QR Code

Coke 125 year QR code campaign a #Fail

Yesterday I picked up my copy of the Sunday Times newspaper, to be greeted with what looked like a cool campaign for their 125th year birthday celebration. On the front page there was a prompt to turn to page 3, which I did, and lo and behold, there was a QR code to snap. I was stoked. Finally, brands are climbing on the QR code bandwagon, and using them to enhance their advertising campaigns.

This one was pretty plain & simple. There were a couple of instructions to SMS a premium rated number to get a download link to get the app. I didn’t bother downloading the app, and instead used my new favorite QR Code app, Qrafter (more on that tommorrow).

If you sent an SMS to the premium rated number, it came back prompting you to go to, which did have some info about coke and allowed you to download the Scanlife QR Code app

I snapped the code, which lead me to a webpage. Imagine my utter dissapointment, when the code resolved to nothing, but a simple webpage –, with a movie clip on it. Nothing else. Just a plain white page with a movie clip ??? Nothing to tell us about how addicted we have become to your product over the last 125 years ? Nothing about how many cans of coke you have sold in the last 125 years ? Really ? Not even a nice mobi site styled nicely for mobile screen.

So I ventured forth & clicked on the movie clip. And all I got was a 31 second movie clip with a bottle of coke wasting some of the good black stuff, by spewing it out the bottle telling us they have shared a 125 years of happiness with us. Um, Thanks & Happy Birthday. Really.

Seriously. I am totally dissapointed with this. Here is a global brand, who I’m sure understands what QR Codes & mobile is all about, and how to execute it properly. Coke spent around R210,000 (according to the Sunday Times ad rate card), and achieved nothing from it. Nothing (except this whining blog post).

Honestly though, this has to be one of the most poorly executed QR Code campaigns I have ever seen. Next time gimme a shout, and I’ll give you some tips on how to properly execute a QR Code campaign.

Sidenote: (If you sent an SMS to the premium rated number, it came back prompting you to go to, which did have some info about coke and allowed you to download the Scanlife QR Code app, and some “cool stuff” My argument here though is, that if you didn’t send the premium rated SMS, then you would never land on their site. The QR code seems like it was just dumped in the paper to try and make it look good, and to get people to pay the premium rated SMS to “download” the QR App)

12 replies on “Coke 125 year QR code campaign a #Fail”

I suspect they wanted to target as big of an audience as possible. In terms of the mobile web that usually means targeting the majority of phones that get used for the mobile web (ie Nokia, Samsung, etc).

Even though a small percentage of people (in terms of SA’s total mobile web users) would have used Blackberry, iPhones and Android handsets, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have spruced up the URL of the QR code.
One can easily create something very presentable that works on all mobile phones.

On the other hand this might have been an expensive experiment. They now can extract some kind of profile of what type of phone user that
1) accessed the download site and
2) the users who acted on this QR code campaign.

To their credit they did
1) offer a link to a QR app, most ‘non-tech’ people don’t even know what to do with a QR code
2) they supported most platforms – though I’m not sure what the Samsung and Nokia non-tech folks did when they didn’t see the names (or logo) of Samsung or Nokia. Symbian doesn’t mean much to most people

My prediction is that of the total number of people that visited the site only 20-30% actually got to scan the QR code. For any brand who’s customer base is the average guy on the street this would could have been seen as a #fail.

Thanks for the comment mate :)

I agree. I think the biggest argument for me was that, the URL of the snapped QR code was nothing more than a blank page with no info on, and only a silly movie clip.

It would be interesting to see the ROI of this ad, how many people snapped the code vs. how many people visited the main site.

That said, they only needed to sell about 30,000 cans of coke to make back their money, which was probably done in about 3 and a half minutes anyway :)

Another big problem that I see is that when you visit it doesn’t identify mobile clients correctly.

So if I visited on a mobile phone using Opera mini for example this is what I saw.
I’d leave this page ASAP as it’s not mobile friendly and a pain in the ass to navigate and use.

If you visit on an Android device, iPhone 3G(S) and iPhone 4 you get 3 versions of the site. Here is what the site looks like on an iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4.

The problem with identifying the mobile devices seems to be a problem related to Joomla (their CMS for and the plug-in they used. It works but doesn’t work. I’m not saying that Joomla or their plug-in sucks, I use Joomla. Their mobile identification fails on a number of instances which is problematic, at lease in my eyes.

The reality Marc is that we should blame the agency that put this together rather than Coke themselves (unless it was done inhouse but that’s unlikely).

Clients are uneducated and there are so many little agencies selling snake oil that need to be weeded out before digital really booms here

This sums up everything that is wrong at the moment in SA with mobile. Poor brands being conned into rubbish by ignorant agencies/WASPS and unnecessarily difficult/complex entry mechanisms.. and then nothing of value at the end of it.

I really dont know why Mobile is so difficult to grasp, and more importantly the fact that one of us (a normal human being) is still at the other end of it, so all rules of execution and engagement apply as they would to any other medium!

This execution is no different to a brand putting out a print advert saying….
We are not ging to tel you our web promo address, you need to catch the MiCity bus from Town to Lagoon beach. When you get there you will see a shady looking gentleman. Slip him a fiver and he will give you a piece of paper with our web address on (but with the letters scrambled around). Get the bus back to where you work (whilst on there, try and work out how to unscramble the code)… When you are back at work and have unscrambled the web address, please enter it into your web browser… HOWEVER it will only work in IE5.5 running on a pentium 2, otherwise it will look rubbish and you wont enjoy it.

Much better way to involve everyone….
If you have a QR code reader use this QR code here tp get to XXXXX
If you dont simply sms ‘coke’ to 33132 and we’ll send you the link (or send the vid straight to their phone!!!)
or simply type in into your phone’s browser.

On the last frame of the vid (which should be offered in various qualities suited to the phone as video costs bandwidth = rands and cents on mobile) in order to reward the user for following the path to 125 and watching the vid would be a call to action in order to get a ‘mobile coupon’ redeemable against an actual coke.(or somethinmg of value, and at the very least ping R5 worth of airttime it has just cost the user to watch this stuff)

Needless to say that the mobi promo site should be running full HCA and look perfect on every phone/browser and also be upwards enhanced for touch, GPS etc

There should certainly not be a premium rate ‘anything’ involved.

Coke…. lets do something cool that the whole nation can enjoy and celebrate with you. We would be happy to help. In teh meantime, I suggest you take the empty campaign back to teh agency that you brought it from to get your deposit back.

Wow, what a waste of money. I hardly think any research they gathered was worth that kind of spend.

Coke needs brand content that offers value and then to speak to Tim on how to make it accessible to consumers.

Great blog and comments.

Yes, there is still much to be learned and just as Tim invites Coke to let Prezence create a killer mobile campaign for them, I invited them to

They didn’t come. They also didn’t read our book, of which they have a copy. The results of these omissions are obvious… :-)

I completely agree 100% with everything that has been said on the original blog and the comment thread. A brand MUST deliver valuable content to the consumer that is easy to use and does not require a special device to do so. They MUST deliver content properly to ALL devices, not just iPhone and Android, but also to Blackberry, Windows phones, Symbian, and feature phones. They MUST deliver a video that can play on all devices…since no device uses the same video player, you MUST use a company that can deliver video properly to all devices. The brand MUST give the consumer a reason to scan or text…give them an offer, coupon, sweepstakes…something that makes this interesting. I don’t like plugging my company, but we do ALL of these things and more and can do so with time and cost efficiencies because of the patents we have around “device detection and content rendering”…It is sad that a digital agency can sell to a client of this magnitude that the can “do mobile”. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, as bad executions done by huge brands can be detrimental to our business.

I’ve been waiting 4 years for QR codes to gain traction and it’s great to see that we’re starting to see them a bit more regularly. However, almost every campaign I’ve seen lately (especially locally) has been flawed in some sense which if anything will most probably result in turning away potential adopters from future campaigns. As Tim said, it must be a worthwhile user experience and for starters charging the user to download a free application is ridiculous regardless of how relevant the content is when it would as easy and quicker for the user to type in a short URL.

I think where most people get it wrong is that your target audience are not only your high end smart phone users (which are such a minority anyway), but any mobile web user of which the majority will use entry level handsets. The technology is not that complicated (it’s been around for a decade) and most handsets with a camera should be able to scan 2d barcodes For those that can’t the golden rule is that the barcode should always have the URL printed underneath it, preferably a short one so that it can be typed into a browser. Once you’ve got that covered it’s down to the content and it is possible to provide a rewarding experience even on a WAP browser. The majority of campaigns I’ve seen lately are only a video clip which in our landscape end up costing the user again, especially when the poor user with the entry level WAP browser ends up with a high res video because he wasn’t catered for.

The latest issue of stuff magazine has a couple of QR codes in it but I couldn’t get either of them to scan with any of my apps on 2 different phones. There are a few issues there, 1) The barcodes are probably a bit small, 2) They appear to contain quite long URL’s which makes them more complex, 3) They’re low quality, 4) There’s no printed URL. I’m not sure what they resolved to but surely they’re not going to get second attempts from users next time they use them. Oh, and they’re a technology magazine.

I got an interesting mail from one of the readers of my site. If you dig into the source code of the Coke QR Code campaign, you will see they have essentially REUSED code for the page, from the Calvin Klein QR Code campaign that took place aaround the world. WOW !!

Check this post by Gabriel with more info –

Bloody hell! It just gets worse and worse!
Is anyone going to own up to this and is Coke going to get a decent Mobile agency to do things properly… Pepsi, give me a call, your drink might not taste as good, but your Mobile marketing can be infinitely better.
Shite shite shite shite shite…. and you have to feel sorry for Coke, yet another poor brand duped by another shite ‘We can do mobile’ agency.
(Mark, Britain is looking for a new 007 – I think you qualify, great work)

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