Heinz turns red from saucy QR code – an industry viewpoint

You may have heard recently about the dreadful marketing faux pas which really did turn the bods at Heinz 50 shades of red.

Between ketchup-738598_6402012-2014, the brand ran a competition which would allow the winner to design their own label.

Consumers could only find out more details about the competition through scanning the QR code (which looks like a bar code) on the bottle, using their smartphone.  The QR code would automatically then take them through to a specially designed website, giving them more information and the chance to enter the competition.

Unfortunately it seems, Heinz allowed its ownership of the URL associated with this promotion to run out this year – and it was subsequently purchased by a very adult site called Fundorado.

Somehow, a German guy got hold of an out of date bottle of aforementioned ketchup, decided to try out the competition – and presumably got a lot more than he bargained for!  He complained on his Facebook page, leaving the Heinz social media team to mop up the mess.

It has been reported that Fundorado was delighted with the free advertising and also responded to the man’s Facebook post, offering him a free year’s subscription 😉

QR codes, although not my area of expertise, are now exceptionally popular tools, used in marketing campaigns.  So I asked my friends over at communications agency Lazy Grace, what they thought of the fracas.

“My first thought is to wonder if it’s true and if it is, it’s a belter!” says MD John Tait.  “This is a stupid mistake that could have been avoided simply by Heinz maintaining the registration of the URL for as long as the QR code was in existence.  When you create the QR code, you link it to a URL permanently, so you don’t have the option of redirecting it”.

“Although we’ve never personally seen an example of this nature, we have seen lots of instances where people place ads, produce literature and print promotional gifts using the wrong URL (often as simple as a .com/.co.uk mix up).  This problem can be eased somewhat by patching it through to the website, but it shows how easy it is to turn a planned, effective campaign into a costly mistake.

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