Open letter to the Mayor of Kortrijk. Forget Qortrijk, think #Qartrijk.

It recently came to me that the city of ‘Kortrijk’ (Belgium) investigates successful projects in cities with QR codes. Additionally, I heard they’re mainly investigating QR codes as a way to facilitate and foster “tourism” and/or “traders”. That’s a start. But that’s not Kortrijk. It’s good to look at best practices in other cities, true. But it’s even better to have the guts to run your own experiments, sparked off by your own imagination and taking advantage of in-city talents.

Hence, I’ve decided to write an open letter to the major so to hopefully influence the policy in this topic. Of course I should have written this letter in Dutch. But unfortunately most people on this blog come from an English-speaking region – despite the fact that my English isn’t very high standard…

So here we go, an open letter to the Mayor of Kortrijk. I know he understands English.

Dear Mayor,

I’m writing an open-ended letter to ask you to turn your Qortrijk into #Qartrijk for a little while.

But first things first. I’m still waiting for an elaborated policy for the coming years in my and your city. I truly do appreciate your efforts to first consult the inhabitants (not population as you call them in your communication…#tip). I do believe this is useful. However I doubt that this is the way that participative democracy ought to function / to be organized. My view is that leaders have to come up with a vision first. A vision which is consequently elaborated into actionable projects. And it’s exactly at this lowest level – actionable projects level – that participative democracy is at stake. I could be completely wrong. So I’m very much open to arguments in favor of an early integration of “the crowd” into policy decision-making.

10 engagements are a good start.

I know you started with 10 engagements for the city and its people. And I believe those are good principles. But those same guidelines are exactly why you should consider the QR-debate in a different perspective. Especially, the below:

  • A city that listens and converses”
    As stated above #KortrijkSpreekt is a great initiative, whether it’s been organized too early or not. However, I believe the city should also listen and converse in the digital world. That’s why in one way or another this letter should be picked up by you, read by you and given feedback to the author.
  • “A city that undertakes and shares”
    The whole QR debate can be seen in a different light, one that sees the project as an enabler to entrepreneurial initiatives and facilitates the art scene while improving the city as such.
  • “A city that moves, dares and changes”
    In relation to the QR-debate this could mean that you’re really eager to run innovative experiments. Why not use this technology so to improve the traffic experience for pedestrian?
  • “A city with a vibe and enthusiasm”
    There are many talented people in the city. Why not duplicate that through a project like #Qartrijk?

I’m about to cut the crap now dear Mayor, here’s what I actually wanted to say…

#Qartrijk as project for the city of Kortrijk a.k.a. Qortrijk

My idea of QaRt isn’t really new. The idea of #Qartrijk however is. To understand the concept of #Qartrijk, you should understand QaRt. And fortunately QaRt is very easy to undertand. It’s QR + ART. QR + ART = QART. There you go. But why?

QR codes have little value and won’t last forever

I’ve always seen QR codes as a temporary thing. It has little value and it won’t last. What’s even more, most people don’t actually know about QR codes. Yes, tech and marketing people know them. And from time to time tag them if they notice them anyway. But it’s not a mainstream thing. It will never be. Without further details here, allow me to just state that QR is only a little aspect in an evolutionary story called the mobile ecosystem.

QR as an artform

Regardless of the fact that most people see QR codes as messed up lines and dots, it inspires people to turn the code as such in a more artful experience. It’s all about design, one vital aspect of Kortrijk’s identity… For this reason (and the one above) I started “pinning” examples of Qart. It might be inspiring for the #Qartrijk experiment. Oh yes, what exactly is #Qartrijk?

#Qartrijk: QR meets Art through-out Kortrijk

#Qartrijk is all about QR in an artful / design way. But not only that. It’s about mobile technology experiments in an artful way that add value to the city. They make the city better. Imagine one experiment being a new lamppost which pedestrian can tag in order to get a faster green light. Of course the object “lamppost” is an art piece in itself. In this manner, one can dream of an organically grown art route of QR-inspired objects in the city.

Let’s run a small experiment!

Kind regards,


Who's ever going to tag this QR code anyway? On AXA Bank's outdoor ad.

Axa puts a qr code on large format print ad on a busy road

Axa puts a qr code on large format print ad on a busy road

During one of my many escapades on the road, I came across the advert above. The ad is to promote a beneficial “renovation loan” and the offer is only valid until the end of 2011. So you’d better renovate your home this year to get the deal, right?

Don’t bother answering the above question. I have different issues with the ad. I believe the ad demonstrates that many marketers still don’t understand technology from a consumer mindset. I also believe that the usage of the QR code in the ad was solely driven on the fact that earlier that year a competitor launched a campaign in which the QR code was given a rather central position. So the ad clearly demonstrates “old-school competitor based marketing”. But let’s start by briefly describing the ad.

Description of the ad

The large format printed advert is clearly divided into two separate yet linked parts.

  • Right frame: the right frame contains the advertising copy and the logo of the company. The copy states “Axa proclaims 2011 as year of renovation”. People should link renovation with renovating a house and a special renovation loaning. So far so good, I managed to get that.
  • Left frame: the left frame is an image. It seems as it depicts the act of tearing down your house’s wallpaper and running into a hidden QR code behind it. I didn’t see wallpaper in the left frame while driving by. But I did notice a big QR code – hence the picture.

Who’s ever going to tag this QR code anyway?

First of all: do most consumers already know about QR codes? Shall they realize it? Or do you only want to address the “geeks” to renovate their house in 2011? I can tell you one thing: geeks are often not that into “DIY stuff”. Maybe you’re addressing the wrong target group with your renovation loan promotions?

Second, assume consumers are completely into QR codes already, how on earth can you tag this code while driving by at 90 km / hour? It’s already hard to take a picture of it. Let alone tag it with your mobile phone.

bnp paribas fortis qr code in advert for mobile banking

bnp paribas fortis qr code in advert for mobile banking

To end I would dare to say that the QR code is there just because they can put it there. Or is it all about parroting the competitor?

Why a QR code? Because BNP Paribas Fortis had one?

I believe AXA bank used QR because their competitor BNP Paribas Fortis did earlier that year. However, how BNP Paribas Fortis deployed it was completely different. BNP used it to launch their mobile banking application and services. And because I believed it was quite impressive, I even reported on their break-through mobile banking app on this blog but I didn’t relate to the way it was promoted. Today I will though.

Promoting online banking with a QR code

Why would it make sense to put a QR code on an advertisement for mobile banking and not on an advertisement for renovation loans?

  • Because a QR code is scanned with a mobile phone.
    People scan the code and they are automatically taken to the mobile banking app. That’s just great, that’s convenience. If you force people to scan a code that has in fact nothing to do with mobile, why would you do the effort? Why would you spend the money?
  • Next to that, BNP’s QR codes were easily scannable.
    You could easily scan them because they were in newspapers, magazines and on in-bank posters. Not on large format. Not next to a speedway.
  • Finally, the target group.
    Yes, early adaptors of mobile banking will probably know a thing or two about QR codes. And no, people who renovate their houses are not particularly interested in geeky stuff.

What CMOs and agencies need to learn from this

  • Don’t just use technology because you can. Make sure it matches your target group.
  • Don’t just do something because your competitor did. The trick is to stand out. Will never happen if you parrot!

Say hello to the Hybrid Marketer.

I think this relates to an interesting debate that was held at SXSW, Austin, Texas, USA. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to the event and this debate. So if anyone can send me a summary, I’d be very thankful. Anyways, here’s how they framed the whole issue:

How much do marketers (& their agencies) need to know about technology? Advertisers and brand marketers are entering a brave new world — one where code is on par with content. “Consumers” are now “users.” So should “marketers” be “developers”? Enter the hybrid marketer. More and more agencies are finding they need to educate and cultivate a new breed of people who understand tech from a marketing and brand perspective, and who have a consumer mindset. At the same time, agencies are adopting practices–agile development, continuous deployment–learned from the tech world. But should they really try this stuff at home? Should “marketers” be worrying about, say, the video capability of the latest iPhone, or pushing the envelope with HTML5? Or should they just stick to their core competencies and work with established software companies / dev shops to realize their ideas? How else is technology affecting the agency model and the creative process?

Are you QR-coding your business card already?

QR code: call number, add to contacts, share

QR code: call number, add to contacts, share

What is a QR-code?

A QR Code is a bar code that is read by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera and smartphones. The code consists of black modules arranged in square patterns on a white background. Today’s mobile devices are standard equipped with a QR code reader. And if it’s not on it, you can easily install an application on your phone (as long as you have a photo camera build-in).

QR Code - capture information with your mobile device (download app; e.g. i-nigma)

QR Code - capture information with your mobile device (download app; e.g. i-nigma)

Benefit of a QR code

With intelligent mobile devices and smart phones as a common utility, the possibility to immediately send information to that device saves a lot of time and efforts. No longer need to manually put in all the contact information.

And this is only one possibility of QR codes…

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