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Don’t Believe the Hype:  QR Codes are the Pet Rocks of 2011

Cyril Penn does a fantastic job as head editorial honcho for one of the wine industry’s two principal trade magazines – Wine Business Monthly (the other is Wine & Vines led by Jim Gordon).  WBM’s editorial filter is an influential arbiter of prioritization in the industry and a bulwark against noise and distraction.

Given that, I was surprised when the August issue of Wine Business Monthly arrived with a large QR code on the cover.  In the realm of digital marketing, precious little is more representative of “noise” and “distraction” then QR codes – a fad more perishable than a gallon of milk with a shelf life to match.

While the article (written by Paul Franson who writes for both trade magazines) is exceedingly informed and balanced, the reality is, in my opinion, QR codes act as an inexpensive panacea for the innovative disruption that is being wrought in the consumer technology market with smart phones and tablet computers and are not an effective marketing tactic for the wine business.

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As a 15-year professional in technology marketing (Jeez, has it been 15 years?), I’ve had the chance to watch and participate in every chapter of Internet marketing dating to 1996.  And, despite my better judgment, I’m currently involved in two QR campaigns—one with a major mobile phone carrier engaged in niche audience marketing and another with a leading spirits brand.  Because of this, I have a front row seat to execution, usage and value with an eye on the future.

When QRs burst onto the technology and wine industry scene last summer, they represented two aspects of potential value:

  Something tangible and understandable in the realm of the digital hot topic of the day – mobile marketing

  Something reasonably inexpensive, less complex and widely usable on the heels of phone apps which were white hot in 2009, but reasonably expensive, complex and impractical for most wineries.

Despite the momentum in mindshare from wine industry marketers, the numbers don’t bear out a need to implement usage of QR codes in marketing activities.

Consider: According to recent ComScore (Digital research and measurement firm) research, a mere 14 million mobile users scanned a QR code in June of this year.  When considering that there are 78.5 million smart phone users in the U.S., less than one in five owners have used a QR code – and this is the leading edge of technology adopting consumers! 

The numbers get a lot worse when you compare usage against the total number of cell phone users in the U.S. –303 million.  Not exactly resounding validation based on adoption and usage against the potential population.

image

Perhaps more damning is the fact that in technology marketing, momentum is everything.  We want to do the things that our peers are doing.  In this case, they’re largely ignoring QR codes.

Now, I can already hear the cries of defense –“QRs are still early in their lifecycle,” or “Our campaign is successful…” so, let me ask a couple of questions:

  Can you explain how to use QR codes in under 60 seconds?

  When was the last time you used a QR code in the store?

If you can answer the first two queries with a straight face, then…

  When was the last time you used a QR in the store and the content provided by the brand was worthwhile?

If you can answer the first three queries with a straight face, then…

When was the last time you used a QR and the content provided incented your purchase decision?

That’s what I thought. The principal challenge with QRs is that marketers are creating them for an audience and for consumers that they think exist based on a cresting wave, but for whom the numbers don’t back it up.  It’s the worst kind of vacuum-oriented marketing when people create something for people to use that they themselves don’t use.

And, secondarily, the consumer value provided by the marketer’s content is often bad, really bad.  So, even if consumers do scan the code, the value is often dubious at best.

However, even more challenging to QR adoption and usage is the hungry maw of technology advancement that isn’t going to stop apace for QRs. 

The next wave of mobile technology is right around the corner.

While the Wine Business Monthly article cites “label photo recognition” as a possible advancement – the process of taking a picture of the label that will return relevant information, this is likely to join a couple of other technologies and one that is poised to be dominant:  Near Field Communication (NFC).

Near field communication is a technology protocol that will allow for wireless payments via your mobile phone.  Your phone is linked to your bank account and when processing a transaction at a store, you wave your phone at the reader at checkout and presto change-o it’s a transaction without swiping our ATM card.

The same capability will soon exist with NFC tags that can be placed on products, and instead of trying to read a QR code, you’ll be able to wave your phone at a tag and a video (or a brand-oriented piece of content) will automatically load.

NFC removes the important bit of challenge that exists with QR codes – humans.  You have to understand what a code is, you have to get and keep an app. to read the code and then you have to use it.  If all that works, then hopefully the content that’s served the consumer isn’t a letdown.

Eliminating as many steps as possible and keeping it stupid simple with a high degree of value is the key to user behavior. 

In sum, I’m a big supporter of the convergence of wine and technology.  Technology will re-define the domestic wine world, both consumer facing and in the industry value-chain, but along the way there will continue to be a number of technology marketing tools that are more hype than reality and parsing the difference between the two sure isn’t easy.  Unfortunately, QR codes happen to have a grip on the wine business and they’re definitely hype.

Later this week I’ll cover several other fleeting bits of technology marketing fluffiness including the wine industry’s equivalent to Hallmark holidays.

Additional background reading on QR codes and Near Field Communications:

Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes

NFC Marketing and promotions round-up



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Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (43) |


Comments

On 08/29, aram kovach wrote:

Spot on.  So don’t take my word for it, take a look at this recent article regarding QR codes.

http://www.mediabizbloggers.com/uwe-hook/The-QR-Code-Reality—-Uwe-Hook.html

if you are interested in QR codes, try us first, we have international data to backup our engagement results.  You’ll be glad you did.   

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/7/prweb8636323.htm

On 08/29, Dan wrote:

As to your question, I can think of two recent incidents of scanning a code to influence a purchase. I have a QR generated coupon on my phone now for a nice restaurant in Walla Walla, WA (great wine destination btw). I will use the coupon for a free appetizer.  QR codes will gain strength through improved messaging.  It’s more comparable to the advent of WIFI (wireless internet) then to pet rocks.  Few people had wireless devices when WIFI got started but it caught on in a very, very big way.

On 08/29, Larry Chandler wrote:

Since QR Codes can contain anything at all, it’s apparent that many marketers and businesses don’t know how to use them. There are some valid uses or QR Codes, but if not used properly, it can discourage others from even attempting them.

Using a mobile device to scan a QR code in a magazine can take that device right to a website or even a landing page on that site without typing (and mistyping). Scanning a QR code on a wine bottle in a restaurant can enable purchases of additional bottles quickly. And yes, perhaps technology can bypass this; it happens all the time, but there’s no harm in using what is available now to promote your company and your products.

NFC can enable people to make a purchase if the retailer, restaurant, etc. has decided to use it. But a QR code is not dependent on the retailer. The two technologies can exist together easily. And there is no cost to using a QR code (other than re-designing wine labels or similar).

On 08/29, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression. ” If QR codes are done well (delivering meaningful information to consumers,) they will hook us.  Wine fans are looking for good content to help them make knowledgeable choices. 

Our favorite winemaker, Scott Harvey, connected videos to his Vineyard 1869, Old Vine Napa Valley Riesling, Barbera and several other wines.  In a short amount of time, we heard the winemaker, saw the vineyard and understood his philosophy.

If producers dumb down QR codes they will become pet rocks.  Give their audience some credit and they could be richly embraced.

On 08/29, Mark Smith wrote:

Unfortunately your ‘front row seat’ has skewed your vision. Your post completely overlooks the point that QR is a means to and end - not the end itself. That marketers don’t do a good job is the real issue AND I agree that most to do not capitalize on what QR provides them as a means of access to web services and not just as a content delivery mechanism. More so many times their content does not support their call to action (if they had one). Maybe that’s your clients’ problem!?!?

QR is a far better solution than a mobile app (which 99% of wineries do not need and should never consider -  but that is a different discussion) as it can provide access to low cost solutions via mobile web services. As an ISO standard it has high global adoption rates (and rapidly growing adoption rates in the US - despite your spin) and there are not other viable alternatives other than TAG which will die its overdue death soon enough. With one easily downloaded free reader app users can access everything marketers could ever want to deliver.

As to label scanning and NFC as alternatives - they are not, and never will be, for marketers - making your prognostications about them as questionable as your other forecasts. Label scanning provides zero control and is counterproductive for marketers. NFC (which to implement will require a near complete turnover in the current mobile handset market) is not designed for marketing (due to its cost and functional limitations) and will therefore never find its way onto bottle labels, magazine ads or even shelf talkers IMO.

Most of your post is conjecture and extrapolation and because of it I am thinking that you are not any good at identifying pet rocks (we’ll see). Don’t blame the technology for poor execution. And frankly challenging wineries who are just learning about, and beginning to experiment with, QR - on their knowledge and experiences with QR as a basis for using QR - is patently unfair and simply undermines your credibility.

On 08/29, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The idea behind QR codes is sound; a ‘link’ in the physical world going to additional information. This is a great idea for both the producer and consumer. This may sound trite, but I think the primary reason they have not taken off (besides smartphones and QR codes being relatively new) is that they are incredibly ugly and machine like. We needed a Steve Jobs to tell the engineers to come back with something people *want* to see on their products wink That all said, maybe our aesthetics will adapt or something else will come along, but the general idea of directly linking the physical world to the Internet will inevitably become common. It’s simply too good an idea to go away.

On 08/29, Brent wrote:

Questions & Answers (Complete straight faced)

Q) Can you explain how to use QR codes in under 60 seconds?

A) “Scan this with your phone” followed by “it’ll take you to…” or “it will show you…” or “you can get…” or “to download…”

Q) When was the last time you used a QR code in the store?

A) This past weekend in Vancouver, BC buying a cup of coffee (waiting in a long line, they had QR codes for each different roast, linked to a unique video of their ethical harvesting program in Tanzania).

Q) When was the last time you used a QR in the store and the content provided by the brand was worthwhile?

A) I was board while waiting in line and felt that the video shifted the connected from ‘I want caffeine’ to ‘I feel good about buying from this company, and I will again’)

Q) When was the last time you used a QR and the content provided incented your purchase decision?

A) This past weekend; I purchased a bag of the coffee as well as the cup I originally intended to purchase.


I know this is outside of the wine industry, but I don’t think it’s take far off to make a similar QR program work within the wine industry. If it’s in a tasting room, on the wine label, etc.

Even if QR codes are temporary (have been used heavily in Japan for since the mid 90’s) and image recognition takes over (just matter of time), the marketing behind the QR code/image recognition will be similar; it can be effective is used properly.

On 08/29, Doug wrote:

I picked up a copy as they were handing them out at Family Winemakers of California tasting last week. I couldn’t decide if the cover reminded me of an obituary, or the monolith in 2001, A Space Odyssey (Dawn of Man. Either way, it seemed a bit over the top as they were making some profound statement. I was excited about QR tags for about a week earlier in the year, then I started seeing them used in lazy, annoying applications and my interest fizzled. I think they may be useful in limited applications for special offers, but if it just takes me to a standard website, it isn’t very imaginative.

On 08/29, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for the spirited comments, all.  Varied viewpoints, for sure.

@Mark Smith—given that it appears that you’re in the QR business, at least on some level, let’s assume that you’re not an objective observer either.  Regarding your statement about NFC, “they are not, and never will be, for marketers”  Look, I’m not in the business of creating technology, I leverage it as a marketer.  However, I would say that your blanket statement has a strong chance of being incorrect. Did you happen to look at the link I provided at the bottom of the post?  I think NFC or a variant will combine with geo-location and pos marketing, but that’s too much to explain and tangential to the point of the post which is:  wineries are spending time and cycles on QR codes and nobody is using them.  The reasons why nobody is using them are varied, but no traction with early adopting consumers means no tipping point.

@Joe—you have the voice of wisdom, imho

@Brent - you’re in the ComScore demo for most usage of QRs.  What about the 35 year old woman that’s in the wine aisle?  Let’s assume she has an iPhone, a LinkedIn account, is active on Facebook and uses Twitter for work AND reads wine blogs.  Savvy for sure.  And…she doesn’t know or care about QRs.  That’s the reality.

@Doug—Yes, most content served up on QRs sucks, and that’s being charitable.

On 08/29, aram kovach wrote:

Speaking from real field experience we ran a national “got milk” campaign which reached some 14.8 million page views and the big surprise was that in reality there are fewer smart phones out there when you look at everyone in the mobile space that the Telco’s would like to believe.  And yes not everyone wants to install an app.  We had some %9.1 iPhone’s and .5 Android phones interacting with the ad which ran in USA today, Rolling Stone, People, Teen Vogue, Girls life just to name a few publications.  The numbers are open for debate, but less than 5 of users we saw out there have a smart phone and a data plan needed to be able to download an app, which they may or may not do.  The QR codes are an old abstract technology focusing on the technology instead of the brand.  There are many QR code tag like technologies out there from MS tag to recently acquired Jag tag which could not make a commutative inroad against freely available QR codes.  QR codes are new to the US but have not really taken off because they require you to have a sharp clear picture which most older phones can’t do, these phones need to have a macro capable camera to be able to take a sharp QR code picture for processing.  That is why Calvin Cline runs bill board sized QR code ads because it’s impossible to get a clear read with older or commonly available cell phones.  That is why anyone who has done a QR code campaign has had disappointing results, or let’s just say many fewer interactions than they would have liked.  Over the course of the “got milk” campaign we also discovered that the our Mobius mobile interactions extended out to 47 countries worldwide as the publications took flight and again of those very few were smart phones internationally.  Mobius is a true image recognition technology with a proven track record.  We have worked with large national brands like Sunkist, Playboy, Coke, Wal-Mart, Sam Club and others to name a few.  When the leading authority like “The Barcode NEWS” at barcode.com puts out an article like this http://www.barcode.com/why-scan-barcodes-when-you-can-scan-a-playmate.html  Mobius and technologies like ours will make QR codes seem like a distant pet rock memory.  Our “self learning”, Artificial intelligence Image recognition engine, utilizes Image recognition in a whole new way in that it get better and better at cognition results as we process more and more images.  As far as we know Mobius is the only technology which does not require an app or a download and Mobius works globally on all cell phones and all carriers.

On 08/29, William Allen - Simple Hedonisms wrote:

I don’t have time for a detailed rebuttal, but have to go on record I disagree. QR codes are a great marketing tool, used properly. Part of the problem is insufficient consulting and material support for proper uses cases, and wineries using them incorrectly. It also doesn’t help Microsoft, true to form, has put out a distraction, proprietary alternate format, just to confuse the market.
I recommend all of my winery clients consider PROPER (key word) use of QR codes in lit, shelf talkers and more.

cheers

On 08/29, Jeff wrote:

William,

You probably won’t like what I think about arbitrary hashtag wine days, either.

Which I kinda have a greater disdain for than QR codes.

On 08/29, William Allen - Simple Hedonisms wrote:

We are all entitled to opinions. smile There are people who don’t like them, but the Net nor Twitter has no master, and the benefit of millions of impressions per (again properly used/organized) event have been significant. Guessing you don’t care for social media overall?

On 08/29, Jeff wrote:

William,

I’m in digital marketing as a profession.  Social is a subset of digital, it’s not inclusive of digital.  QRs and hashtag marketing are two very small, low value items that I think have mindshare that outpace their value.

On 08/29, Mark Smith wrote:

Jeff – your arguments are based upon opinions not any facts. And, yes we use QR an access method to various mobile web services.

‘ … wineries are spending time and cycles on QR codes and nobody is using them.’ Really? How would you know that? You don’t.

‘…. no traction with early adopting consumers means no tipping point.’ Data does not suggest that you are correct that there is no traction among early adopting consumers.

‘ …. she doesn’t know or care about QRs.  That’s the reality.’ How you can make this statement with any conviction whatsoever I don’t know.

This is about six months old but contains the facts that support the premise that QR is not going away soon http://www.medialifemagazine.com/artman2/publish/Out_of_Home_19/Your-client-using-QR-codes-in-ads.asp

And, don’t confuse QR as an access methodology and marketing/informational adjunct with QR as the basis for an ad campaign in and of itself. QR is a tool to quickly provide access to mobile marketing web services apps, information and other content -  it’s best use case is not as the center point of an ad campaign. Maybe that is what you should be writing about?

It is relatively low cost -  to the point of being free depending upon how you use it – 100% under the marketers control and it is universally available to consumers for free. Because of those characteristics it will not be replaced any time soon with label recognition or NFC. And we already can provide geolocation and POS services through QR.

On 08/29, Lisa wrote:

I am not a fan of QR codes for wine (and wrote a blog post detailing why a couple weeks ago at http://marriedtowine.com/2011/08/03/on-qr-codes-and-wine/). The only useful instance of QR codes that I have been exposed to (from an anti-gadget consumer standpoint) is for airline check-in.

On 08/29, Mark smith wrote:

Aram -  aside from the fact that you have tried unsuccessfully to hijack this comment thread for self promotion ... you are dead wrong on this statement ‘That is why Calvin Cline runs bill board sized QR code ads because it’s impossible to get a clear read with older or commonly available cell phones.  That is why anyone who has done a QR code campaign has had disappointing results, or let’s just say many fewer interactions than they would have liked.’

They run billboard sized ads so that people can scan them from street level ... it’s a billboard! They were actually a tongue in cheek response to the backlash they were having against their overtly racy billboard ads. You scanned to view content that the ads could never display. CK ran QR in magazine ads to connect to augmented reality promotions starting in 2010.

On 08/29, Jeff wrote:

Mark—

The web site that you linked to in your profile: http://qr4wine.com/customers.php
has a nice client list. 

How about sharing some analytics baselined against campaign success metrics?

I’m not opposed to being wrong.  I’ve been writing this site for nearly six years and I’ve had as many misses as hits, but in order to be swayed, it’s got to be more than you arguing my opinion because your opinion is different.  I get enough of that in national politics.

Jeff

On 08/29, Mark Smith wrote:

Jeff - I believe your mistake is conflating poor executions with the broader tactic of QR marketing. Just because I see a lot of bad TV ads doesn’t mean I discount the whole medium of television advertising.

And I cringe at your use of the word ‘campaign’ – which I think is a common myopia related to QR codes. As I stated we are not big proponents of QR as the basis for an ad campaign. I think this is where there is great disillusionment with QR amongst marketers and consumers. It is best used for serving mobile web applications and for delivering informational and other content and dtc promotions – not ad campaigns. It should always be present and available. It should not be the focal point.

In the above context it is a great tool for wine marketers. QR makes it easy to instigate a call to action and for consumers to get instant access to the information or content they are seeking. The value proposition of QR in this context does not necessarily translate into a number of scans in a finite period of time.

While your challenge is interesting we do not see QR being used in the wine vertical for promotions much if at all. So ‘baseline against campaign success metrics’ does not apply IMO – if I understand what you are asking for. If we are talking about increases in scans over time post distribution of the QR code that is more interesting and more appropriate. We see a definite pick up in click traffic the longer a code is in circulation – more importantly scans increasing at an increasing rate.

When I have time I will assemble some data from the wine vertical and will post it. Will it meet your criterion for success and influence your thinking … I don’t know.

BTW, NFC is still a long way off… given the average cell phone contract is 2yrs… and currently only one phone in US has the chip—we’re likely 3-5 years away from any kind of NFC implementation. Until then, QR is available today, inexpensive, so why wouldn’t a smart marketer take advantage of it?

What is happening NOW is that users are downloading the scanning apps (or they’re coming pre-installed on their phones), and major marketers are integrating the codes into their campaigns (and educating consumers about them in the process).

And looking at survey statistics from more mature Japanese market gives indicators of the possibilities in the U.S. (data from AT&T)

Key Mobile Barcode Stats (Japan):
•  86% of consumers scan 4 or more times a month
•  81% of consumers scan for discounts and coupons
•  73% of scans occur on websites
•  67% scan to navigate to a website rather than typing the URL
•  52% scan ads seeking more information
•  39% scan to win prizes

On 08/29, Jeff wrote:

Mark,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments today—it’s not much fun if everybody agrees with me and double-bonus because I can always appreciate well-time usage of words like “conflating.
 
That said, your use of Japanese QR stats is apples and oranges and you DO have a dog in the fight which might steel your resolve to protect your work and/or business.

However, as gracious host of this site, I’ll give you the last word with your above comment.

On 08/29, Todd Hansen wrote:

I frequently scan barcodes when I’m shopping, but not QR codes.  Why?  The QR code is under the control of the manufacturer.  With my phone’s barcode scanner, I get product reviews and a price list for competing retailers.  Similarly, when I’m shopping for wine, I tend to check wineaccess.com to check prices and I’ll check reviews from the publications and cellartracker—sometimes I’ll visit the winery website to see, e.g., percent of new oak, but it is just as easy to use Google voice search to find what I’m looking for as it is to use a QR code to read the propaganda that is being pushed to me by the company.  When it comes to wine, imho, QR codes are probably even less useful than glossy magazine inserts.

On 08/29, Larry Chandler wrote:

People can disagree about wines, marketing, technology. It seems odd that there is so much hostility about QR Codes, pro and con. Why? It will or won’t succeed, and if not something else will come along. Seems like politics is infecting the wine world too. Oh, well.

On 08/30, 1WineDude wrote:

Thanks for getting us thinking (as always!).  Beware the fallacy of small numbers, bro - asking ourselves what we’d do with QR codes is one thing, asking thousands to get a statistically relevant sample is quite another.  IN my case, I haven’t done it yet because I lacked a device that could do it (readers have since sent me some old iPod touch devices with cameras, god bless ‘em, so now I can give this a try).

On 08/30, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Reading this article is like going back in time to 1996—to when the author began his career as a marketer. Can you just hear the cogent, data-driven arguments against this internet thing, which only 11 percent of the *developed world* population could access, and even then only poorly? When websites were disaster grounds of poor user experiences and good ideas gone wrong? When the majority of innovations we take for granted today—web browsers, blogs, e-commerce, Wikipedia, internet search, cloud computing, anything mobile, social media, etc.—didn’t exist, and in some cases were still years away from the honor of being denigrated by marketing experts as useless, let alone from becoming a part of the fabric of our lives?

From a universal standpoint, this is a humbling article for all of us. For what no doubt began as a sincere attempt to warn of the dangers of excess enthusiasm about mobile tagging now stands mostly as another example—with countless precedent—of an individual who is uncomfortable with being forced to adapt to something new and unfamiliar, who would prefer to focus on weaknesses instead of potential. It gives me chills, because I know that I am guilty of the same thing in many aspects of my life—and the fact that luminaries such as Albert Einstein, Thomas Watson, Bill Gates, and countless others are guilty of the same thing doesn’t make me feel any better.

From a marketing standpoint, this article is less forgivable in that it commits the cardinal sin of marketing—focusing on ourselves and not the market. Because what is new and novel to those of use with 15 years of experience in marketing will inevitably become the rule for the future majority (in terms of population and purchasing power). You don’t need comScore to tell you that people under 30 have been both wired and wireless for their entire adult lives, while people under 20 know nothing else (and not just in developed countries, but increasingly globally as well). To such people, the utility of mobile tagging doesn’t need to be explained in 60 seconds or 6—this new strategy for distributing information just makes sense. 

And somewhere there is a 22 year old with 1 month of marketing experience who “gets” this without even thinking about it. That person is not occupying their time developing arguments against QR codes but with perfecting their use. Mobile tagging will come of age with them, leaving them in the position to crap on the next “useless” technology that comes along.

On 08/30, Jeff wrote:

Thomas,

Thanks for the comment:

Re:  “...of an individual who is uncomfortable with being forced to adapt to something new and unfamiliar, who would prefer to focus on weaknesses instead of potential.”

You would do well to read a post I wrote a week and 1/2 ago about the six thinking hats, as well.  Surely, I couldn’t be guilty of not following my own advice, right? 

The point of the post isn’t for people who have never read this blog before to see a Tweet and then come in with a perspective from the entire technology landscape.

It’s to look at QRs from the perspective of the wine business, the amount of mindshare it has in the wine business and its relative value for wineries that have limited resources both people and financial.

Within that view, QRs are a waste of time and energy, in my opinion.  This is an opinion that isn’t shared by everybody, including those that have commented here.

Jeff

On 08/30, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Fair enough, Jeff. Although I would counter that many of your stated arguments against the utility of QR codes for wine marketing are actually arguments against current QR code technology and practices. If there is some unique characteristics of wine marketing and wine consumers that make both intrinsically poor targets for QR codes, I am struggling to identify them in your article. I admit to being an industry outsider, so perhaps these characteristics are implied and I’m missing them.

As a technologist and business person, I can note two interesting things about your potential substitutes.

1. Pattern recognition technology could be useful as a substitute—after all labels are unique and there are already several mobile apps that help identify wines based on labeling. But my concern about this technology is—what happens after the scan? Specifically, how can the winery or wine marketing pro control the information provided next? The fact is, they cannot—the destination will likely be determined by the app doing the scanning, which in turn means that a customer is as likely to go to a third-party (or even a competitor site) than the winery’s site. What does the winery do? I’m guessing they’re not going to develop and promote their own app and hope all customers use it (a logical fallacy). Or they will end up having to pay the third-parties for placement and favorable review, creating a Yelp-like problem (in fact, this is the logical business model for a company like Vivino). But more likely they will just be forced to compete on consumer reviews—great for the consumers, but not great for the wineries.

2. NFC addresses the control issue in #1, but at the literal cost of a new issue: the cost of adding an NFC chip to every bottle they produce. I may be wrong—the technology is very new. But NFC requires two chips to communicate. This isn’t an issue at POS—a retailer has a chip that communicates with the chips in a smartphone. But at POD, is it feasible to have every wine bottle include its on chip? Particularly compared to the low cost of just printing a QR code on a label? Probably not—and my bet would be on consumers embracing scanning codes before wineries embrace chips on wine bottles.

Regardless, interesting times. And thank for the discussion!

On 09/02, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Great article and great comments. I can’t imagine why people have become so worked up over something that hasn’t really proven itself other than being an ancillary website linker for wineries. I have several issues with QR codes from the industry perspective.

1. Aging of wine- Let’s so QR codes don’t really catch on in full or a new tech is developed such as NFC and it goes the way of the dinosaur. Then we are left with a 4 year old bottle in our cellar with a QR code that may not even work anymore. But then, if we’ve already bought the bottle do we even care that it’s there still?

2. As slow and far behind the wine industry tends to be in it’s marketing, what happens when every bottle has a QR code? A lot of the charm (and this is just an opinion) of a QR code is not everything has it. So when you do find one it tends to peek more interest. If there are rows of them, people may stop caring and be overloaded with the idea of having to take the time to check each one. Imagine going to the grocery store to grab a bottle for dinner. If you weren’t sold on anything before you got there, it could take up to 10-20 minutes of watching videos or reading info to learn more about a bottle you won’t care about in two days.

Just some thoughts and opinions from a 28 year old apple freak and tech nerd who doesn’t need a QR code to tell him what to do.

On 09/02, Brent wrote:

@Dane

Point #1 you listed I’d have to totally disagree. It’s not the QR code you have an issue with on the four year old wine bottle in your cellar, it’s the execution. Is it the QR code’s fault the URL isn’t working? Nope, it’s the marketer’s fault the link isn’t working on the website; you would have the exact same problem if the label had a simple URL on it instead of a QR code and it didn’t work.

If the marketer has any sense, he’ll realize the link needs to work. The QR code acts as a way to quickly jump right to the specific link (intead of manually typing it out in your phone browser). For cellared wine, QR code or not, wouldn’t it be great to have a link that would jump you to a page letting you know how the wine is aging right now (not per each second, but even if it’s for the year)? Letting you know if you should drink it soon, or keep it tucked away another few years?

Point #2, will it lose it’s charm if it’s everywhere? Yes/No. It won’t be new/hip/trendy, but it will simply be a quick way for people access more information. People will won’t scan a QR code because it’s a QR code, but they will scan what they are interested in. If it’s everywhere, it will be second nature to scan items you want to know about.

On 09/02, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

@Brent

I see what you’re saying about the first point. The look of the QR code isn’t the bother but really if the marketer can maintain it. That is a great idea also about giving info on the aging. Wineries should even be providing this info on their sites to begin with and linking to it through QR would actually be a productive use of the technology.

On 09/02, aram kovach wrote:

Just to be sure we are all in agreement.  QR codes require a macro capable cell phone. if you are trying to reach everyone this is not a good solution.  QR codes also require that you install an app.  If you cant or don’t know how to install an app on your phone because you are one of the p of people out there who does not have a smart phone you can’t participate.  So if you want you use QR codes great, they will only reach a percent of the say 0 of the people with smart phones.  Lastly you will only get a subset of those since they have to install a QR code reader to participate, and furthermore just sending them to URL which is most often designed for the PC or web is a poor user experience.  That is just one of the many reasons QR codes have had a bad wrap and well in our opinion are not a good solution.  Probably the most compelling reason not to use them is that they distract from the brand as an ugly abstraction.

On 09/02, Larry Chandler wrote:

@aram, that is a totally irrelevant argument. No one approach ever reaches everyone. It would be like saying you shouldn’t advertise on Fox or in the NY Times because not everyone sees or reads those.

So if you reach some people this way, it’s a good thing. And you reach other people another way. It depends on how many you reach relative to the expense of doing so.

QR Codes are still too new to know if they work well or not. Perhaps not. But it certainly is worth the effort to find out. And because some people can’t figure out how to use them, then you try another approach to reach those.

Oh, and if you are using a QR code for mobile phones, then you are wasting your time if you don’t direct them to a mobile location. People will figure that part out real fast.

On 12/05, Arthur Kukri wrote:

Dude…I totally agree with you on this one.  The QR code nonsense just isn’t going to catch on.  They’ve already abandoned the original iteration and have come up with the color one with the little triangles…but I can’t see that going far either.  It would only work where printing is available in color.  Eventually, you’ll just be able to scan the label on a bottle and just the picture will give you all the data you need….not that I see people scanning the packaging on everything they buy at the grocery store.  Milk is milk is milk…ya know?

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