Three Reasons to Love QR Codes

QR codes have great potential for savvy marketers. The technology has been used in Asia for a number of years and is beginning to gain traction in the U.S. With the rapid increase in smartphone adoption rates, the use of QR codes will continue to increase. According to Wikipedia:

A QR Code is a two-dimensional code, readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones that came into being in 1994. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Need three reasons why we love QR codes

Reason #1:QR codes easily bring online content to the offline world. QR codes placed in magazine ads or outdoor billboards make it easy for a person to visit a marketer’s website to get more information. Instead of stopping and typing in a lengthy web address on a tiny smartphone keyboard, a person can simply snap a photo of the QR code and be taken automatically to an online destination. It’s smart and easy.

Reason #2: QR codes are trackable. The technology is able to measure how many people scan the QR code. Furthermore, some service providers also have the capability to report on general location and time. Imagine having this data to optimize your offline campaigns. Bear in mind, the data is anonymous and cell phone numbers are never tracked.

Reason #3: QR codes enhance traditional offline campaigns. A business-to-business company selling automation control systems can use a QR code to trigger a video showing the features and benefits of the product. A local bank can put QR codes on their printed promotional materials to connect customers to their mobile website or landing page with a special offer.

Hocus Focus

I’ve run into three examples in as many days of companies with fundamental business (and marketing) problems tied to a lack of focus.

Unless you have a GIGANTIC marketing budget, you can’t be all things to all people all the time. I spoke at a local manufacturing symposium recently and this was one of my key messages. By trying to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.

Ask yourself three questions:

1. What do we do that’s unique?

2. Why is it better than the way our competition does it, or than alternative methodologies?

3. Does our brand support this value proposition?

If you can’t answer these three questions VERY rapidly, and in a sentence or less ‚Äì you have a problem.

One of the example companies was a local gym (frequented by PWB’s own Keith Kopinski) that’s about to go out of business. This gym is a tremendous place for hardcore types –  bodybuilders, competitive athletes, and more – it’s not Bally’s. But the owners couldn’t see this and never built a brand to support it. Instead they chose to enter the fracas on general fitness clubs. Bad idea. You’ll NEVER outspend these folks. Why not build a brand, and a loyal customer base among your target market by branding it as not a place for the masses?

Another example was a healthcare services firm. They have a solid track record helping small hospitals compete and improve. Unfortunately, they’re doing a shotgun marketing approach that goes after ALL facets of healthcare with almost no focus. Again, bad idea. Why not exploit your advantage?

Are you better at something? Say it. Then make sure your brand owns that superiority.

Power(less) Point

I sat through not one, but TWO genuinely awful presentations from good companies with solid products this week. This was a good reminder of a blog topic – effective use of PowerPoint.

As a former college speech instructor, I would remind you that PowerPoint is a tool, it isn’t your presentation. A good presentation tells a story, has a structure, and is SUPPORTED by a presentation tool like PowerPoint. Bad structure = bad presentation. The world’s best PowerPoint can’t make up for a poorly constructed presentation structure.

With that said, I often develop in PowerPoint as it parallels my thought process. But, when you do this, be sure to return with a critical eye and do some judicial editing. That final PowerPoint should serve as signposts on the journey of your presentation, as well as providing some key emphasis on critical takeaways.

With that in mind, here are a few pointers:

  • One sentence or thought per bullet. Maximum. And no more than five bullets per slide.
  • Any point with subpoints should have at least two subpoints – if you have less than this do some reworking until it can collapse upward.
  • If you have to add a “key takeaway” in writing to your slide(s) then you haven’t done your job – it should be obvious if you’ve supported your arguments.
  • Black type on white background with your logo is BORING. At least try the supplied templates, or better still have a talented agency like us design you a brand-appropriate master template.
  • People like pictures. Sprinkle a few appropriate ones in. Try monkeys –  everyone likes monkeys (that was sarcasm, if you missed it!).
  • A PowerPoint is not a technical white paper. A screen filled with 8 point mouse type is illegible at any distance over 6′.

As a presentation guru I once heard speak said: Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone.

Think it Through

As marketers, it’s our job to get inside people’s heads to figure out how to attract their attention and then match our product/service’s attributes to their needs. We spend a lot time thinking about what triggers and what impedes actions. How does a prospect go from awareness, to consideration, to selection? A new Comcast ad is a good reminder to THINK through your value proposition to see if it will make any sense, or throw up red flags.

The ad touts Comcast’s DVR service and its ability to be programmed remotely through a PC, phone, or mobile device. Then it offers an iPod Touch as an incentive to new subscribers. Unfortunately, IMMEDIATELY after that offer comes the disclaimer. That disclaimer says, “Service not compatible with iPod Touch”.


You’re promoting a feature, and then offering an incentive that probably should, but doesn’t actually work with this feature? Would you be pushing new left-handed golf clubs, only to follow-up with the condition that they’re not available to left-handed people?

This seems so basic. At some point, you need to step back (or find an outside perspective) and look at your approach. Do all the elements fit together? Is anything going to cause the prospect to make that funny *dog head tilt* when they hear it? If so, then change it.


A teammate and I have been discussing respect and professional courtesy lately. Things we would have both thought common courtesy seem to have fallen by the wayside with more regularity lately. This seems to mostly happen in new business situations. And I’m not talking about outbound cold-calling. By this, I mean situations where we’ve been asked for a proposal or request for information (RFI) response.

For example, a prospect called recently looking to meet. After a lengthy meeting, I delivered a customized proposal. After e-mailing it, as instructed, NOTHING. No acknowledgement, no thank-you, zip.

Another prospective client asked for our help in developing a strategic plan. We put together a comprehensive proposal and media overview. At which point, the contact vanished. Multiple e-mails and voice mails later, nothing. So I throw the Hail Mary pass with the “Did we offend you?” message. This gets a response of, “Oh, we decided to go with a PR firm. I thought I told you that.” Well, since I never got a return voice mail, nor e-mail (and yes, I did check my Spam file) I’m thinking you didn’t.

If you’re talking to prospective service providers, keep something in mind –  these proposals don’t write themselves. We allocate precious time to deliver a response that meets your business needs. Yes, it’s a competitive economy and we value every lead, but that doesn’t mean you should all drop civility and processional courtesy. If you’re talking to so many potential partners that you can’t take a moment to respond, you’re evaluating too many anyway.

What Kind of Demand Are You Generating?

During a recent Marketing Roundtable presentation I moderated, one of the presenters touched on the idea of bad customers. His argument was that not only do bad customers consume valuable resources, they ultimately are significantly less profitable than good ones.

This premise set me wondering – are you chasing the GOOD customers? Or are you just running demand generation programs to drive numbers. In my experience, very few customers are doing the former. Do you even know the profile of a good customer? Few businesses seem to take the time, especially during an economic downturn, to find out. It seems to me that a few simple analyses would identify the good ones – total lifetime value, tenure, average sale, purchasing of multiple products or services, or even the classic Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value (RFM) model from direct mail modeling.

The presenter at this roundtable did say that in his past experiences he found some direct correlations between acquisition strategies and outcome. For example, customers acquired through pricing discounts had a high propensity to become bad customers. Was nice to see some data to support my long-held belief that price discounting as an outbound marketing strategy is a bad plan.

So, are you just generating demand? Or are you generating the demand from the customers your business most needs to be profitable?

Be Brave

Need to get noticed with a small media budget? Competing against entrenched competitors with huge market share? As my friend John Lichtenberg, Marketing Dude Extraordinaire for Wash College wisely says, “Be brave.” If you’ve seen John’s ads, you know what he’s talking about. This creative platform redefines the ordinarily poor world of educational marketing creative with the introduction of humor, simplicity, and power.

Even with a small budget, impactful creative creates a multiplier effect. As an example, when we were working with Citizens Insurance who needed to re-energize its brand with a small budget, we steered them to the bold and impactful creative platform over other more conservative ones. The result? Big results from a small budget.

In the consumer world, I have two heroes this year.

The first is Kia for their Sorrento compact SUV. Think Kia’s are just low-cost clunky Korean cars? Wrong, they’re hip, cool and edgy – this single spot completely re-positioned them in my mind. And someone at the clients had some chutzpah for approving them.

The second are the new short TV spots for Weber grills. Grilling should be all about fun, relaxation, personal expression, creativity, and more. Weber hits it without a single word of copy in this :30 second spot. Again, this was not “safe” creative.

All too often we see conservative b-to-b clients talk themselves out of bold creative (that they liked initially) and into safety. Safe has a time and a place, but if you’re trying to move up in the marketplace, give that slightly wacky idea we just delivered a second look.

There Is No Try

Demand Generation (DG) is a simple construct – a set of marketing activities that integrate, coordinate, and lead prospects through the buying journey. But, it’s a holistic, systems-based approach to marketing. Simply implementing a portion of a DG program will cripple its effectiveness.

With DG, you’re either all in or you’re not. As Yoda said, “There is no try.” Cherry picking the elements of a comprehensive program, or trying to force-fit existing content into them compromises the whole.

For example, we think you shouldn’t just stick your existing creative up as a front end to DG efforts. Good DG creative is much more in the vein of classic direct marketing with a clear, compelling benefit, a solid call to action, and an offer with perceived value. At the same time, thinking that you can simply drive traffic to your existing web site is likely to be ineffective.

Solid DG is predicated on a consistent, continuous, crafted story that moves buyers through the cycle. Think of it as a conversation, and in a way it is, as DG has replaced some personal selling that needs to feel relevant to the buyer to generate impact.

DG is not a panacea, nor is it easy. What it can be is a tool that delivers game-changing advantages in a competitive marketplace.

4,356 Channels and Nothing On

In recent years, there’s been tremendous buzz regarding the rise of social media as a marketing tool. Many have championed them as the future of marketing communications (mostly the self-appointed gurus of social media marketing). But the reality is, this phenomenon isn’t really anything new –  there’s ALWAYS something new in the zoo when it comes to marketing communications. Yes, Facebook has 14 million users. But according to the 2008 Census, there are about 116 million households in the U.S., so maybe direct mail will experience a numbers-fueled renaissance, if the social media logic holds true.

As we’ve tracked and explored social media for our clients, we’ve uncovered one key truth – these exploding new media channels are simply that; channels. Much like traditional advertising, search, direct marketing, or other tools you have to use them wisely, and integrate your message across media. Sure, you can Tweet all day, but if your tweets don’t support your communications strategy, who cares? And if your audiences aren’t on Twitter, you’re just talking to yourself.

I participated in a recent marketing panel where an audience member asked, “What should your blogging strategy be?” This question perfectly illustrated my point – your blogging strategy should be derived from your marketing strategy, which should be derived from your business strategy. If your goal is to regain perceived leadership in the X segment of Y industry, then your blogging strategy should support this position. Conversely, if your marketing strategy is simply to increase natural search, your blogging strategy might support this initiative with lots of keywords and links into your main web site.

While we’re on the topic,  Twitter has been referred to as “micro blogging”. So perhaps the goal of your tweeting should be to attract attention to your blog additions? And here’s an idea, if you’re running a PR push on a specific program, that integrates with a paid advertising push on this same program, then MAYBE your social media efforts should tie in to that?

There’s a reason this stuff is called Integrated Marketing. Consumers of information don’t treat these channels as wholly separate – why should we as marketers?

No, Much Different

Years ago we shared an office building with one of our largest clients. Upon returning from lunch a couple of us found a comp we’d delivered to the client the day before on the front desk. On the front cover was a Post-It note that read:

No, much different.

This incident, which happened over a decade ago, has become part of PWB folklore. It’s our metaphor for those times when we get feedback that’s just not helpful in meeting a client’s expectations. This got me to thinking – what DOES constitute helpful feedback. I think it more client-side folks understood this concept, they’d get better end results, faster turnaround, and likely even reduce costs. So here are a few:

1. Be as specific as is prudent. “It’s not cool” is much less helpful than, “I’d like a less conservative color palette”.

2. Tell us what’s working and what isn’t – don’t feel like you need to solve it for us. Our designers have decades of experience and usually we can come up with ideas that you might never have thought of.

3. Ask us before you “Chinese Menu” by mixing elements. Some elements mix, others don’t.

4. In many cases, a poor end product is the result of a number of little innocuous bad decisions leading to a design by committee. If we raise our hand with a concern on this front, it’s worth truly considering.

5. If you’re excited by something, tell us! That kind of enthusiasm is infectious.

6. We do this for a living; we don’t take criticism personally. We get more rewarded by learning how to please our clients and deliver solid solutions.

7. Unless you have Nike’s budget (and maybe shoes on Jordan’s feet), you will never attain the status of the Nike swoosh. Ever. The sooner you get past that, the easier it will be for all of us.

8. Be open-minded; you may or may not share much with the target market. It’s all too easy to let personal preferences squash good ideas.

9. Try to be mindful of your budget. If you asked for a low-cost solution and we met that, don’t ask us for 42 rounds of revisions.

10. Have fun. This isn’t brain surgery. We’ve found that sometimes light-hearted good humor led to some of our coolest and most effective creative.