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Another Way QR Codes Fail

People have been predicting the end of QR codes and using marketing failure as a reason to bash the digital-linking solution. Now there’s one more QR code blunder that will prove it’s more human problems that cause QR code failure.

Recently the Heinz Company experienced a problem with a QR code for their Design Your Own Label contest promotion but the blame lay on the marketing person who forgot to renew the promotion site domain.

When a German man scanned the QR code on a bottle of ketchup (this was a promotion in Germany), he expected to be taken to a Heinz Company page about designing his own label. Instead, he was taken to a hardcore porn website.

Consumers Scan QR Codes They Find

The mix-up was caused by the fact that Heinz ran the contest between 2012 and 2014, and the linked domain expired recently (there was no expiration date on the QR code/contest and return visits should be expected). The old bottle, somewhere on a shelf, still had the QR code and contest information but the domain was now owned by German porn site Fundorado who innocently registered the web address for itself, and the site of foodstuffs and condiments, once owned by Heinz, was replaced with pornography.

Daniel Korell, who had scanned the code and been surprised at the adult digital destination, wrote on his Facebook page:

[pullquote]“Your ketchup really isn’t for under-age people. Even if the bottle was a leftover, it’s still in lots of households.”[/pullquote]


[pullquote]“It’s incomprehensible that you didn’t reserve the domain for one or two years. It really doesn’t cost the Earth.”[/pullquote]

Stealing the Power of QR Codes

If one were so inclined, one might suspect that Fundorado, seeing an opportunity to capture thousands of scans from ordinary users of food condiments, grabbed the domain as soon as possible and, while not QR code hijacking/hacking, reap the benefits of targets already reached via the condiment bottle QR codes, manufactured by the millions.

Some may say that Fundorado “relishes” the free publicity it receives from this news and Heinz, in apologizing to Mr. Korell, promised to “ketchup” with technology and its impact on consumers.

Heinz said it would let Korell create his own label and send him a free bottle printed with his design. Taking full advantage of the free advertising, Fundorado also offered Korell a free year’s subscription.

The QR Code Lesson

There have been articles that talk about the wrong placement of QR codes, non-responsive website destinations, bad calls-to-action and other bad marketing decisions based on lack of knowledge about the technology. Not renewing a domain, linked to a QR code, for the life of a product (or just forward the URL to another page), is against basic usability. It’s like a hammer with no nails.

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