Between You and Me, There's PR

Exploring, learning and using social media, public relations and marketing.

Don’t make the QR code fail list March 6, 2012

Oh how I love Yesterday, Mashable published an article titled “10 Funniest QR Code Fails,” a shortened version of the website WFT QR Codes. As both titles suggest, the article and website poke fun of the way people and companies use QR codes. Often, the strategies are not fully thought through.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog about QR codes.This was the first time I had ever been exposed to them and I wanted to learn more about them and how they were going to be applied in the future. In full disclosure, I was required to blog about industry news for my class, and my classmates were required to comment on each others’ blogs, but looking back, just one year later, it’s quite humorous to see how far QR codes have come! Here are some comments from my classmates as we first discovered QR codes:

As a class full of seniors, we were obviously fixated on the potential for QR codes helping us get jobs. They are still a great tool for networking and showing your knowledge of technology, but QR codes have become so much more than just a square with your email attached to it, as evidence by the WTF QR Codes website.

Marketers want to put QR codes everywhere. I actually had the experience of witnessing one of the fail images right near my home! The Air Force Reserve’s billboard had great placement- on a road off the highway and near a shopping plaza; however, the fact that it had a QR code was just asking for an accident to occur. Here is the image:

By the time you realize there is a QR code on the billboard, pull out your phone and open the application that reads QR codes, you have already crashed or driven past the billboard.

The key to QR codes is not to use them wherever possible because you feel you have to. I remember in my advertising class everyone tried to implement them into campaigns because it was the new thing, but a smart advertiser must consider:

1. Am I endangering my target audience by requesting them to use my QR code? (See above image.)
2. Will any one see this QR code? (WTF QR Codes shows some in areas that do not have cell service or are on top of buildings!)
3. Does my QR code offer new and important information? (Why would someone click on the QR code? Is there a coupon or exclusive content?)
4. Does a QR code fit with the nature of my product? (Don’t embarrass your consumers by making them scan a QR code to find out information about bed bugs!)
5. Is my QR code actually scannable? (The QR code shouldn’t be a moving target!)
6. Can the QR code be replaced by a hyperlink? (If you are online, using your phone to scan a code is far more work than clicking on a link.)
7. Does your audience know how to scan a QR code? (Chances are, older demographics do not.)

QR codes have great potential, but there has to be more work for consumers to fully understand how to use them and marketers to use them appropriately. We consumers can cope with the fact that there is not an opportunity to scan a QR code at the dinner table. Relax.

Before jumping on the QR code band wagon for a future campaign, think about the strategy, placement and value of your QR code. It’s great to indulge in the newest form of marketing, but it hurts to be included on “10 QR Code Fails”.

For more QR code hits and misses, read my earlier blog from Ozarks News Journal and check out Planned Parenthood’s #Wherediduwhereit campaign featuring QR coded condoms!


JC Penney overhauls brand strategy January 26, 2012

It doesn’t take an extreme couponer to get excited about a good deal. I believe I was born with a knack for bargain shopping.  You may not know my mother, but trust me, you won’t find either of us shopping at the front of the store where things are full price, puh-leez.

Let me brag on the Howard ladies for a moment while I share one of our proudest JC Penney shopping trips. We went in with needing nothing in particular except to utilize a $10 off $10 coupon. Were there 50% sales on top of this coupon? You betcha. I walked away spending $0.19 for a necklace, earrings and bracelet. #NBD This is why we don’t buy anything at JC Penney’s without their weekly coupons and sales.
But JC Penney’s recently appointed CEO,  Ron Johnson, has announced a new competitive strategy to replace the company’s overwhelming amount of sale days. According to an article written by the Associate Press,  Johnson announced “Customers will not pay literally a penny more than the true value of the product,” meaning prices will be permanently reduced by at least 40 percent.

The overall strategy includes a new logo that represents the “fair and square” theme the new pricing is meant to portray and new advertisements like the commercial below.

As for the actual pricing changes, prices will be rounded to a flat number, instead of ending in 99. This defies the marketing strategy that consumers perceive numbers ending in 99 lower than if they were just one penny higher.  The price tags will change also to make them easier to identify the price point. They will be color coded according to whether or not it is an every day price, a month-long sale price (holidays still get sales) or a best price (clearance).

We can only evaluate the implications of this complete re-branding strategy when it launches on February 1. This moment could make or break the retail company. JC Penney’s strategy is is a much stronger approach than Gap’s attempt to at re-branding  by changing their logo a year and a half ago, and we all remember consumers’ reactions online that forced them to return to their former logo. How will consumers react to this complete overhaul?

Last time I was in JC Penney, I believe my exact words were “Why don’t they just make the price $20 instead of marking it down from $40? There is no way I would ever pay $40 for this!” and I walked out without purchasing anything. I also can reflect on my attitude of JC Penney over the years. As a teen, it was a place to find cute, inexpensive clothes- especially homecoming dresses. As an adult, I felt almost trashy digging through the racks of sale items. Almost always, there is a shirt with a rip for sale.

Will the lower prices change my attitude from thinking it’s trashy to a steal-of-a-deal? I imagine it will feel more organized and less crammed together on designated sale racks, but will the quality suffer? Will my mind feel like I am not getting a deal if I buy something from the front of the store? Will I walk out when there are no red sale signs drawing me in? Will the employees take a pay cut and be less friendly?

What do you think about this strategy? Will it bomb or re-position JC Penney in a positive light?

But wait, there’s more! Here is the best part of the story: to celebrate the new everyday low price strategy… they are having a sale! Don’t forget to print your coupon from Facebook! Now that’s ironic.


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