Can You Scan These Pants?

By | December 3, 2013

There are a lot of things in Garden & Gun magazine I’ve never seen before, such as recipes for fried rabbit and glorious interior shots of the most incredible Southern architecture imaginable, and last night, I saw my first QR Code in the shape of Bermuda pants.

It’s a really clever idea, thought up by the Bermuda Department of Tourism, to help promote the island destination to a high-end audience.

Of course, the first thing I did was whip out my phone to scan said pants, and to my disappointment, the image didn’t scan. At least at first. QR Codes are designed to be scannable even with up to 30% degradation of the image, which allows codes to be manipulated, branding added, and even turned into a pair of shorts.

Go BermudaLots of things can disrupt scanning, however. One of them is contrast. This image was in a dark red, which is fine. Not as good as black on white, but usually fine. But the marketer also degraded the image by creating the shape. Consequently, my phone had trouble recognizing the image in the lower light environment of our kitchen. I moved around a little, and on my third try, I found enough light to get it to scan.

That’s great for me (especially if I want to go to Bermuda), but will readers of this publication or any other publication in which it appears know to move to a brighter environment if they can’t scan the code? Or will they simply give up and move on to the next advertisement? Most likely the latter.

If your clients are going to degrade the image for branding or other marketing goals, test, test, test! Don’t just test on different phones. Test different lighting conditions, as well.

Got to give them one thing. At least they didn’t put the QR Code in the gutter of the magazine. But if the ad ad been on a left-hand page, they would have!

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4 thoughts on “Can You Scan These Pants?

  1. john a.

    Is there any data on how effective QR codes are with converting curiosity to a purchase? I am also curious to know if the novelty is wearing off or if the QR technology has a future. From personal experience, I scanned a few QR codes early on because it was kind of interesting but I haven’t taken the time to do it recently. I would guess that QR codes that promise an entertaining video, freebie or promotional item are probably more effective than those that are simply informational.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    I don’t think we can think of QR Codes as converting to a purchase any more than we can think of 800 numbers or BRCs that way. QR Codes are simply a response mechanism. The conversion happens on the back end — the effectiveness of the content consumers find once they scan the code. Where QR Codes play a role in response is immediacy and convenience. How do people want to respond to a marketing message and when? QR Codes make responding easier for many people, but in themselves, they don’t have any marketing power. That’s the job of the content on the mobile site / page to which they are taken.

  3. Joe Manos

    Great answer Heidi – spot on.

    There are 6.8 Billion Mobile Subscribers in the wold today and in the US – 24% of us do everything on our mobile phones. Text, email, visit online sites, social media and yes, make and return phone calls.

    The bottom line – mobile use cases like a QR Code will only continue to grow as more of the service providers assisting marketers increase their skills and capabilities and start to leverage the best practices for effective mobile marketing!

    There’s no slow down in sight and anyone that thinks there is isn’t dealing with reality. Recent studies show the average attention span for a response to any offer is less than 9 seconds, the average North American is available on seven different media channels at any time of the day.

    This is the world we live in – embrace it.

  4. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Agreed — the key to QR Codes is the relevance, usability, uniqueness, and level of interestingness (is that a word?) of the mobile site to which the QR Code points. See my post on a great use of QR Codes on Wednesday, December 18, for what I think is a great example of QR Codes done well.

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