oprah hates your billboard

I don’t think Oprah would be happy that you put a QR code on a billboard.

qr codes on highway billboards are dumbBut put aside the whole distracting driving and near certain chance of death thing and just use some common sense.

In this great article about the shortcomings of QR codes, the author found that:

it took an average of 47 seconds for them to take out their phone and find the application to read the QR code — not exactly a “quick response.”

My rule for highway billboards has always been “one idea, you’ve only got three seconds” as the audience zips past. QR codes just don’t fit that. That’s not to ban them from all outdoor or transit placements. In a place where people are bored and waiting (bus stops, subway platforms/cars, etc), I think they work great.

The bigger problem here lies in that what SHOULD be an excellent tool to sync your mobile marketing strategy is rapidly jumping the shark because marketers are misusing it. The idea of QR codes has also trickled down to the dead-wood-from-the-neck-up managerial level who have no idea what they’re doing. Use a QR code where it makes sense, not just because you can use it.

My list of bad placements for QR codes continues to grow:

  • Highway Billboard
  • Tombstone (not the pizza)
  • TV commercial
  • Tattoo (not the Fantasy Island one)
  • Web site (use a link, not a 47 second detour!)
  • What’s the worst placement of a QR code that you’ve seen?

4 points to remember as you begin a mobile marketing strategy

If your web strategy just revolves around people sitting behind a desktop or laptop computer, you need to wake up. We’re passing the point where we can say “mobile is coming”. It’s here. The Wall Street reports that

“by 2013 the number of smart phones will surpass PCs, 1.82 billion to 1.78 billion.” Forrester “predicts that 82 million Americans will be using tablets by 2015.” A Pew Research survey reports that “59 percent of Americans accessed the internet on their phones last year, up from 25 percent the previous year.”

But what does a mobile marketing strategy look like? I think there are 4 big points to keep in mind as you’re trying to figure out what to do with mobile:

Beyond phones
It’s not just phones. It’s mobile devices. Just as Apple opened up the market to copycats and a smartphone revolution with the iPhone, a swell of tablet devices to compete with the iPad is just beginning. Now that the industry has finally found a tablet model that works, tablets will bring a quicker death to laptops than email did to faxes.

Geolocation
This is the great sleeping giant of mobile. While most things you can do on a mobile device you can also do on a regular computer, the computer doesn’t know your exact location and can’t move with you. When you take the fact that a device can now adapt the data it provides by taking into account your location, the marketing possibilities are endless. And geolocation goes beyond the hipsters on Foursquare and Gowalla and the masses checking in on Facebook. It’s not just about checking in; it’s about the ability to offer relevant marketing messages near the moment and point of purchase.

qr codeQR Codes (and other scans)
I love QR codes. Using the phone as a scanner provides the opportunity for marketers to track responses to the call-to-action better than ever. If someone scans your QR code, they have self-indentified themselves as an excellent prospect to push down the sales funnel. While QR codes are great, they pale in comparison to things like Google Goggles. Now that people can do a search to find better deals or things they might like better while they’re standing in your store, you’re going to have to change your entire retail strategy.

It’s just starting
In general, we’re going to see mobile users get richer web applications and improved usability as developers write specifically for mobile. Mobile platforms will improve with HTML5. And we’ll see an explosion of the market as people who have been waiting for a Verizon iPhone get one next month.

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If you’ve been paying attention, there’s nothing I’ve mentioned in this post that you don’t already know. And even if you don’t follow the tech news as things come down the pike, only the staunchest luddite can’t just look around them with common sense and see how many people are using mobile.

Realistically, if you haven’t already adapted your marketing plan to take advantage of mobile, you’re behind. It’s like someone in the mid-1990s saying “I don’t know if we really need a website right now”. Jumping in and taking advantage of the early part of the adoption curve helps your stance and growth going forward. Why haven’t you started?