QR Code Buried On Outdoor Signage

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, April 07, 2011 at 03:05 PM with 1 comments

QR codes are not afraid of heights. Despite this, they still tend to be placed in obscure places, and in this place, mere inches from the ground.

The following sign was up for the month of September last year in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

photo of QR code on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

From a distance, you can barely see the QR code at the bottom right of the sign. I saw it, but I digress. Here’s a closer shot of the sign.

photo of QR code on detailed event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

I was able to get a closer shot, but I had to squat down to take the picture.

photo of QR code detail on event sign in Millennium Park, Chicago

The code did work at the time, but it brings up an error, now several months later.

Where it’s always nice to see a QR code in action, why implement one so poorly? The position so low to the ground makes it less likely to see, let alone scan. If you do scan it, you’d have to squat down or have to bend over in an awkward position. The description accompanying the code could be made much clearer and concise. I also encountered issues scanning the code as the protective clear plastic over the poster caused a reflection and didn’t allow me to quickly scan the code.

How could this have been improved? By simply moving it from the bottom right to the top right would have helped adoption. This would have positioned it at just above waist level, that is for someone like myself just under 6 feet. Making the accompanying text clearer may have helped as well, or simply having it say, “scan here or visit explorechicago.org” would have been all that was needed.

So, would you have even bothered to have scanned a code in such a location? Share that or any other thoughts in the comments of this post.


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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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Time Magazine Artistic QR Codes

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM with 4 comments

Time magazine QR code adCan QR codes be artistic? Of course, and if you need examples right away check out the QR Arts site. When large corporations use QR codes, many notice. When major corporations do something artistic with QR codes (or anything artistic for that matter) people notice even more. That is, if you recognize it is an artistic QR code.

The accompanying photo is of a bus kiosk ad in Chicago for Time magazine. The familiar red border of Time is clearly visible. It looks like soldiers are walking in a swamp, but they are actually walking in a QR code! The code itself is rotated 180 degrees so all 3 large corner squares are visible, which is a very valid use for them. It is also angled back. Both of these are why I question if to the casual person walking by, will they realize it is a QR code? Upon scanning the QR code, you are taken to a page on Time’s Web site on the topic of war.

What do you think – upon first glance would you think this is a QR code? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments for this post.


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QR Code In Name.com Email Links To Android App Download

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 09, 2011 at 06:17 AM with 0 comments

In the past I have said QR codes are a way of tying the offline and online worlds. After seeing the use of a QR code I am writing about today, I am changing that statement to this: QR codes are a nexus between mediums.

Name.com is a great domain name registrar I use personally and for my business (note the link is an affiliate link). They have a clean and intuitive user interface that does not bombard you with upselling options at every click! They also provide outstanding and efficient human support whenever I need it. As part of that service, Name.com have recently launched an app for Android mobile devices, allowing you not only to register new domain names, but backorder domains as well as manage your entire account. They announced this with an email message as pictured below.

screen of name.com Android app email

In it, there is a QR code. It links to a page on their Web site for the app. The email message is consistent in design with the Web page. The options they include on this Web page, including the ability to download it by SMS (texting to us in the US) and email, as well as a QR code taking you directly to the Android Market.

In this case, the QR code was a bridge between digital mediums – email and the Web. Of course if I read this email on my mobile device I wouldn’t be able to scan it, but as I opened it from within my Thunderbird email client, it worked. An argument can be made whether to link directly to the Android Market from the email rather to a landing page which then links to the Market. This is a great scenario for performing A/B or split testing on the email message, which they may have done anyway. Overall I believe this email from Name.com does a decent job of communicating the value behind the QR code.

What do you think of this QR code use? Would you link directly to the Android Market? Have you or would you use a QR code in an email message? You are welcome to share your thoughts and opinions in the comments of this post.


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Kellogg’s New Crunchy Nut Cereal Uses QR Code To Reinforce Marketing

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, March 02, 2011 at 07:27 AM with 6 comments

A visit to the cereal aisle of a US supermarket is always an overwhelming experience, as with each visit it appears that there’s even more choices to make. In this crowded field of breakfast foods, you need to stand out somehow, and why not with a QR code?

A new variety of cereal, Crunchy Nut from Kellogg’s, featured a QR code on the back of its cereal box as shown below:

photo of back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Note there was not a QR code on the front of the box, and I discovered this when I went to buy the cereal. The detail of the QR code is shown below:

photo of QR code on back of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal box

Upon scanning the code, you are taken to a mobile Web optimized site where it shows a video reinforcing its marketing message about eating the cereal day or night because “it’s morning somewhere.” I have visited the site a few times and I observed different videos.

This a good example of a presentation of a QR code as well as what it links to. In a prominent location, the message offers both the option to send an SMS message or to scan the code, and below it tells the cereal eater how they can get a reader app, and if they do so, they may be charged for it. In this case, Kellogg’s chose to call it a 2D bar code, and my guess all of this text was vetted by their legal department and thus it is called as such, as technically QR code is a trademarked name, but offered as an open standard.

Only if the cereal lived up to the quality of the QR code presentation – it was a little bland for my taste, and not that crunchy either, but I digress. The QR code won me over in this case.


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Surrounded By QR Codes In A Chicago Transit Car

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 5 comments

Where last time I talked about QR codes on a Chicago transit station platform this time I am stepping into the car, where I am surrounded by a single ad campaign and large QR codes, as you can see in the photo below.

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train ceiling

The photo shows an ad for The Real Southwest, which is being sponsored by the Tucson, Arizona Convention and Visitors Bureau. All of the ad spaces in this train car are for the same campaign, which is becoming more and more common place. What is interesting about the photo above is that it is of the ad affixed to the ceiling of the train car! The photo below shows a similar ad, but at eye level, and with a one word difference – can you find it?

photo of QR codes for Real Southwest campaign on train side

The actual train car I was riding on was full so I was not able to get other pictures without annoying other passengers any more than I was when I took these. Not every ad had a QR code on it, but there was always within a standard field of vision.

Instructions Built-In

What’s unique about this ad series is that the instructions are prominent within the ad copy. Many times if there are instructions along with a QR code on what to do with it, they are in small type and located in the corner of the ad. It tells you to get the Scanlife, not to download a QR code reader, which is also unique. And by placing the URL to scanlife.com alongside the code is, again, unique. Of course if you know what a QR code is you will just scan it.

All of the codes I scanned took me to the same web page on the Tucson Web site. What would have been interesting was if they had different QR codes, thereby being able to track which one people scanned to get to the Web site, or having a unique QR code on the ceiling to track how many people look (and scan) up.

What are your thoughts on this ad – is it as unique as I have said it is, or just a good campaign? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


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QR Codes In Grammy Awards Broadcast Chicago Transit Ads

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 at 04:00 AM with 2 comments

On Sunday, February 13, 2011 the Grammy Awards will be held and broadcast on the CBS network in the US. To promote this, there are ads displayed on the “L” train platforms in Chicago, also known as the Chicago Transit Authority or CTA. Below is a photo of how 3 ad panels are displayed together.

photo of Grammy Awards transit ads in Chicago with QR codes

On each panel there is a QR code. When scanned, it goes to a Web site called MusicIsLifeIsMusic.com, specifically to a page for the artist appearing on the particular ad panel. Below is a detailed photo of a QR code for an ad for Katy Perry.

photo of Grammy Awards ad QR code for Katy Perry

Note I took the second photo before the first one – I first saw the ad panels which featured the second photo at a very narrow point on the platform and was only able to get the detail, where I was able to get a wider shot of 3 panels together, interestingly at the same station and in the 3 panel photo, there is not one of Katy Perry.

There’s a few unique aspects to these ads and how they use QR codes. As each panel has a different QR code, it can be determined which of the 3 was scanned. This can tell one of 2 things – either the person scanning has a preference to the particular artist, or they chose that QR code at random or because it was easier to scan. Also note the Grammy Award trophy in the QR code. As QR codes have built-in redundancy and can have degradation up to 30%, some part of the code can be replaced with another image. There is no magic to this – you have to make the change and test the heck out of it to make it effective.

These particular ads are positioned low to the ground. As a result, you need to bend down to scan, which may cause some not to do so, especially at the narrow part of the train platform where I was. Many times I see QR codes towards the bottom of an ad, which is unfortunate, as QR codes are not afraid of heights!

What do you think of this use of QR codes? Please share your thoughts in the comments of this post.


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QR Code T-Shirt

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 02, 2011 at 04:01 AM with 0 comments

For my first example of a QR code in action, I chose a medium displaying one which people may not think about – clothing. We have seen QR codes on signs, posters and flyers, but how about t-shirts? In the photo below, that’s me on the right, sporting a QR code t-shirt, and I am with Dennis Bournique at the Nokia E72 Mode beach Party last summer.

photo of Mike Maddaloni wearing a QR code on a t-shirt

The t-shirt was given to me by QRazystuff.com, a UK-based firm that puts QR codes on apparel. When scanned, this QR code takes you to my Twitter account, @thehotiron.

A QR code on clothing will get people’s attention. On this shirt, it’s a decent size on the front of the t-shirt. Another great place to put one is on the back, as reinforcement for any messaging on the front of the t-shirt. Of course if you are walking around with a QR code on your t-shirt, don’t be surprised if someone stops you to scan it, as that’s how they will be able to scan it.

QR codes on t-shirts and other apparel can be used for promotions or games, where people in a defined area will wear them and scan each other’s as part of the game. They can also be a variation on the traditional brand tag.

Would you wear a QR code on a t-shirt? Are there other reasons for wearing one? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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QR code links to QR Codes in Action at The Hot IronThere is no shortage of discussion on QR codes. Whether people are asking what the heck they are to weighing the merits of using them, QR codes are a phenomenon that is not going away any time soon. How far they go is very much part of the discussion.

QR codes tie the offline and online worlds with simplicity. By scanning them with your smartphone (or even Web cam) you will get information – from a URL to a full contact record to a short message. This is my definition, and there are many out there. But rather than focus on the ultimate definition for a QR code, I’d rather show how they are being used.

Starting today and every Wednesday I will show a QR code in action. Each post will feature a picture of a QR code I take over the course of my day. I will describe how it is being used, and of course provide any commentary as appropriate.

Watch for QR Codes in Action here at The Hot Iron as part of the regular RSS feed or by viewing just the QR Codes in Action posts. I welcome your comments and questions, and if you want to learn more how you can use QR codes for your business, please contact us at Dunkirk Systems, LLC.


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