with QR Codes.

Outside of Japan, the UK seems to be leading the way in terms of QR Code use in advertising.  We’re sure we’ll be corrected for that statement, but we are, without doubt, witnessing an explosion in use of these amazing bar codes in the UK.

A typical London newspaper now has an abundance of ads with QR Codes on them each day.  Yes, there are problems with some of these ads in terms of content and code image reproduction, but seeing so many in the wild has brought a feeling of pride to our team members.  We have been advocating the use of QR Codes to mainstream advertisers and their agencies for over a year now, all of which have been bold over by their potential.

It’s a channel that will continue to grow and mature as time goes by – certainly until we uncover the next technology that has such widespread appeal to out of home advertisers.

This week has been a particularly great one for QR Codes in the UK, with London’s two main free newspapers quite literally packed with ads displaying QR Codes – check out the slideshow below to catch a glimpse of just some of them.

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We’d love to hear from you if you have any comments about these ads.  Get interactive with them and drop us your comments in this post.  We’re sure the advertisers themselves would appreciate some real consumer feedback, so don’t hold back – post your comment… good or bad!

London’s free newspaper, the Evening Standard, has been littered with QR Codes this week.  The Wednesday West End Final edition had no less than 6 ads which carried a QR Code.

We will be reviewing a number of these ads shortly, but before we do, we thought we share one in particular which caught our attention – unfortunately not for the right reasons though.

Believe it or not the ad image above is the actual size that appeared in the paper.  The QR Code positioned bottom right (in case you can’t see it) measures 0.8cm sq..

London’s free newspapers readership profile is heavily biased towards the 1,000,000 people who commute into London each day.  These papers are read on crowded trains and on the cattle truck known as the London Underground.  Using QR Codes in press advertising to deliver online content is a complete no brainer for advertisers, but they have to understand the situation where the ads are viewed and codes are scanned.  Advertisers should also understand that news print ad reproduction has its issues – it’s news paper after all, not a 150gsm matt coated paper!  You just don’t have time to place the ad on a stable surface, focus your phone camera on a microscopic QR Code and patiently wait for the image to be recognised by your QR Code reader.  The process has to be as simple as possible for the reader – don’t make it any harder than it need be..

Here are just a few of the rules advertisers should consider when using QR Codes in press advertising:

  1. Reproduce the QR Code image at a sensible size
  2. Minimise the data content within the code to improve the scanning process
  3. Do not ignore the ‘clear zone’ border of the code
  4. Test the scanning process on the substrate it will be printed on
  5. Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer and consider the environment your code is likely to be scanned in

Below is an example of how your QR Code should look – OK, it’s actually a blatant mobile ad for our Facebook Page, but what the hell, give it a scan and give us a ‘LIKE’…

Our QRazy Boss has been jumping around the office today, spitting and swearing in absolute despair… all because of an ad that appeared in last night’s Evening Standard (London Free Paper).  He really is upset and just left the office, still swearing at the top of his voice and heard saying that was heading to the local bar to drown his sorrows..

We have therefore decided, as partial therapy for him, to name and shame the company involved and would beg them or their ad agency to get in touch, so we can at least give them some pointers for the future.

The ad in question is for IG Index, a London based Spread Betting business.  As you’ll see from the ad below, they have wisely decided to promote their mobile apps using what is supposed to be a QR Code.

Our initial thoughts when seeing the image in the bottom right hand corner of the ad, were positive.  An ad promoting a mobile app download with a cool looking QR Code to simplify the download process – great!  Well not quite…  This bastsardized version of a QR Code does NOT scan!

Someone has obviously managed to get the design to read, but not only didn’t it work for our QRazy Boss, none of us in the office have managed to get a successful scan from it either.  We used iPhones, Androids and even a Blackberry that was lurking in desk draw.

So, the questions are; why did IG Index change the design of the QR Code in the first place?  Why was the design not thoroughly tested across a range of phone types and readers?  And finally, does the person who signed this ad off still have a job?

Could it be that the client approved a piece of shiny artwork and did not consider how it might be reproduced on newspaper?  Surely, the agency in question would have thought of that…?

It seems almost trivial to report, that having typed the URL in your mobile browser using our sausage fingers, we were then directed to the app store URL for our handset – well done to the client’s backroom web team for a nice use of phone sniffing.

We’re hoping that after reading this post with the aid of a couple of pints, our esteemed leader will return in a better mood and get on with what has been so far, a fantastic week for the QRazystuff team!

We are always happy to give some free advice to clients wishing to use QR Codes in advertising.  To get in touch, scan this QR Code to give us a call.

We all know that there are a million and one uses for QR Codes in today’s ‘on the move’ world, but one that has fascinated us for a while has been the use of QR Codes in Press Advertising.  A complete ‘no brainer’ for advertisers to utilise the space of a postage stamp on their press ads to add another dimension to their advertising…

Of course, it’s easy to create a QR Code and link it to your online content, but what we are seeing from the world of advertising is little, if any, thought being given to the user experience following a scan from these QR Codes. Some are getting it right, but others (and far too many) are not.

If this lack of User Consideration continues, we will see consumers turning off this unique form of engagement.  It’s not difficult to implement a good campaign, you’ve just got to start putting yourself in the shoes of the mobile consumer.

QR Codes have a certain mystic attached to them at the moment.  People are inquisitive, possibly excited about what might be behind the code – a rewarding experience perhaps?

If our content fails to live up to the consumers expectation, will they turn off altogether?  A rather somber comment, but if we continue to deliver dull, unimaginative content – or worse still, content that’s impossible to interact with on a mobile device, we stand a good chance of killing this medium off before it’s had a chance to reach its potential..

We regularly hear QR Code Mavericks preaching about mobilizing your content.  Whilst this is of course essential, it should also just be a case of ‘common sense’ that you don’t deliver content to a mobile device which is impossible to interact with.  Given we are delivering content optimised for the mobile, it’s now down to providing engaging, imaginative content which rewards the scanning process and leaves the consumer wanting more!

With this in mind, let’s see what a typical day of advertising in a major UK Free Newspaper with a circulation of in excess of 1.36m & an estimated 3.3m readers has to offer in terms of hope for the humble QR Code.

The following are ads all appeared in the London edition of the Metro on 9th June 2011.

1.  University of Westminster

Not a great start I’m afraid…  Nice use of colour within the QR Code in this ad, but that’s where the positives end.

No explanation where the code might be taking you and no instruction either.  The lack of content explanation is typical of what we fear about consumers feeling well and truly let down following a scan of a code like this.  It could resolve to something cool, exciting and rewarding..  but then again it could resolve to a worthless experience and leave the viewer feeling disappointed and disillusioned with the brand.

The result…. A pointless use of a QR Code to deliver a dull & uninspiring desktop web site.

Marketers are a secretive bunch, especially when it comes to sharing campaign results..  Not so for those of you using bit.ly QR Codes – as we can all see your results:

2.  Co-operative Foods

Next up is a 1/2 page ad for The co-operative (UK Supermarket chain).  Before we look at the use of the QR Code in this ad, we would like to credit the creative in this ad, which followed through to the web site. If it’s part of a new look to The co-op, then well done – the brand needed a make-over.

A lot of what we covered in the University of Westminster review has been repeated again here.

No user instruction, No clue as to what is behind the code – just thrown on the artwork as an after thought?  Almost inevitability we end up landing on their desktop web site page!

What exactly was the purpose of the QR Code on this ad?  The ad promoted the goodwithfood.co.uk web site, yet the QR Code resolved to www.co-operative.co.uk – a desktop web site, which might look nice, but is impossible to interact with on a mobile device.

Oh… and they used bit.ly for the code – so here are their results.

3.  David Lloyd

Should we be a bit more forgiving to David Lloyd as we are fast approaching Wimbledon this year?  To be honest, he wasn’t a world class Tennis player, but he has made a success out of the fitness mad Brits.  This brand like the others doesn’t want you to know where the code will take you, nor do they want to help educate consumers how they need to interact with a QR Code.  So, they leave it to the imagination of the consumer – a dangerous game, as we consumers are highly imaginative and easily let down.

Would the QR Code reveal an exclusive offer, or reward for the scan?  Possibly, some cool video promoting the benefits of membership or even an app download to help us stay fit whilst on the move?

Afraid not…  You guessed it, the QR Code resolved to http://davidlloyd.co.uk/metro – a standard desktop web site – such disappointment!

4.  O2 Guru

This has been a long wait…  A UK Mobile business finally catching on to the use of QR Codes in advertising.  Congratulations O2 you are the first we are aware of (please correct this statement if need be within the comments section of this post).

There’s something about the placement of the QR Code within this ad, which indicates this was a complete after-thought and probably added at the last minute, much to the annoyance of the creative team.  QR Codes can and should be used as an integral part of a creative concept – why not bring them into the ad and promote another dimension to your press ad?

The ad doesn’t tell us what to expect when we scan the QR Code, nor does it give us any instruction how to interact with it, or for that matter what that Black and White Matrix thing actually is..  Some of this has been left down to the continuous promotion of QR Codes by the host newspaper.  Wouldn’t you have liked to know where you’re going as the result of the scan?

Surely a major player in the Mobile world would provide some relevant content behind the QR Code scan…

Well they did, a good quality mobile site and even a mention of using QR Codes on our Android phone!  The mobile site could have done with a ‘reward’ of some sort. We’re not with O2, but thinking about how they might deal with prospective customers from a QR Code visit, we could have started with an integrated Facebook Like to help kick start the engagement process – just a thought…

5.  Debenhams

Before we start to review the Debenhams ad, we have to declare an interest in this one..  We were approached by an existing client a while ago, who asked whether it would be possible to create a QR Code service which recognised the scanning phone’s operating system and then redirected the scan to the client’s app download within the relevant App Store (iTunes, Android Market, Ovi, Blackberry etc)…  We were nearing the final roll out of this service when we opened discussions with Debenhams. Within a couple of days we went live with the new solution now fully integrated into the QRtag platform

Debenhams are just one of many brands that have been looking for a solution that will allow them to promote their multi-platform smartphone apps.  They had already experimented with QR Codes and understood the power of QR Codes in offline advertising.

It’s clear from the ad what’s on offer if you scan the QR Code – it’s an ‘honest’ Code – no mystic, it’s what you see is what you get.

But then then the beauty of the experience reaches a new level – the scan delivers exactly the content it promised – resolving right to the app download in my phone’s app store!  In this case, the Debenhams Android app..  The QR Code also supported an iiTunes & Ovi download, with unsupported phone types redirecting to the Debenhams Home Page (OK, it was lacking a mobile touch..)

So all in all, not a great day for QR Codes in UK Press Advertising, but there is a ray of hope in amongst those in the early adopter learning process.  Great content needs creative thought, which in some cases can be facilitated by innovative back-end systems – often neglected the lime-light it deserves.

Over recent months, we have been quietly rolling out our QR Code Ad Management Platform – QRtag to a select number of the UK’s Blue Chip brands. Channelled through our Managed Service, we have created, tracked and analysed literally 100’s of thousands QR Code scans over the past few months.

Our Codes have appeared all over the place from full page press ads in the national newspapers to appearing on 1 million Drinks cans.  We’ve supported everyone from Music Festival organisers to App Developers, so if you are considering using QR Codes as part of your ad strategy – please get in touch.  Meantime, remember to empathize with your target audience and give mobile the respect it deserves.

If you’re interested in having a chat, give this QR Code a scan to give me a call!

To visit QRtag – click here

Due to popularity of the Gallery, we have moved to larger premises… OK, a new Blog!  The new Blog is dedicated to The World’s First Designer QR Code Art Gallery alone, so please pop along and check out these amazing art creations.  Visit the gallery by clicking here

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A quick, random post to highlight some of the QRazy ways in which QR Codes have been used over recent years, but this time on a large scale…

Our first one  just had to come from Japan, the home of the QR Code..  This video shows how Audi Japan pulled together a massive QR Code to help celebrate 100 years of manufacturing in Germany.

Something a little closer to home – those QRazy guys from Digital Scarborough took on the mammoth task of creating the world’s largest beach QR Code in 2010 – note the T-Shirts kindly sponsored by QRazystuff.com

Many of you will have heard of Crazy Paving, well here you go, the beginnings of a real life QRazy Paving project courtesy of Eric Rice!

Eric’s goal was to get his driveway recognised by Google Earth and eventually it did!

And finally, this one has been doing the circuit for a while now, but is still a stunning piece of agricultural art.  German farmers must have some time on their hands, or just wanted to show the Crop Circle crew how it should be done!

Post Update:  Thanks to Steffen Schilke, from Germany for the update about another BIG QR Code display. The Explora Science Center in Frankfurt ran a QR promotion driving traffic to the museum using a 4 week long QR Code scavenger hunt. The final destination for the scavenger hunt brought the visitor to this massive QR Code at the museum itself.

This one is hot off the press (thanks to Roger Smolski from 2d Code.co.uk) and really shows the power of QR Codes in BIG advertising campaigns.

Dutch property developer Bohemen BV has produced a massive QR Code billboard visible from the A4 motorway, Leiderdorp.  However, it’s not been to everyones liking.  Apparently, the Dutch Socialist Party believes that the board is distracting motorists and has asked that it is removed! If nothing else, it’s certainly caught the attention of the media.  QR Codes are without doubt, eye catching and if you make them big enough they are guaranteed to create some cool publicity.

This video is in Dutch, but you’ll get the gist of what’s being said – check it out..

Post Update [22/7/2011]  

We’ve just been sent information about this hilariously brilliant entry in the Vodafone Comedy Festival.  It is a 6 feet tall QR Code made of hedging!

To give it it’s proper name. Ligustrum QRecurve (the common QR code enabled hedge) is a fast growing, dense, upright evergreen code. It buds into a fragrant app during the month of July, which is enjoyed by many in the horticultural comedy scene.

Thanks go to Ronald Douglas from Return2Sender for this entry – the office loved it!

Post Update (06/11/11)

Our friends at Skanz always want to add a bit of Wow to their marketing and certainly didn’t fail with this claim for the World’s Largest QR Code ever…  10,000 sq ft in all – that’s massive!

 

If you’ve got any BIG ideas for QRazy Codes in the wild or have pics of others, drop us a line via Twitter or Facebook and we’ll happily update this post.  For QR Code to become mainstream, we’ve all got to think ‘BIG’…

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas recently, WPP chief executive, Martin Sorrell, told a packed audience that mobile advertising has become the most important trend in the industry, thanks to the exponential growth of internet-enabled mobile phones which are key to the industry’s future.

This statement, from one of today’s greatest advertising minds, reinforces the need for those in the offline advertising markets to consider their future business models and evaluate how best to engage with the change in the populations use of mobile technology.

Those in the offline advertising arena are being challenged to come up with creative means for adding another dimension to the once one dimensional media of print.  Whilst printed media will always have a role to play in advertising, consumers are demanding content that engages with their online lifestyles.  There are 5,000,000,000 Mobile handsets in the world today[i] of which 39% are internet enabled[ii]..  This figure is predicted to grow at a phenomenal rate over the next few years, as churn of standard mobile phones is replaced by today’s modern smartphone.

The tech-savvy Japanese market are way ahead of the curve with this challenge and have been using 2 dimensional barcodes on printed media for a number of years.  You will see 2d Barcodes all over Japan, anywhere from food packaging, newspapers, T-Shirts to 48 sheet billboards.  They have even appeared on building facades.  These barcodes are read/scanned using any internet enabled mobile phone with an on-board camera and once scanned; launch the handsets web browser to deliver media rich online content.  Here lies another dimension for print media…

As the US and European markets catch up with mobile handset technology with advent of smartphones such as the iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones, which are now replacing the standard handset in these areas, we too can now bring printed media to life and deliver the immense mass of online content to the mobile consumer.

Imagine, being able to link online content to a piece of POS, or a Press Ad..  What about personalised Direct Mail?  All of these examples are now possible by simply adding a 2d barcode to your print media and delivering media rich, up to the minute content instantaneously to the consumers’ channel of choice – Mobile.

The most popular form of 2d barcode being used in this emerging market is the Quick Response Code, or QR Code as it is better known.  Originally developed for tracking car parts around the Toyota manufacturing operations in Japan in 1994, the QR code is now being used by global advertising brands to deliver mobile content from offline media.  Whilst the technology is not new, the delivery points are and are destined to become common place in today’s mobile market.

QR Codes can be encoded to contain vCards, VEvents, SMS Messages, Geo Location data, Email messages, Text based content and of course URLs.  As the technology has grown from within the underworld Open Source community, we are now starting to see new and innovative ways in which these amazing barcodes are starting to be used.  In recent months, we have witnessed QR Codes being used for interactions like; Instant Charitable donation giving, Social Media Check-in’s and connection exchanges.  Most recently, pURLs have been embedded within QR Codes for the ultra-personalised mobile experience. We have even seen them appearing on clothing and toilet rolls…

We are not from the stable that believes printed media is on the way out – in fact far from it.  But, Print Media does need that 2nd dimension to really engage with today’s tech-savvy consumer and QR Codes may well be the means to achieve this.

Another major feature of QR Code marketing is the ability to track and analyse consumer engagement with your print media advertising.  Free online services like QRtag provide you with the ability to not only generate your own QR Codes, but also track scan interactions, along with providing you with an amazing array of scan analytics on location, handset and media usage.  Totally aligned to today’s world of measureable advertising, QR Codes will stand up and be counted as part of advertising’s ROI measurement!

To join the QR Code revolution, simply download a QR Code reader app to your Mobile – Text the word i-nigma to: 07797882325. You will receive back an SMS containing a link to the i-nigma software download site – the rest is simple.  I-Nigma is just one of literally hundreds of free mobile bar code scanning apps available across, iPhone, Android, Windows, Blackberry and Symbian app marketplaces.  If you don’t have a smartphone, don’t worry, i-nigma will work on any mobile phone that has a camera and web browser installed.

Here are a few examples for you to play with..  Simply scan the QRazyCodes below and see where the QR journey takes you:

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There is a wealth of additional content available online about QR Codes – why not start with checking out the links below.  The authors of this article regularly publish information rich content via Social Media platforms – a great place to gain knowledge from today’s online world:

Free Online Generator and Analytics Platform

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

Clothing Web Site

Author:  Martin Rides, CEO, QRazystuff.com & QRt.ag

QR Code Consultants


[ii] Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_Internet_growth