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Evolution of a California Realtor’s custom signs – now using QR codes



Can you be critical of QR codes and use them anyway? Yes.

We have long opined that QR codes are a passing trend, and despite the lack of long term viability, many agents are using them for various marketing efforts, including yard signs.

In July, Ted Mackel of wrote in a similarly cynical tone about QR codes, citing their weaknesses as mobile friendliness, tracking, regurgigation and understanding, ultimately noting that a QR code won’t sell a house. “Will the QR code sell your house? No, #1 the Price, Condition and Location are the biggest factor in the ability to get your home sold. No amount of advertising can sell an overpriced home. Ultimately, the goal is to get as many eyes on the property as possible and be competitive with the surrounding homes.”

To get those eyes, Mackel has been highly leveraged in social networking, web video and blogging for years and began using custom yard signs in 2008 which was the equivalent of a giant flyer in a yard with photos and details. “The custom yard sign is just another piece of that plan to reach the goal.”

Custom signs with QR codes, 2011 style

Fast forward to 2011 and Mackel has a different custom sign for his listing clients. He says the purpose behind them follow three main ideas:

  1. When potential buyers are driving neighborhoods, the pictures of the backyard and an interior shot give the buyers a teaser preview of the property to generate more interest in the property.
  2. The website and QR code are directly linked to a mobile compliant website with tons of information (including community video) on the home that the potential buyers can view right in their car on a smart phone or iPad. My use of the mobile website and QR code gives me direct feedback on how many people are accessing the site for more information.
  3. The typical real estate signs here in Southern California, are hung on large 4×4 wood posts. My sign is the same size (30×24), orientated vertically, but with a different installation method and custom design. This sign gets buyers to stop the car.

Regardless of trendiness or usefulness, Mackel is using QR codes on his yard signs as pictured above, in an effort to get more eyes on a listing and the industry will see a rise in QR codes in signage in the future. The challenge we see besides adoption rates of the technology that could easily be supplanted by a better version of modern augmented reality is that most agents are using QR codes on signs that are too small and cannot be scanned from a vehicle (which is possible, just ask companies with QR codes on billboards), rather than require a consumer to hop out in the rain or be an awkward creeper in someone’s yard with a smartphone in their hand pointing every which way. In conjunction with custom signs like Mackel’s and use of much, much larger QR codes that don’t require scanning from twelve inches away, QR codes can be useful until augmented reality finally becomes mainstream.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. Search Impact

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I think it's great to use tech to find out the value of yard signs for properties, i.e. traditional marketing tactics. I wonder if Ted would share his conversion rate of QR visits and Mobile visits vs contacts gained

    • Ted Mackel

      August 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      I make sure all my QRs can be tracked. I am pretty skeptical myself that they will really get used, but let's say the QR code on the sign draws attention and they type the URL in instead of scanning – Mission accomplished.

      Here in Southern California we have good stable weather all year round people will get out of cars to grab flyers, they might get out to scan the code. This one is very close to the curb. The bigger Scanning problem is in the "sunscreen – lipstick syndrome" The camera lens on most cell phones is dirtier than a public restroom and the camera resolutions will play in to this big time. You can't scan a 5 foot by 5 foot QR if your camera lens is full of lipstick or sunscreen 😉

      In the long run my tracking is going to provide some good statistics and be a help on a listing appointment when some other agent tries to throw the shiny object out to win the listing.

      I have been putting a QR code to a Google map on my open house signs that says "scan for map" No scans yet …. hum

  2. Jeremy Rivera

    August 25, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I typically am skeptical at the use of QR codes in magazines or print ads…but this is something that connects people who are truly thirsty for info to mobile resources…neat!

  3. Stephanie Crawford, @AgentSteph

    August 25, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I think Kris Berg does a similar type of custom sign.

    • Kris Berg

      August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am

      I do indeed. All of our agents use them.

  4. Jill Wente

    August 26, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    We have been placing QR codes on the front of our brochure boxes. QR codes will catch on with the help of large corporations integrating them into their marketing materials.

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Business Marketing is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers

(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but is over their tactics.



tina kardashian influencers popeyes

A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.

That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.

The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.

In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising ( filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”

After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”

For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”

The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.

Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang. found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.

The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.

In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.

“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”

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Business Marketing

Dove dropped the olive branch with new ad campaign

(MARKETING NEWS) With any ad campaign there will be misses but take a note from Dove’s playbook and learn how to not repeat mistakes.



dove ad

Dove’s latest Facebook ad really hit the mark for whitewashing in advertising. The ad, since removed, essentially implied their soap could turn a black woman into a clean white woman.

In a three-second video on the company’s Facebook page, three women transformed into the next when they removed their shirts. The first transition caused an uproar: a woman of color lifting a brown top over her head to reveal a different woman, who is very, very white.

Although the white woman then lifts her shirt to reveal another woman with darker hair and a darker skin tone, the initial transformation is problematic in its implications of whiteness as cleanliness.

Dove has since removed the ad and issued an apology, stating in a tweet “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”

Wait, haven’t we been here before? At this point you’d think skin care companies would have realized a little more delicacy is required when rolling out ad campaigns. Remember Nivea’s disastrous, short-lived “White is Purity” mishap? How about Dove’s other blunder in their 2011 VisibleCare ad?

These featured another series of three women standing in front of close-ups of skin, with the darker skinned woman in front of the “before” label, and the woman with the lightest skin by the “after” picture. Although Dove didn’t intend to imply white skin is cleaner, oops, that’s what happened anyways.

While Dove has gotten many things right in terms of inclusivity and featuring models of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, there have also been several instances of intentional racist missteps. Let’s use this as a teachable moment for handling marketing mishaps.

Whenever an ad campaign offends people, the company’s response can make or break the business. If you find yourself in the midst of a marketing crisis, you can take some mindful steps to manage the situation and begin repairing your public image.

First, acknowledge the problem and issue a genuine apology that gets to the core of what your audience is saying. Dove recognized they upset people, and instead of taking a defensive “sorry you felt offended” stance, took responsibility for their actions. Once an apology is issued, explain the original intent to provide context for the situation.

Dove meant to create an inclusive campaign featuring a diverse cast of women. Lola Ogunyemi, the first model featured in the now controversial shirt ad, has even defended the ad. She stated, “I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”

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Business Marketing

Aori helps you pack a punch with AdWords

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Aori is the newest tool designed to help anyone using AdWords to kick more butt.



google adwords aori

Search ad campaign managers constantly wrestle with the best way to organize their keywords into campaigns. Most of these decisions strive to balance the time needed to manage the campaign with efficiency of campaign expenditures.

Take the SKAGs strategy, for example. The SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Group) system is setup to trigger a unique ad for every single keyword by placing each keyword in its own group.

There’s lots of literature touting the benefits of the SKAG system. Generally, the hyper-specific match between ads and keywords improves click-through rates.

This leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower costs for click, which leads to lower costs per conversion. The tradeoff with this system is the setup. You could be looking at hundreds of keyword groups to set up and maintain, and that’s a lot of work for a small business or startup.

This is where Aori comes in.

Their system helps to automate the process of setting up a SKAG system for your AdWords campaigns.

According to the website, the tool’s primary function is to automate keyword generation. Users enter a set of “root keywords” and common keyword extensions, and Aori will automatically generate all possible combinations of those keywords for your campaigns.

Additionally, through Aori, users can create ad templates using a “dynamic keyword insertion tool,” to enable you to utilize the strongest ad copy across multiple phrases.

In what is the least clear value point of the whole pitch, Aori also uses what they call a “unique bid-optimization algorithm.”

There is almost no detail to be found on how the algorithm works. If the tool handles all bid management for you, this could be a handy tool for PPC novices who are less familiar with the process and lack the time to learn it.

Aori appears to run cheaper than the others we know of, but that may be due to the level of automation available. For example, Aori requires the user to feed it keyword inputs, both root and extension words.

It’s also important to understand where a SKAG system can and can’t work. It is likely a better system for smaller campaigns where ad testing wouldn’t yield statistically meaningful results.

Because every keyword group targets one phrase, you can’t readily say that improvements in ad copy will translate to other campaigns.

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