8.25.2010

Financial Services Firm uses Tags

The Principal Financial Group is one of the first financial services companies I have seen to create a 2D barcode magazine advertisement and make use of a Microsoft Tag. While I give The Principal points for trying, unfortunately, I do not believe this campaign will produce the results that they hope to achieve and, if it does, I would be very surprised.

Where to begin...first, let's start with the size and location of the Tag. The Tag is awfully small and hard to notice and because it is positioned along side the spine of the magazine scanning can be difficult.

Principal Microsoft Tag
Second, the company has created a branded Tag, by placing its logo in the code. While I am already familiar with the company's triangle logo, what I could not make out in the Tag is the image to the left of the triangle. To try to decipher this, I went to the company's website to see if I could find a similar logo, and I did. The part of the logo that I could not make out is that of a cartoon image of a man leaning against the triangle. For the company to go to the trouble and expense of creating a branded Tag, why not make it big enough for readers to clearly see? Also, is a branded Tag necessary in this application?

Third, and this is the most important, there is absolutely no call to action in the ad, for the ad as a whole, as well as for the Tag. Forget about adhering to 2D barcode best practices, what about marketing/advertising best practices. The ad simply says, "So we created a Web site with tips and ideas to help you and your benefits advisor find your next move." Yeah, so? Why would a reader bother responding to the ad, versus any other firm that can offer benefits advice or investments? Why would a reader bother downloading the app and scanning the code? And, what's most striking of all is that the ad does not even tell or ask readers to scan the code! All it does is provide a URL for downloading the reader app.

Fourth, because this is most likely The Principal's first foray into 2D codes, I would assume this is the reason why they do not take the time and effort to help educate and inform the public about what a code is, how to scan it and where the code brings them. Or, does the company just assume consumers know what codes are and there is no need for explanation.

So, why is all of this happening? I believe I have an answer. When I went to the company's website to look at logos, I also went to the page which lists the company's various advertising campaigns and found a link to an ad that matched the one above, except there was no Tag. This leads me to believe that the company recycled an already created advertisement, slapped a branded Tag on it and crossed their fingers that it would draw a response. You can also tell that there was little or no thought put into this campaign, because of where the Tag is placed. Instead of designing the ad around the Tag, as it should, The Principal's creative team took the easy way out and just plunked down the Tag where it could fit.

For 2D barcode campaigns to succeed companies cannot take the path of least resistance. Instead, they must invest the time, energy and resources into learning about the technology and how best to apply it for marketing and promotional purposes. Widespread consumer acceptance and use of 2D will come by way of well thought out campaigns and strategies, not ones that are simply an afterthought.

7 comments:

  1. I agree with all of the above Roger. A use of 2D that comes across a little more than an afterthought.

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  2. It must be frustrating to see a continuous stream of poorly executed campaigns -- then, try to understand the logic, or lack thereof, that went into them. But, your efforts are appreciated.

    The seeming contradiction here is that the Brand spend a fair bit of time/effort to create the Branded QR, then were sloppy on the balance of the execution. So, it wasn't entirely an afterthought.

    Perhaps, it's the case of an Art Director focusing on how to pretty-up a Tag without understanding that they are now part of an integrated, cross media campaign.

    My suggestion is that you start a new LinkedIN Group that is focused on "QR/2D Integrated Campaigns." Something that is designed to bring in Art Directors, Agency Creatives, Brand Managers, along with print and mobile people. If you look at the population of the main QR Groups in LinkedIN right now, you'll see they are filled with "Printers." Nothing against Printers, but, they are far removed from Creative, mobile and integrated campaign thinking. They are a distribution vehicle, not the message.

    Basically, the Audience that can benefit from your tracking and insight need to be brought together under a new roof. It could be one that doesn't deal with QR technology issues or printing issues at all. There are enough places to focus on those elements. But, there's no place that addresses QR/2D specifically with regard to how it is an integrated effort (it's why the best campaigns to date are assembled by the very small shops who actually think that way).

    The handful of you within those existing groups who are thinking more broadly should form something new. With a concerted effort to bring in brand managers and agency folks to the conversation.

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  3. I'm still surprised that QR codes are all about marketing and not about BUYING.

    Would it be possible for a clothing manufacturer say like the GAP to put a qr code on each product that allows people to then buy the clothes etc. Not the gimmick stuff you are seeing with tshirts but a new channel of purchasing items or learning more about them. Is there some limitation that would prevent the customer from clicking the qr and then being taken to the exact .mobi page to purchase the item?

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  4. Anonymous - Your suggestion to form a group of people around the creative and strategic side of QR/2D is well taken and makes sense. Perhaps this is a next step. Will post an article should I start something.

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  5. Brett: Thank you for your comment. As far as I know, companies can have the QR code link directly to a mobile purchase page where the consumer can purchase a product straight away. I have yet to see or hear about a real life example of that happening, but will keep it on my radar.

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  6. Because this advertisement intrigued me so much, I could not resist emailing the head of marketing at The Principal to see if she could explain the strategy and thought behind the company using 2D. Needless to say, I'm still waiting for a reply and am not holding my breath. As I have said before, unfortunately, marketers at the brand or agency just don't want to talk about their campaigns.

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  7. "...As I have said before, unfortunately, marketers at the brand or agency just don't want to talk about their campaigns..."

    Not unless they win awards for them.

    The notion via @brett of mCommerce via a Tag is certainly intriguing and very do-able. A self-check out solution. I'd look to new ventures such as BankSimple to come up with mCommerce solutions that are affordable to implement that may take people in that direction. But, it's at least 2 years away from being widely adopted.

    BTW: Looking at @microsofttag today, they are starting to provide very limited data on their platform and promising more?

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