Social Media Crisis: An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge and they are extremely popular of late.

To round out my Social Media Blunder series, I am featuring an infographic by Patricia Redsicker of   How to Avoid A Social Media Crisis [Infographic] characterizes Jeremiah Owyang’s work on social business hierarchy of needs.

Altimeter Blog:  “Research Report: Be Prepared by Climbing the Social Business Hierarchy of Needs“ by Jeremiah Owyang  | Download  the complete report.  August 31, 2011

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

Now more than ever, it’s important for companies to listen to their customers on social media yet according to an infographic from Get Satisfaction and Column Five, 50 percent of companies say it’s not a core function of their business.  With the rise of power to the consumer via social media, companies will need to invest in listening.

United Breaks Guitars” is a protest song by CanadianmusicianDave Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell. It chronicles a real-life experience of how his guitar was broken during a trip on United Airlines in 2008, and the subsequent reaction from the airline.  Over 12 million people have watched the YouTube video.

LA Fitness endures social media nightmare | via The Drum

Listening: Recognition Through Active Monitoring

  • Whether you take this on yourself or entrust it to a reputation management firm, it’s essential for you to know when trouble is brewing.
  • Listen all the time, not only on weekdays.

More on “listening” via @LaSandraBrill, Senior Manager Social Media at Cisco : [SlideShare] Cisco and the Social Web: Listening and Responding to Your Customers and Prospects

The Science of Listening in Social Media and Blogs via Kuno Creative

InformationWeek: Sentiment Analysis: How Companies Now Listen To The Web and 7 Ways Sentiment Is Hard To Decipher Online

More on Infographics

Social media is reinventing how business is done – via


Related Posts

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Cafélina uses Royalty free images


Don’t Just Keep Your Head Above Water, Take Tweeting Lessons

Don’t Just Keep Your Head Above Water, Take Tweeting Lessons

Social media is a powerful way for politicians to distribute information and also engage with constituents in real time. With that comes the risks of magnified and costly missteps.

After sporting his personal Twitter handle for less than 3 weeks, a Québec politician recently found himself in troubled waters.

François Legault tweeted that:

“girls attach less importance to salary than do boys”.

Loose Tweets Sink Ships

Reaction to the controversial tweet was swift and included qualifiers such as “dinosaur”, “sexist” and “clumsy politician”.

Guy A Lepage, talk show host, actor, comedian, and producer (with Oprah-like influence) jokingly tweeted that

“Monsieur Legault’s Twitter account has been hacked!!!! (in any case, that’s my hope for him)”.

In turn, Monsieur Legault fired back at his critics:

Caption: “What’s sexist about saying that women attach less importance to salary than men when making a career choice?”

Beware of the Siren Song of Self-Justification

The resistance to apologizing does all sorts of bad things professionally.  The longer issues are left unaddressed, the deeper the resentment and the harder it is to move forward.

Monsieur Legault didn’t back down to any of his critics and a review of his timeline shows a multitude of defensive clarifications. No apology or “Politwoops ” retraction for him.


The original version of Politwoops was developed by the Open State Foundation of The Netherlands to follow the country’s members of parliament and town council representatives. Several international versions of the site exist.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Une tempête dans un ver d’eau – storm in a tea cup

Prevent Tweet Storms

Simply introducing people to a new platform and then leaving them to their own devices is a recipe for disaster.

With the prospect of a provincial election on the horizon, Monsieur Legault and other Québec politicians, and their respective parties, should hone their social media skills … and possibly opt for some coaching to make the most of their foray in social media waters.

Every organization needs to have some way of monitoring social media either by humans or by automated tools so that they can be alerted to a crisis situation and be ready to respond.   Keep an eye on social media and be prepared to respond if something needs immediate attention.


OOPS:  More on social media blunders and how to recover from them

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Social Media Incident in Wild Rose Country

The wild rose is the official flower of the province of Alberta.

In a recent too-close-to-call election campaign, Alberta’s Progressive Conservative (PC) party saw how quickly things can go off the social rails.  A PC staffer took to her personal Twitter account in response to a promise from the Wildrose Party to introduce new programs and services aimed at young families.

From her personal Twitter account, Amanda Wilkie directed a tweet at Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose party:

“If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own?”

Immediate Outrage

Danielle Smith had undergone several unsuccessful fertility treatments in an effort to have children.   PC leader Alison Redford ended up apologizing to Smith.  Within hours, Wilkie removed  the tweet and deleted her account. She was promptly fired.


Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Beware of virtuous and destructive cycles.  Don’t let social spiral out of control.  Invest in social media coaching for you and your brand.  Don’t just keep your head above water, take tweeting lessons.

Simply Providing Social Tools = Failure

              • A “provide and pray” approach has about a 90% failure rate
              • Radical benefits result from delivering social solutions
              • A social media solution is the right tools targeted at a defined purpose

Source:  “Taking a Strategic Approach to Social Media”, Gartner Research Webinar by Carol Rozwell and Nick Gall


Additional Insights

United-States:  An Election on Facebook: Old Media Enters New World via NPR [video, audio, transcript]

Do “likes” on Facebook translate to votes? Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn of examine that issue with Ray Suarez and also explore why traditional news outlets are partnering with social media sites this election year.

Instant Friends – Just Add Water

Don’t be fooled by false friends … it has been suggested that the Romney campaign is buying followers to catch up to President Obama’s giant social footprint?

This Is The Face Of Mitt Romney’s Fake Twitter Followers by Elizabeth Flock via US News

Social Media Smoke and Mirrors: Buying and Selling Fake Followers (Politicians Do It, Too) via @MarketingProfs includes [infographic]

The Dynamic Duo

@MichelleObama: Saturday, people all across the country will be registering voters and reaching out to their neighbors. Join in: –mo

Related Posts

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

TV Talk Show Host Caught in Double Whammy Twitter Gaffe

Margaret Thatcher Is Not Dead …

TV Talk Show Host Caught in Double Whammy Twitter Gaffe

One of the key benefits of social media is that your messages can reach more people faster. But this also means that your mistakes can too.

A social gaffe can lead to an awkward situation and can be quite embarrassing especially if it’s as a result of your own actions.  Make sure you have your story straight – go social without the facts and you’ll have egg on your face.

Mario Dumont is a television personality and former Québec politician.  He was a member of the National Assembly of Québec from 1994 to 2009. He now hosts a daily news and talk show.  In May 2012, Mario Dumont wrongly twitted that Margaret Thatcher was dead, by tweeting the following message:

 R.I.P. Margaret Thatcher, a woman of vision and decisiveness. A rarity,


Related Posts: 

OOPS : Best of Social Media Blunders and Recovering from a Social Media Gaffe

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


The road to hell is often paved with good intentions

The same medium that made your mistake widely visible can help broadcast your apology.  Be up-front about the mistake you made and apologize.

Despite having the best of intentions, Monsieur Dumont faltered on many fronts:

  • He was deceived by a spoof Twitter account attributed to former French first lady Carla Bruni.  The fake-Bruni falsely announced the death of “Margareth Thatcher”, notice the misspelled first name with a “th” at the end of Margaret.

Key take-aways: beware of rumors, famous fakes and misspellings

  • He caused outrage since people took offence to him calling Margaret Thatcher a “rare” woman of vision and decisiveness.  This was interpreted as an unintended slight to women.

Key take-away: carefully word your tweets; it’s amazing how much trouble you can get into with as little as 140 characters


7 Tips on How to Apologize in the Business World by Tom Searcy


Apologies Galore

  • Monsieur Dumont retracted himself and issued an apology in which he explains being duped by the fake Bruni Twitter account.
“The news about Mrs. Thatcher — not a reliable source. News came from a fake Carla Bruni account. Sorry.”
  • LesNews, a French speaking Twitter feed that reports breaking news via social media also found itself apologizing for the gaffe.  They had reported based on Monsieur Dumont’s initial Thatcher tweet.

The resistance to apologizing does all sorts of bad things professionally.  The longer issues are left unaddressed, the deeper the resentment and the harder it is to move forward.

Unintended Benefits

  • In a follow up tweet, Monsieur Dumont said he was surprised by news reports about his mistake – and by the number of new Twitter followers he now has.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


You can run, but you can’t hide

Politwoops: deleted tweets from politicians

We all tweet things we don’t mean to share, but now – thanks to Politwoops – politicians have no way to hide them. The service allows you to discover tweets that politicians shared and then promptly deleted.

The original version of Politwoops was developed by the Open State Foundation of The Netherlands to follow the country’s members of parliament and town council representatives. The US version is operated by the Sunlight Foundation.

Several other international versions of the site exist though not operated by Sunlight.


Don’t be an Autrich

… although sometimes you might want to.

Did you Tweet something, then change your mind? Don’t worry! It’s easy to delete one of your Twitter updates. Keep in mind that you can only delete tweets that you have made, you can’t delete other users’ tweets from your timeline and you can’t delete someone else’s retweet (RT) of your post.

How to delete one of your Tweets:

  1. Log in to
  2. Visit your Profile page.
  3. Locate the Tweet you want to delete.
  4. Hover your mouse over the message and click Delete.

Watch a YouTube video demonstration.

Facebook lets you edit your comments by Nancy Blair via USA Today


Know when and how to apologize

Remember that despite your best efforts, mistakes happen at some point.  Be sure to have a plan to respond to both positive and negative events.  Apologizing opens up the doors to communication, which allows you to reconnect and move on more easily.  Apologizing doesn’t have to be difficult, and can come from a place of strength. Learn the art of apologizing effectively and you may find a significant reduction in the negative effects of highly charged situations.

When everyone can see what you’re doing, you need to act with transparency, honesty and credibility.  In doing so, you’ll avoid having eggs thrown at you.


Related Posts

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


The Ultimate Glossary: 120 Social Media Marketing Terms Explained via HubSpot

Cafélina uses Royalty free images

PotPourri Food For Thought : Mary Meeker on Internet 2012

Hungry for a view into the future of the Internet?

Check out Mary Meeker’s take on the latest Internet trends via a massive (112 slides) slide deck (May 2012, updated annually).  This year’s report has five sections that cover the following:

  1. basic statistics,
  2. re-imagination (of nearly everything),
  3. read on the economy,
  4. USA Inc. ( a non-partisan look at the U.S. government (and its financials) from a business perspective), and
  5. “bubble” (or not?).

View Mary Meeker D10 Interview (Video, 17 minutes) via AllThingsD

The re-imagination section includes several examples of business models through to what Kleiner Perkins’ refers to as:

the “third wave of innovation,” combining social networking, mobile and e-commerce.

In December, 2010 Mary Meeker left her position as a managing director at Morgan Stanley and head of the bank’s global technology research team to become a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.  Meeker was named “one of the ten smartest people in tech” by “Fortune” magazine in 2010.

More on Internet 2012:

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter

Send suggestions for future Potpourri Food for Thought features.

Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

Elton is Right: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

Social Media Blunders: It’s best to think in terms of “when” instead of “if” situations

Everything you do, and everything you don’t do, communicates about your brand. A mistake speaks volumes about your (in)ability to manage social media effectively.  Remember that despite your best efforts, mistakes happen at some point.

You said something, disclosed confidential information or shared images that are not supportive of your business.  How do you recover from such a slip up?

Irrespective of its origins, you must respond quickly to a social media crisis. Successful crisis management depends largely on developing a planned and integrated communications approach.


Social Media Preparedness References:


You’ve Blundered

Whether you accidentally tweet an insensitive message or a customer posts a disparaging video about your product, don’t panic. The starting point is to apologize via the same medium where the highly visible mistake originated. Offer an apology in public comments. Explain how you will take steps to ensure that the situation doesn’t happen again.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter

Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.  George Bernard Shaw

Action and Apology: It’s a two-step process

  1. You must first publicly acknowledge that there is an issue whether you are at fault or not.
  2. Apologize: this is an opportunity for you to separate out the past and future through problem and resolution.

Elton is Right:  Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

For both romantic and professional relationships, apologizing has got to be one of the most difficult things to do. To put yourself in the right frame of mind, consider the lyrics to“Sorry seems to be the hardest word”written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin; recorded by Elton John and released in 1976.

    • What I got to do to make you love me?
    • What I got to do to make you care?
    • What do I do when lightning strikes me?
    • And I wake to find that you’re not there?
    • What I got to do to make you want me?
    • What I got to do to be heard?
    • What do I say when it’s all over?
    • Sorry seems to be the hardest word
    • It’s sad, so sad
    • It’s a sad, sad situation
    • And it’s getting more and more absurd
    • It’s so sad so sad
    • Why can’t we talk it over?
    • Oh it seems to me
    • Sorry seems to be the hardest word
    • What I do to make you want me?
    • What I got to do to be heard?
    • What do I say when it’s all over?
    • Sorry seems to be the hardest word
    • It’s sad, so sad
    • It’s a sad sad situation
    • And it’s gotten more and more absurd
    • It’s sad, so sad
    • Why can’t we talk it over?
    • Oh it seems to me
    • Sorry seems to be the hardest word
    • Yeh…..sorry
    • Nah…….
    • Sorry
    • What do I do to make you love me?
    • What I got to do to be heard?
    • What do I do when lightning strikes me?
    • Yeah…..What do I got to do?
    • What do I got to do?
    • When sorry seems to be the hardest word


Related Posts

OOPS : Best of Social Media Blunders

 Recovering from a Social Media Gaffe

 Blended Communications for Better Social Media Crisis Management

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Making an apology can be complex but it has to sound simple and sincere

It is very simple to apologize but constructing the right words to say will take some time. Whenever possible, personalize your response to a specific person or through the face / voice of your corporation.  Be sure to strike the right tone.

Consider the following references and excerpts on the subject of apologies.

Three Little Words Every Leader Needs to Learn” by Ernest L. Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration Rosabeth Moss Kanter – Harvard Business School.

  • There are three little words that extraordinary leaders know how to say, and I’m not thinking of “I love you” (but those are pretty good). The magic words areI was wrong.”  Husbands and wives know that saying those words to each other can be even more endearing than endearments. When leaders say them to their teams in a timely fashion, they build confidence and can move on to a better path.
  • The simple sentence “I was wrong” is the hardest for leaders to utter and the most necessary for them to learn.
  • If a leader cannot admit being wrong in a timely fashion, he or she can never correct mistakes, change direction, and restore success. The consequences get worse the longer the denial prevails.
  • Of course, we don’t want leaders who are forced to say “I was wrong” too often.
  • Perhaps apology training will become a growth business. Actually, I hope not. But I do hope that smart leaders will be more alert to problems, and if mistakes are made, they can utter the three magic words and take corrective action.

Smart Apologies Should Be Strategicby Rosanna M. Fiske via Harvard Business School Blog Network

  • Throwing half-hearted apologies at an issue will just exacerbate a festering problem — and people will view it as an obvious and empty attempt to quiet the masses.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


 Know When and How to Apologize

While you might want publicity to be the end result of your public relations effort, this is not always the case. You don’t always govern the source and means of public attention. Publicity is not always positive and is not always under the control of your organization.  You and your brand are open to general observation.  Be sure to have a plan to respond to both positive and negative events.  Know when and how to apologize.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. Bruce Lee

Additional Insights: 


Lina Arseneault is Millennial at heart. Follow her on Twitter

Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

Cross Media Optimization with QR Codes

Mobile social networking is surging and calls for new user paradigms and behaviors … but nothing kills faster than poor execution.  Mobile methods to engage the customer are expanding, making control of the engagement a higher priority for maximum reach and effective conversion.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the usefulness of QR Codes.  Naysayers usually narrowly describe them as “QR codes in ads”.  Before deeming QR codes ineffective, consider them in a broader spectrum than B2C advertising.  Armed with a specific goal and positioned in the right medium, they can be highly effective.

Be very clear with your mobile-social goals:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?

  • Who are you trying to reach?

  • What’s your success target?

x2x universes | What’s your perspective? and how can mobile-social support your marketing goals?

B2B : Business-to-business (B2B) describes commerce transactions between businesses, such as between a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or between a wholesaler and a retailer.

Business-to-government (B2G, sometimes BtA or business-to-administration) is a derivative of B2B marketing and often referred to as a market definition of “public sector marketing” which encompasses marketing products and services to various government levels – including federal, state and local – through integrated marketing communications techniques such as strategic public relations, branding, marcom, advertising, and web-based communications

e-Government:  The four types of e-government services are Government-to-Citizen (G2C), Government-to-Business (G2B), Government-to-Employee (G2E), and Government-to-Government (G2G).

Business-to-Consumer (B2C, sometimes BtC)   is a term that describes communication and trade relations between companies and private individuals (consumers).

BYOD : Here, There and Everywhere

Coupled with the BYOD movement overtaking the business world, there’s an opportunity to capitalize on mobile-social behavior in many settings.

  • Bring your own device (BYOD) is an alternative strategy allowing employees, business partners and other users to use a personally selected and purchased client device to execute enterprise applications and access data. Source: Gartner Glossary.

For 2012, Deloitte forecasts that smartphones will influence $159 billion in retail sales.

Deloitte’s Study is based on a survey of United States consumers about how they use their smartphones to shop today and measures the impact of smartphones on in-store sales. This includes in-store sales driven by consumers’ store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or other mobile application use.

Deloitte Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2012

Kasey Lobaugh, direct-to-consumer and retail multichannel practice leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP, New York comments on the findings:

  • Smartphones will influence 19 percent of retailers’ sales by 2016
  • Smartphone shoppers are 14 percent more likely to convert and make a purchase in the store than non-smartphone users.
  • If a consumer is using a retailer’s mobile app, they are 21 percent more likely to convert in the store
    • “This shows the power of owning that interface with the consumer as opposed to allowing them to go to a third party interface while in the store.”

Read more at Mobile Commerce Daily


Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter.  Check out All Things QR Codes


CaféLina QRart code designed by Jean-Michel Roblin of | scan drives to CaféLina blog

More QR Market Research

Gartner Webcast Archive : The Gartner Hype Cycle Special Report: What’s Hot for 2012 hosted by Jackie Fenn, VP & Gartner Fellow Emeritus.

QRart:  According to Gartner (as of July 2011), QR/color code is positioned in the early “slope of enlightenment” stage with an 2-5 years estimated time frame to full mainstream adoption (i.e. reaching plateau of productivity).

Following are 3 examples of cross-media optimization with QR Codes:

        1. Walgreens: mobile app adoption

        2. Fandango: mobile tickets sales

        3. Shoebox: increase Facebook fan base


In its qrcode101 approach, Walgreens cleverly directs customers to the Walgreens’ Mobile App with built-in QR scanner versus an independent QR scan application.

  • For more on Walgreens Cross-Media Optimization, check out the following SlideShare Companion.


“Mobile purchases now comprise 27 percent of Fandango’s overall ticket sales.”  |  Jessica Yi, chief product officer at Fandango | July 2012

Source:  Mobile Commerce Daily

Shoebox aims to increase its Facebook Fan Base

What QR code integrations have caught your eye?

Additional Information:

Related Posts:


Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter.  Check out All Things QR Codes


Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

Blended Communications for Better Social Media Crisis Management

Successful Crisis Management = Planned and Integrated Communications Approach

In her books “Les Médias Sociaux 101” and “Les Médias Sociaux 201” (Social Media 101 and 102 respectively), en français), social media expert Michelle Blanc includes many cases studies that illustrate the dos’ and don’ts of public relations crisis management in a social media era.

One of them focuses on Maple Leaf Foods, a leading consumer packaged food company; headquartered in Toronto with operations across Canada and in the United States.  In August 2008, deaths were linked to listeriosis from contaminated meat originating from a Maple Leaf Foods plant.  The company reacted quickly and without hesitation.


Related posts:  OOPS : Best of Social Media Blunders and Recovering from a Social Media Gaffe

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Investigative reporter Abby Martin wrote a blog post that chronicles the steps taken by Maple Leaf Foods in response to the crisis (How They Handled This).  She concludes with the following sobering comment:

However, ultimately, the company’s swift and thorough response will not be considered enough. Because their actions will be of small comfort to those who have been sickened or who have lost loved ones to this nasty bacterial outbreak.

For the most part, Ms. Blanc agrees with Ms. Martin’s assessment of Maple Leaf Foods’ operational execution from a traditional crisis management standpoint (newspapers, press release, web site updates) and that the company reacted swiftly to the situation.

However, Ms. Blanc carries her analysis a bit further and exposes where the company fell short on the digital and social media fronts.  While Twitter and Facebook were not yet widely embraced by corporations in 2008, she argues that a corporate blog and digital media integration would have helped Maple Leaf Foods fair better in its operational response to the crisis.


Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter


Ms. Blanc points out that a regularly nurtured blog helps with search engine referencing and develops strong ties with key constituents.  The company would have greatly benefited from a social media listening strategy (proactive reputation monitoring) and a corporate blog (to complement press release and regular updates).  A response via a corporate blog is easily passed around and has some degree of permanence.  However, you don’t want to create a blog just for the reply.


InformationWeek: Sentiment Analysis: How Companies Now Listen To The Web

and   7 Ways Sentiment Is Hard To Decipher Online


Not only did Maple Leaf Foods suffer from poor search engine indexing, it failed to purchase key words such as “maple leaf” and “listeriosis”.  As it turns out, these key words had been purchased by a law firm seeking support in a class action suit against the company. Consequently, at the height of the crisis, a web search on “maple leaf” and listerioisis” weren’t optimized to the company’s response in top search engine results.  This is clearly not the type of social lessons that a company wants to learn in the midst of a crisis.


Related posts:  OOPS : Best of Social Media Blunders and Recovering from a Social Media Gaffe


Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

Potpourri Food for Thought: Facebook CEO’s Law of Social Sharing

You’re probably familiar with Moore’s Law which forecasts of the pace of silicon technology. Moore’s law was initially made in the form of an observation and forecast. The more widely it became accepted, the more it served as a goal for an entire industry.

Consider Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s law of social sharing.

Something is said to increase or decrease exponentially if its rate of change must be expressed using exponents. A graph of exponential growth would appear not as a straight line, but as a curve that continually becomes steeper.

Human sharing behavior is exponential.

To illustrate the magnitude of this concept, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gives the example of a piece of paper folded upon itself 50 times.

If you took a piece of paper and folded it on itself 50 times, how tall would it be?” He continued, “Most people would say a few feet … Turns out it goes to the moon and back 10 times … I mean it’s 2^50 * the height of the paper. It’s a small base doubling many times.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter.

Watch Mark Zuckerberg explain the concept in this videoAlexia Tsotsis is a writer at Techcrunch.  Follow her on Twitter @Alexia

Send suggestions for future Potpourri Food for Thought features.

Lina Arseneault is Millennial at heart. Follow her on Twitter.

Cafélina uses Royalty free images.

What You Should Know About QR Code Hype

Recently, I attended a live Gartner webcast “The Gartner Hype Cycle Special Report: What’s Hot for 2012” hosted by Jackie Fenn, VP & Gartner Fellow Emeritus.  In the hour long webinar, she reviewed the hottest new technologies and trends in this year’s Hype Cycles as well as which technologies will generate the most value and opportunity.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter

As it turns out, QR/color code (what I refer to as QRart) is one of the hottest opportunities with a high benefit rating. According to Gartner (as of July 2011), QR/color code is positioned in the early “slope of enlightenment” stage with an 2-5 years estimated time frame to full mainstream adoption (i.e. reaching plateau of productivity).

Pete Basiliere,Tomoko Mitani and Sandy Shen provide analysis for the QR/color code portion of the most recent Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2011 report (pages 64-65).  They note that QR code adoption has been steadily increasing in North America since late 2009.  Following are a few excerpts from that section of the report:

Advice for marketing departments: QR/color codes are more than a link to a Web page. Think through the entire campaign and ideally provide unique landing pages for each application of the QR/color code. While public disclosure of campaign successes will be limited, monitor the spread of QR-enabled mobile devices, observe how your competition is using the technology and begin testing customer reactions to the codes.

Business Impact: Relatively advanced in Asia, the use of QR codes is poised to take off in North  America once the tipping point — a sufficient number of enabled mobile phones balanced by marketing campaigns employing QR codes — is reached. QR codes have the potential, when used in an integrated marketing campaign that leverages their unique capabilities, to drive significant revenue by providing the instantaneous response to user queries that enable calls to action that print cannot offer on its own.

  • Benefit Rating: High
  • Market Penetration: 5% to 20% of target audience
  • Maturity: Early mainstream

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter

The analysts note that unlike classic QR codes that simply sit off to the side of a page and take up valuable space in printed advertisements or on product packaging, QRart can be incorporated within the overall design without detracting from the image aesthetics.

This is exemplified in the work of @YiyingLu

Custom Wall Graphics for Austrade at the Computer History Museum by @YiyingLu

You can view @YiyingLu ‘s latest projects, including ‘Custom Wall Graphics for Austrade at the Computer History Museum’ and ‘Custom Wall Graphics + Promotional Badges for Startup Debut @ CES’ at

Patrick Donnelly of QRarts captures the essence of QR/color codes perfectly when he states

“Forget everything you have heard about QR codes up to this point. The promise of QR can only begin to be realized by thinking of how they relate to both user experience and media integration. Everyone knows QR codes can help you get from A to B. However, the journey is part of a much bigger movement where mobile is converting impressions to interactions on a personal and a trackable level – which is rather remarkable.”

Read more of Patrick’s post at How to convert impressions into interactions on mobile.

Gartner’s estimation of a 2-5 year time frame to full mainstream adoption of QR/color code may reflect that, unlike what Patrick states – not “Everyone knows QR codes can help you get from A to B”.  As QR code readers become more pervasive on North American smartphones and bundled in mobile applications (e.g. Starbucks), the link from A to B will realize its full potential. Truly a visionary, Patrick Donnelly sees applications well beyond activation of print media.

Follow Lina Arseneault on Twitter

Will we soon see them appear on TV screens?

Additional References & Information:

Marketing Artfully: QRart and ‘Not So Pretty’ Implementations of QR Codes

In his 2012 social media predictions, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions forecasts that QR codes will become obsolete.  He stipulates that QR codes are “mis-applied, over-used gimmick and people will end up not trusting them”.  I agree with him that mis-applications abound but nevertheless, I think that QR codes are here to stay.  In 2012, I predict that a few shining stars will find a way to market artfully and successfully with QR codes.

Are you new to QR codes?  You can reference two CaféLina blog posts on the subject. The first one is “QR Codes: Quiet Revolution or Quite Redundant?”, it outlines QR code basics and provides 10 application examples complete with reference links. As for the second post “Encore! QR Codes: Here to Stay or Fade Away?”, it incorporates examples from the feedback I received and points to the Quiet Revolution Slide Share presentation companion.  The Slide Share material includes all the references from the original Quiet Revolution post plus 5 bonus examples including IneoScan. QRart QRart. IneoScan recommends the i-nigma reader to experience the full breath of this QRart.

In appreciation for the mention of his startup and work in “Encore! QR Codes: Here to Stay or Fade Away?”, IneoScan sent me an unexpected surprise.  Ineoscan designer extraordinaire Jean-Michel Roblin gifted me a “made in Paris” artful version of a QR code that drives to my cafélina blog. I am very grateful for this act of QRart kindness. I’ll be able to integrate it in my marketing outreach activities.

Unlike the standard black and white version, QRart is artful, colored and creative quick response (QR) code design.  QRart takes QR codes to a whole new level by blending QR code and design to allow for the artful activation of print.  To get a sense for the possibilities of designer QR codes, you can visit the following three QRart galleries:  IneoScan, and Kalvin Kleen.

Whatever your sport, hobby, cause, or business – there’s a way to contextualize a designer QR code that drives to a “call-to-action”.  The key is to “be your customer”: understand your customer and the customer journey that your QR code will take her on. You’ll be successful in your QR code application as long as you take into account the following 3 points:

  1. Mobile marketing is more actionable than other forms of web marketing
  2. QR codes are linked to mobile
  3. Design your QR customer journey with mobile in mind
Actionable Marketing
“Be your customer”: understand your customer and the customer journey that your QR code will take her on.

All too often, mis-applications of QR codes involves a poorly designed or completely overlooked mobile experience.  A mobile screen simply doesn’t have the same type of real-estate as a desktop PC.  Most web material is designed for the traditional PC viewing experience. Programming a QR code to point to a web destination intended for a PC screen is simply not as effective on a mobile screen.

I predict that along with successful QR codes applications, we will see a shift in the design of online content that favors the mobile screen.  In this regard, mobile marketing and Twitter have a lot in common.  There are 5 things to keep in mind when designing your QR codes mobile experience:

  1. Get to the point (what’s the customer offer and the call to action)
  2. Brevity is clarity (Gerry McGovern has a lot to say on that subject)
  3. Don’t strain my eyes (it’s a mobile device)
  4. Don’t make me work (drill down and scroll through = drop-off)
  5. Where’s the beef (engaging customer offer = positive reinforcement of the perceived brand value)
January 8-9 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal, page C3

The January 8-9 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal featured two book ads: “Cell 8” and “A Walk Across the Sun”.

Both ads appeared on page C3 of the newspaper and each ad had its own QR code.  The QR code for “A Walk Across the Sun” drives to a web destination that provides 4 distinct call to action options:

              1. Purchase the book
              2. What readers are saying
              3. Watch the video
              4. Read an excerpt

As for “Cell 8”, it has a ‘not so pretty’ implementation of its QR code destination.  It leads directly to an excerpt of the book and nothing else.  Is this not a missed opportunity to capitalize on an ‘actionable mobile life’ moment?  Accordingly,  “A Walk Across the Sun” gets top marks.

‘Cell 8’ and ‘Walk Across the Sun’ QR codes web destination

Also in the “not so pretty” category is Palo Alto Networks, the Santa Clara based network security company and their ad from the January 9th 2012 print edition of the Wall Street Journal.  The ad touts the company’s highly desirable position in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls.  The ad concludes with this tag line: “Get an exclusive report at or scan QR code below.”  This is essentially two vague calls to action:

  1. Go to the web site to get an exclusive report (why not say the Gartner report instead of “an exclusive report”?), and
  2. Scan the QR code (presumably to get “an exclusive report”?)

As it turns out, after many steps and screens, and providing registration information; both calls to action eventually lead to the “exclusive report”. You really have to want the exclusive report! The captured registration information results in a call-back and email follow-up.  You can see the full step by step “not so pretty” implementation unfold in the Slide Share companion to this blog post.

Starbucks makes me hopeful that 2012 will provide a few shining stars who will find a way to market artfully and successfully with QR codes.  Building on the growing adoption of its mobile application, Starbucks recently released a new version of the app that extends well beyond the “digital mobile payment” option.  The Starbucks mobile app now comes with an imbedded QR code reader (thereby overcoming one of Mark Schaefer’s main objections of having to download a QR reader). On January 13th 2012, I picked up a QR coupon after sampling the newest Starbucks coffee blend. My only criticism of Starbucks QR implementation is having to scroll down three screens before I got to “vote” for my fovorite blend.

As I see it, four factors give Starbucks steaming hot QR potential:

  1. QR Reader bundled in mobile app
  2. New Starbucks promotions with QRart (multiple ‘actionable mobile life’ moment opportunities)
  3. Tracking and metrics (Starbucks will learn and refine its approach)
  4. Customer engagement and feedback (company and customer have much to learn about each other)

In closing, as William Arruda reports in a MarketingProfs column (Personal Branding Trends for 2012 (Part 1)), according to, it’s now possible to place extremely large QR codes on the tops of buildings.  The large size codes can then be photographed by the satellites that feed Google Maps and Google Earth. Those QR codes will be digested by Google’s mapping systems and will cause companies’ logos to appear when someone looks at their building’s images.

Will 2012 be the year that we see QR codes take off in all kinds of directions?

Additional QR Information and Discussion: