QR codes – great idea but watch for traps in implementation

System Administrator Appreciation Day Fancy Ca...

System Administrator Appreciation Day Fancy Cake with two QR-Codes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are seeing a lot of QR codesemerging lately. Although they have been around for quite some time QR codes have recently reached the radar of mainstream marketers. We are seeing them pop up on business cards, email signatures, advertisements and in many different and innovative ways.

They are a great idea, and a great way to pack a lot of information into one small package. But before you go ahead and go crazy with QR codes it is useful to learn from the mistakes others have made. The following are some recent QR code ‘fails’ that I have seen and I welcome anyone to add to this list over time:

1. Dangerous positioning. I’ve seen a billboard on a North Shore train station that invites readers to scan the QR code to find out more about the service being offered. The only problem is that the QR code is just too small to  scan from a smartphone while standing on the platform. To scan it properly you would have to climb onto the tracks and risk being run over by a train.

2. Too much information. There is a great temptation to pack as much information as possible into a QR code. If you look at the way a QR code is constructed you will see that it is a pattern of dots arranged in a square. The more information stored the smaller the dots become and the more complex the code looks. The more complex the code the more difficult it is to read, so although you might embed more information you risk the chance of someone giving up scanning it because their reader is having trouble. Remember as a QR code creator you cannot guarantee that the recipient of the code will have the latest and greatest reading software. Better to aim for the middle of the range and assure that your code will be read.

3. Not thinking of the user experience. I’ve scanned may QR codes and found that the website that I have been directed to is not optimised to be read on a smartphone. Lets think about it – you use your smartphone to scan the code, the code directs you to a website. If the website you have been sent to cannot be read on a phone the campaign has not really been thought through. It is highly unlikely that someone will scan a QR code and then send it to their PC for future browsing.  Not optimising the website you direct your QR code to is one thing, but another unforgivable offence is to direct the code to a website that is flash enabled. Many a QR code reader will be underwhelmed when they use their iPhone to visit a site that is optimised for Flash.

Used wisely, QR codes can potentially enhance and improve the results of your campaign. Used poorly, they can make you look silly and potentially scare off good customers. As with most things, think of the business problem you want to solve first rather than finding a solution and then trying to find a problem to solve with it.

I would love to hear your stories on how QR codes have made a difference to you – in either a positive or negative way.

Posted in Common sense prevails, Innovation, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do we still need business cards?

Silas Peirce's Business card circa 1822

Image via Wikipedia

I came across an interesting discussion topic on LinkedIn recently around the subject of business cards. We take it for granted that everyone in business needs a business card, but is this really the case? With business networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo, it is easy for people to exchange all of the information on a business card before they have even met. There are also smartphone applications such as ‘Bump’ that allow you to simply touch your phone with another to instantly share business card information.

So why do we still have them? While we know it is technically feasible to exist in business without a card, the business card still adds some tangibility to the relationship. The card is an extension of the brand that the owner represents. I find that even though I transfer the details from a card into a contact database, the physical card still serves a purpose as a reminder of that particular meeting and the circumstances around it. I know many people who immediately write the details of the interaction on the back of the card for future reference.

So do we really need them? My view is that while there are people who use them and value receiving them, we still need them. Will we need them forever? I believe we will eventually get to the point where the electronic exchange will be the norm and the physical card will not be required.

Posted in Common sense prevails, Social Networks, technology and business | 2 Comments

Are we bubbling again?

Social Media Landscape

Image by fredcavazza via Flickr

When I think back about the various ‘bubbles’ that have burst in recent times there are quite a few similarities. If you look at the Tech Crash of 2001 and the GFC of 2008 the main characteristic that springs to mind is that people make an assumption that the rapid growth is ‘business as usual’. Having watched social media intently for the last five years or so it’s interesting to see the number of people who shunned it at first becoming advocates and very intensive users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others.

Here is a link to a very good article by Morris Kaplan that raises some alarms about Social Media and whether we are getting ready for a new bubble to burst. With almost ten percent of the world’s population on Facebook the signs are that ‘something will happen’.

What will that something be? Will Facebook continue to grow at an alarming rate? Will there be consolidation among the major social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn? Will there only be one social network in ten years time? What other major players will want a slice of this action?

I wonder whether we will still call it ‘Social Networking’ in ten years time? Just as the way we dropped the ‘e’ from e-commerce and e-business last decade, will social media become just media, or just networking?

One thing is certain. As Morris’ article mentions, social networks will continue to be a part of how we live, work and play.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting article from Business Insider that talks about JP Morgan’s Social Media Fund. Click on the links to ’13 glaring signs of a new bubble’. Very insightful.

Posted in Social Networks, technology and business | Leave a comment

How far have we come?

Apollo Lunar Module LM-2

Image via Wikipedia

April this year marks the 50th anniversary of manned space missions. On April 12, 1961 the cosmonaut Yuri Garagin became the first human in space. This  milestone was closely followed by a number of missions over the next few years in what we now know as the Space Race of the sixties.

At the Air and Space Museum in Washington is the actual capsule that returned to Earth from one of those early missions (I believe it was from John Glenn’s first orbital flight in 1962 but don’t quote me on that). The thing that blew me away when I saw it up close was that it looked like a home made science project. I’m sure it was state of the art at the time but I recall seeing a household power plug on the outside with  ‘110 VAC’ handwritten on the outside. It obviously served the purpose but to me it didn’t exactly exude confidence. What you could see of the wiring and electronics made the old Black and White valve TV look like modern technology.

In the movie ‘Apollo 13’, which chronicles the unlucky aborted moon landing  mission of 1970, the character played by Tom Hanks makes a remark that computers have become so advanced that you can get a ‘whole computer in just one room’. The reality is that the iPhone that you carry around in your pocket probably has more processing power than the computers these pioneers depended on for their epic journeys.

The point of this post is that it is interesting to take a few steps back once in a while and reflect on how technology has changed our lives in a relatively short space of time for humans. If you teleported someone from 1961 into 2011 they would find it hard to adjust to the idea that:

  • Almost every human in the Western world has access to a cell phone
  • Your car can tell you how to get to your destination
  • Almost every household has a computer, and most have more (many people in 1961 would say “what is a computer?”)
  • You can have a meaningful dialogue with someone in another continent on the other side of the world as if they were just next door
  • Someone could sneeze in Australia and another person in the UK will know about it as it happens
  • Heart and eye operations are almost regarded as routine procedures

The list goes on and on and you could really have a brain explosion if you think about it too much. It would be a very interesting exercise to move forward another 50 years and find out whether life has changed substantially from the last 5o years.

Posted in Innovation, Space launch, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Does the CIO know?

A woman typing on a laptop

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I was speaking to someone who works at one of Australia’s largest banks. I was horrified to hear that her laptop takes 15  to 20 minutes to boot every morning when it is connected to the Bank network.  That’s at least 15 minutes before a senior person can get started on her daily work. Multiply that by thousands of employees and that’s a lot of lost productivity. It would be easy to apply an average hourly rate to the calculation and come up with a very scary figure – for executives and for shareholders.

Apparently this is normal for that organisation. Employees complain about it but also accept it as a fact of life that that is how long it takes for a laptop to come online. There are many reasons – the strict security deployed by the bank, the age of the hardware, the convoluted process to log a support call, the list goes on.

But just because employees accept it does not mean that it is OK. It also begs the question – does the CIO of the organisation know?  I would imagine that the employees at the coalface who wait more than 15 minutes to get online are very far removed from the VIP treatment the senior executives get from the IT department.

Any CIO who is really focussed on their business would be concerned, but the facts are probably far removed from the senior level of the organisation and hidden by layers of bureacracy. While it seems like an injustice it’s really just caused by a lot of people doing their work with the best of intentions without really relating it back to the big picture. For example:

  • The procurement person that believes that holding back a hardware refresh for a year will make a contribution to the organisation’s profitability
  • The security person who is so obsessed by applying the tightest possible security that they lose sight of the angst they are causing the people who have to work with their systems
  • The employee who doesn’t escalate the issue because they are so certain that they won’t be heard.

The above example may be oversimplifying things, but the point I would like to make is that at least one person in the organisation should be able to make a direct link between the business and the technology that supports it.

That person is the CIO. I would suggest that every CIO needs to take the time to really understand how things are really going at the coalface – they may be surprised at what they find.

Posted in CIO, Common sense prevails, technology and business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You have the technology – it’s your choice to use it for good or evil

A parking ticket machine

Image via Wikipedia

Some time ago I lost my car parking ticket in a local shopping centre. I had only been there for 30 minutes and it must have slipped out of my pocket when I took my wallet out.  After a quick retrace of my steps I concluded that it was lost for good so I went off to find a real person who could help.

The problem with a totally automated parking ticketing system there is no need for a real person to apply common sense to the situation. The solution – use the ‘lost ticket’ button on the autopay machine and it will kindly charge you a ‘lost ticket fee’. This is coincidentally the equivalent of the maximum rate for the day. My 30 minutes of shopping just cost me about $50.

Last week I heard about someone having a similar experience with a very different outcome. This person parked at their local council car park and lost their ticket. They contacted the parking area administration who were able to go through the surveillance video footage to identify the number plate of the car and the time it entered. The person was able to escape the car park and only pay the correct fee.

The technology is often available to provide excellent customer service, however a lot of organisations choose to let bureacracy get in the way. It’s much easier to say ‘no we can’t do that’ than to look into how we can help. It’s actually got nothing to do with the technology itself but more to do with the attitude of the people running the business.

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Could this be the start of the end of the in-flight magazine?

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson during the ...

I’m conscious of giving the iPad too much airplay but there doesn’t seem to be an end to the number of new applications for this ground breaking device. Here’s a post from Richard Branson’s blog announcing the PROJECT, an iPad-only magazine produced by Virgin. It’s freshly launched and now available through the App Store.

It’s a new initiative being spearheaded by Richard’s daughter Holly, who also looks after ‘special projects’ at Virgin (how do you get a job like that?). From the promotional video the magazine takes advantage of all the bells and whistles of the iPad and delivers beautiful animated content that is well and truly in line with what you would expect from Virgin and Apple. It’s a bit like the animated newspapers and portraits you see in the Harry Potter movies – a true example of a multimedia publication.

While the online multimedia magazine idea is not that new, the interesting part is that Virgin has targeted a specific platform – the iPad. This makes an assumption that the iPad will continue to be the leading tablet platform – a fairly safe assumption in my opinion as it has gained an incredible head start on the market and will do for at least the next 2 years.

It’s not just about the choice of the iPad as a platform that makes sense for Virgin. Sure the iPad is a great piece of gear that supports the multimedia format exceptionally well, but other tablets will soon catch up and may surpass the original idea. It’s Apple’s iTunes as a delivery platform that really clinches the deal. Here we have a proven ready-made distribution platform all ready to go that is accessible to everyone who owns a device!

One can only guess where this will lead for Virgin. PROJECT is the perfect opportunity to reinforce the Virgin brand and to promote cross-selling across the group. Content can be easily customised to the location of the reader as can promotions, cross-selling opportunities and information. It’s a marketer’s dream platform and one that doesn’t involve the killing of any trees to produce an issue.

Posted in Apps, Innovation, iPad, technology and business | Leave a comment