How Not to Implement a QR Code Campaign

I heard about Colgate-Palmolive’s Speed Stick antiperspirant QR campaign a couple of weeks ago so I emailed Media Relations (Stephanie Clark) to request images of the “Event Cards” containing the QR Codes. These “Event Cards” are to be distributed to fitness centers and at special events, for the duration of the campaign.

There was no response so five days later I sent a copy asking again. Stephanie’s Linkedin Profile claims she works in “…external public relations and global media relations” but clearly this does not include making sure that requests for further information are answered promptly.

This time Stephanie emailed me to say “This is not a UK based initiative. Nor are we able to provide pictures of the Event Cards”.

Not a helpful response to say the least but life is to short to get involved with crap Media Relations Departments, so I decide to give the story a miss.

However I have just finished reading mobile media and marketing guru Steve Smith’s excellent account of his first hand contact with the campaign. It would appear that the campaign is a blueprint of how NOT to use QR Codes.

It seems I owe Stephanie an apology, she was quite right to want to keep the campaign under wraps.

8 thoughts on “How Not to Implement a QR Code Campaign”


    Stephanie is correct that this is a US based program, but you can get involved with the QR Code section by going to the sight above.

    Let me know your feedback

    This is the first test for Colgate so there was no incentive or advertising. Just wanted to see if it had any interest. Judging from your blog….it worked

  2. @JohnySarn

    Of course it is a US based program, so what?

    Sure there is interest. With a better implementation, proper PR and good media relations it would have been the right kind of interest and of course much more of it….

  3. I guess Roger, it must be very satisfying for someone so knowledgeable to be able to criticize and comment on so many complicated aspects of a new product launch. Add to that testing a new technology not common to the US market. I must have missed all the successful marketing campaigns you have launched for the many fortune 100 companies you have worked for. I wonder if the other scholars of your caliber have advice for the many fortune 100 companies that have tried the QR code mobile marketing road and have failed in the USA. Companies like; Microsoft, Ralph Loren, Harper Collins, Unilever, Coke Cola and alike have all taken their turn at the same tactical element of QR mobile campaigns spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on media advertising in print, TV and internet all well intended but falling way short for the ROI goal expected by the outside critics.
    However Colgate, in its typical fashion of protecting shareholder value and turning a profit on its new product launches, has gained valuable insight into this emerging mobile marketing technology, at little or no cost. Colgate is now poised to build stronger executions for future product launches that are more important categories then Men’s Underarm Deodorant and at that only a fraction of this products global consumer base. The brand is not hurt, the company is not hurt and the consumer is not hurt.

    Even with the critical perception of a failed mobile program, there is a strong win for Colgate and its marketing teams for all categories, advertising agencies and IMC.

    But I am sure you already know that….right?

    Or perhaps in the UK you don’t believe that learning is incremental

  4. Seems like the only thing working for a fortune 100 company does to your marketing campaign is clog it up with corporate stupidity. How could anyone with even an ounce of common sense turn the elegant QR code into a tortuous assault course? Steve Smith really does have a point.

  5. Thanks for the feed back Roger. I am extremely stressed over getting this technology to market. Steves article clearly has good points that are being addressed. The QR code is the future that the brand is experimenting with at this point and is not ready to get the full benefit. The target US consumer is very tech savvy and activity has been brisk, however the only reason one would go through all the steps is for social networking. If you could overlook the marketing faux paux and use this as the experiment it was intended, you will enjoy the experience more. Give me one week to make the interaction changes from your comments try it again then give me some feedback. You are not limited to the Bee Tag reader as we have had problems with this reader also. The bulk of US phones are not up to the technology and flow through to newer phones has been slow.

  6. Guys, all very interesting and quite honestly Roger does need to spark debate, even if it’s unpleasant reading to brands, marketeers etc.

    ??There does need to be a deeper understanding of the use of QR or 2D codes and approaching it solely from a marketing campaign is not the answer. Of course it’s difficult for the media part of a big organisation to team up with a packaging or procurement side – they just have never needed to talk to each other that much.

    ??In summary, you can make this work really well for both the brand and the organisation behind it – on many levels – but you need to talk to the ‘truthful and open’ experts behind the creation of these 2D readers to seriously understand how and what to do. ??

    However, Colgate and the number of brands and their marketing team must be congratulated on their foresight and attempts to kick start this – it didn’t need to cost them millions and it could do more than they realise. ??I’m just an email away 🙂

    ??Mark Hendriksen ? ?
    By Mark Hendriksen CEO UpCode Mobile Solutions

  7. I don’t think this campaign’s flaws have much to do with QR codes.

    QR codes can work well, if targeted at the right handsets, and if the user journey is simple, with backups.

    This campaign is over ambitious with too many stages. Even if there were no QR codes involved, it requires too much consumer info too early, with no obvious return, and poorly communicated benefits.

    Let’s not confuse the tech with the UxP.

    Oh, and we work with 7 Fortune 100 companies.

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