Sunday, November 6, 2011


I was driving home last week when I saw my inspiration for the first blog post. An epic marketing fail in it's purest form.

QR code on highway on-ramp


When you first look at this image, hopefully the epic marketing fail hits you like a wrench to the face. If not, if you are sitting there thinking "these QR codes are neat and putting them on the side of the highway on-ramp might be a good use of my marketing dollars", then please read this post in it's entirety - I'd like to save you some money.

QR codes are like bar codes. Once scanned they automatically take you to a pre-defined URL that is programmed into the code. These codes are commonly used in print ads to get people from a static ad to an interactive web experience.

I'm guessing the person who put this sign up has never tried to scan one of these codes. If they did they would know that you need to be within a few inches of the code and keep your phone perfectly still for 5-10 seconds before it recognizes it.

I think I'm a pretty good multitasker and driver, but the idea of trying to scan a QR code while accelerating to 100km/h and merging into another lane of traffic is just inhuman. Even if I decided to try scanning this thing, I'd need my QR reader app opened first and be a navy seal QR code sniper to get the thing scanned at that speed.

The failure of this sign rattled my marketing world so much so that I pulled a U-turn, parked in a nearby parking lot and walked up the on-ramp at 11pm at night with my fiancee. I had to know who thought this would be a good idea.

I located the sign, loaded the QR app on my iPhone, kneeled down, pointed my phone at the sign from 7 inches away and timed myself to see how long it look for it to read the sign. The whole process took 42 seconds and then I got to the homepage of this website:

This is why I want to do this blog. I want to help other marketers from making the same mistake. TireChangers is actually a great idea. They come to your house and change your tires (very important here in snowy canadian winters) so that you don't have to go through the hassle of bringing your car into the garage. Brilliant business idea, however the marketing could use some work.


Top 5 tips to avoid your QR code from ending up on Epic Marketing Fails:

1. Make them easy to scan
Think about your audience. They are going to have to take out their phone, find their QR reader app amongst their 162 other apps and wait for it to load. Then they will need to position their phone on the code in the perfect position and wait for the app to recognize the code. This takes time and some patience.

2. Provide clear call-to-action
People are too busy these days to just randomly scan your QR code for the fun of it. You need to give them a reason to scan your code. A discount, a recipe, or a piece of information that they cannot get anywhere else are some good starting points.

3. Make your ad stand on it's own
In a perfect marketing world you create a great compelling ad that makes everyone scan your QR code, but the reality is that the majority of your audience will not scan your code. That doesn't mean that the ad is a waste. Use the bulk of the ad to build your brand and educate your audience. 

4. Build on your ad
Don't send people to your homepage from your QR code. The landing page they get sent to should tie into the ad that they got there from and complete the story that you are trying to tell them. Make it feel personal, like you know where they are coming from and create an experience for the prospect.

5. Track your success
In this day in age, marketers should be able to justify how much revenue they are driving from each of their marketing activities. Ads in which QR codes are being used are no different. Technology has made this possible, but it is still challenging to get to that point. If you aren't there yet, you need to start somewhere, whether it's website hits, # of new customers or pipeline - track something that will enable you to determine if it was a good use of your money.

That's it for this one. Let me know what you guys think. Is this an epic marketing fail? Have you seen worse? I want to hear about them! Over-and-out.


  1. Love the idea for this blog, Pierce. Keep bringing the FAILS!

  2. Dude, your first post is an epic fail...I know the sign you are talking about, it's on a high traffic on-ramp in Ottawa's south end, probably meant to be scanned when cars are at a stand-still. I've seen this guys QR codes in other high traffic locations.

  3. Chad, I am curious, are you:

    1. Someone else who got out of their car and walked up the airport parkway on-ramp?
    2. The person who put up the sign?
    3. A navy seal QR code sniper?