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ESPN Magazine Fumbles with QR Code Issue

ESPN Magazine isn't the first pub to push QR codes but its April 4, 2011 issue, provided some good learnings to share on what you should and shouldn't do. First let's get the biggest mishap out of the way -  ESPN used Microsoft Tags on all its editorial content and even included instructions for readers on how to download (a nice touch). Here's the bad part...they   forgot to tell their advertisers they were going the Microsoft Tag route.

While Microsoft Tags are great in the sense they provide analytics to the company using them, they aren't universal -you have to download a specific Microsoft Tag app and a lot of other popular scanning apps don't read Microsoft Tags. So while readers went through the steps to download an app for the editorial content, this app was not able to access all the advertisers' QR codes which did not use Microsoft Tags.

I could hear the ad guys selling in the idea to their customers and completely failing to mention that the tag reader instructions were going to be for Microsoft Tags only. The experience would have been much smoother if  I could have used the same app on all pages. I don't blame the ad guys entirely, but it does show that there really wasn't an understanding of how the technology works.

Putting tag types aside there were some winners and opportunities to improve when it came to QR Code use.


- Mountain Dew: Mountain Dew's ad led to a mobile optimized site and there was a clear call to action to vote for a new flavor. In other words, I knew exactly why I was scanning and the user experience was easy and attractive. #winning

- Discovery's Deadliest Catch: Clear call to action - "scan for exclusive videos" - great mobile optimized site with a ton to do and explore.

- ESPN: There was also a clear call to action on why I should scan and the information was useful. I wished they would mixed up the video content or at least changed the interview was a wee bit bland. But props to ESPN for also tying in a sweeps to the scans to get you to scan each and every code. More you scanned the better your chance was of taking home the XBox.

- NO2 Red (Muscle Enhancement): I've never seen this product before but they did a great job of driving trial with readers by leading them to a mobile optimized website where they offered up a coupon and more info. They also offered a text option within the ad for those who didn't have a smart phone.

Room to Improve:

- Lexus CT: No clear call to action on why I should scan, and when I did it lead me to downloadable music clips from new bands. Kind of odd because their whole message was one of being green. There was a disconnect for me.

-Hankook Tires: Timing is everything. When I scanned to enter to win a Ford Explorer I received a message that the sweeps hadn't started. I suppose they didn't take into account subscribers get the publication prior to April 4. Another communication gap between client and ad team.

Ads I Wish Had a QR Code but Didn't

- Belvedere and Absolut: A recipe would have been nice.

- GEICO Caveman Guy: A funny video or access to the GEICO app where they have games and downloads would have been good, especially because it is already built

-Old Spice: Who doesn't want to see more of the Old Spice man? The brand had an interesting behind the scenes video of the making of their commercial that would have been cool to tie in.

- History Channel's Swamp People: This show fascinates me and I would have loved video clips of some gator wrestling. A miss especially when you saw what Discovery Channel did.

- Mobile Companies - I don't really know if I wanted to see content from HTC and AT&T but I did feel they should have been leading the QR charge, being mobile and all.

That's my take. Anyone else have scanning fun with the issue?

Geico Taps into YouTube's Xtranormal

Last night while watching TV I was surprised to see those cute cuddly Xtranormal bears er..dogs from the iPhone 4 viral video made popular on YouTube. Instead of debating the merits of Apple this time they were promoting Geico. It was really a duh moment. What a clever, easy way to capture people's attention and automatically tap into something that was culturally relevant. This worked for a couple of reasons.

1. Geico isn't afraid to try someting new.

2. Geico knows at the end of the day people want to be entertained whether it is a talking lizard or a pig with pinwheels.

3. Geico puts the customer first and then cleverly weaves in their message. If people love these little robotic cartoon characters, then let's give them the little robotic cartoon characters.

On a side note, later that night a commercial for CarFax appeared along with an animal mascot - Car Fox. It reminded me of the simple play off of Geico / Gecko, but this didn't work at all. The Fox looked stiff like he was clearly a puppet, had little personality, and evoked no emotion from me. Point being, you can't just throw an animal in your ad and call it a day.

Back to Geico, social media is a great place for marketers to get a pulse on what's making people smile these days. What crazy video has gone viral, what games have errupted across Facebook, what topics are trending on Twitter? If you are smart and use this to your advantage, you can be relevant very quickly to a mass audience. You just have to have the courage to try and the willingness to listen.


Geico Mobile Effort - The Perfect Storm

I admit it. I check my horoscope every day via a horoscope app. It's silly but it has become part of my daily routine. There must be others out there checking because the app is always heavily advertised on. Today I noticed an ad from Geico telling me the fun little  lizard could help give advice on romance, family, life. The ad led to a mobile site where you could spin a wheel of advice, and as you clicked there were subtle mentions about Geico and how they could save you money. Pretty smart ad placement considering people who check horoscopes are seeking advice of some sorts. Chalk one up for Geico. If you navigate further into the app it also allows you to download ringtones that tie back to their commercials. Super smart, considering I probably won't return to the app anytime soon, but now I have a piece of Geico that I'll carry with me on my phone.

I have to tell you that I wouldn't normally interact with an insurance company unless I needed insurance, but Geico has made it fun, has targeted me at a good moment with a relevant topic and has given me a reason to give them a permanent space on my phone. They also incorporated Facebook Connect so I can see how many other people have liked the little lizard's advice.

Which got me thinking about how they are represented on Facebook. If you visit Geico on Facebook you'll see they have pages for all their characters - the caveman, the gecko and even that creepy little wad of cash with googly eyes. And people eat it up. They actually go out of their way to visit the page and write things like - "u are the most adorable on the planet. Keep up the great work and stay cute and handsome" or "yer company just wrote me the BEST insurance policy ever! thanks little buddy!"

As adults we have given up stuffed animals, early morning cartoons and so often opportunities to be imaginative. So when little talking lizards are thrown in our path and we get to have a chance to play, to be silly, to laugh we tend to latch on to them.  We even take the time to seek them out on Facebook and tell them how cute they look. How can you infuse a little fun into your business and your social efforts? If an insurance company can do it and sustain it for years, I'm thinking anyone can.