Snowboard Mag October 2011 – QR Code Battle: YES vs. Under Armour vs. Oakley vs. Volcom

The Deal: While developing a strong social media strategy and related QR code strategy for a client in Vancouver, BC I wanted to see how well other marketers were using those little bi-chromatic nuggets off audience inertia, QR Codes. Standing in front the latest issue of Snowboard Magazine, iPhone in hand, the opportunity presented itself to do some fieldwork. Within the first 8 pages I had all I needed: four ads, four codes from some old school rippers and some new players in the park: Volcom, Under Armor, Oakley and YES Snowboards. Let’s see how they shape up, in order of appearance: Volcom, Under Armour, Oakley and YES. If you have this magazine (or are near a 7 – 11) and a smart phone why not play along?

Volcom – Score 4/5

On Sight: In line with Volcom’s signature style to always do something a little bit different, everything but the rider in the ad was negative except the rider turning the snow blacker than a Sambuca slush-cat and the tree trunk whiter than well… snow. This and the rider’s bizzaro angle on the rail approach let me know things were out of the ordinary and made me want to know more. Fortunately hidden in the white trees was no… not said slush-cat but a QR code. Bonus point to Volcom for putting the code in this unusual spot, it was still noticeable, added rather than took away from the look and made me feel like I had discovered a little treasure box that needed to be opened with a bang of bandwidth.

On Scan: I was taken to a promotion specific landing page that showed the trick in full Technicolor. My questions were answered and I got to see some Volcom product in action. More importantly I was not pissed off at the advertiser, see below.

Under Armour – Score 2/5

On Sight: Quiksilver called, they want their look from 3 years ago back. The QR code was big and bold like the mark of the beast, no chance of missing it though, unfortunately…

On Scan: Holy bandwidth-burner batman. While a video is obviously going to take more bandwidth in the end at least I know what to expect when the preview screen loads (see the Volcom beauty above). With Under Armour I waited a while to see a bunch of little boxes slowly fill up until I could even tell what site I was on. All I could see was a whole lotta white, like driving behind a Mack Truck in Crowsnest Pass in a snowstorm. Guess the main site image was taking a while to load. Finally I could decipher it was the generic Under Armour snowboarding home page, at least I didn’t get dropped at the top level of the corporate site. I am in a giving mood so I’ll give them that.

Conclusion: Like in slopestyle, bad landing/bad score. I did not access any content complimentary to the ad itself on the landing page and I had to wait forever for it.

Oakley – Score 3/5

On Sight: Great photography, featured the product clearly, very editorial looking for this sort of mag, it almost tricking me into thinking the magazine had started. The QR code was bottom left and pretty straightforward. Not adding to the design but not taking away too much.On Scan: Possibly due to an IP redirect I was not taken to a campaign specific page (/jake1?). I was reading from Canada. Instead I hit the default Oakley page and while it featured a rather attractive female runner in shades it really took me out of the snow zone.

YES – Score 4.5/5

On Sight: Nice modern layout using the rule of thirds. Full-face portrait looking straight at the viewer, nothing like a face to catch attention especially when it is peering out at you as soon as you start to turn the page. The QR code is made to look less obnoxious with a minimal border and actually compliments the black box surrounding the logo be it deliberate or not.

On Scan: Saving the best for last like Kelly Slater in a ASP tour final YES delivered the goods. Scanning took me to a video of the same rider featured in the ad, talking about the features of the board from the ad. The whole think felt pretty Alice down the rabbit hole as I was digitally transported into the ad itself. Well done YES. This is the strongest example I say of how to use QR codes effectively.

Have any examples of great or horrible use of QR codes? Send ’em in! Or tweet me @trevorjurgens.

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