Let's Throw Marketing Dollars Away

Okay, here's the plan, let's buy a full-page, four-color ad in a national consumer magazine, place a 2D barcode in the ad and then have the barcode resolve to a promotional video that doesn't work. Or, have the ad's call-to-action be of little or no interest to the magazine's audience. Or, don't provide enough information for readers of the ad to understand how to make use of the barcode. Or, don't optimize the landing page that the barcode is linked to for mobile use. Take your pick. In any one of these situations, we would be wasting marketing dollars, as it relates to the 2D ad, and there would be little hope of realizing a positive ROI.

Of course I'm making fun of what it might be like to purposely waste marketing dollars, but the sad truth is that companies, and some major ones at that, are actually doing so when they develop a 2D barcode-based print ad and fail to execute it properly from a strategic, tactical and creative perspective. Earlier in the week, I wrote about a 2D magazine ad that Macy's developed and how the video that was linked to the barcode did not work, because the video was not ready for public viewing in time for when the magazine hit the newsstand. Not to pick on Macy's, because there are certainly other examples that I can cite, but how wasteful. How does the Macy's creative director or CMO respond to senior management for something like that?

Unfortunately, when situations like the one with Macy's happens, it reflects poorly on the barcode itself and the technology behind it, and slightly less so on the brand. The next time Macy's chooses to run a 2D ad, if at all, consumers will probably read the ad, but may be skeptical of the code and not want to bother scanning it. Lesson to be learned, first impressions go a long way in the eye and mind of a consumer.

As marketers, we need to view 2D ads in the same light as any other medium by which a message is communicated to the prospect or the client. A 2D print ad is no different than an email, a direct mail letter, a banner ad, a landing page, a telemarketing script, a radio script, television commercial, promotional event, etc. The moving parts might be a bit different but, in reality, a 2D ad still needs to be thoroughly researched and planned ahead of time with respect to creative, call-to-action, relevance, value, benefit, experience and incentive. In addition, and maybe this is where 2D ads are different, marketers must consider how they will educate and instruct consumers on what a barcode is and how it can be scanned, because, after all, the majority of U.S. consumers still have never seen or made use of 2D technology.

My last thought on this is let's, as marketers, not be lazy when it comes to formulating and executing 2D campaigns and strategy, because then the technology may never get the chance it deserves.


  1. It might help if the Readers here could try to assemble a list of "why these things happen" at this nascent stage of QR/2D campaigns.

    My stab at it is:

    1. Turf Wars - The Print Creative and Budget is now shifting or must be shared with Interactive/mobile. Sure, they can complement each other and collaborate, but, that tricky thing called "human nature" (territorial stuff) gets in the way

    Does the Art Director for Print want the mobile ad to get all the credit? This is why when you see the rare case of both print and mobile working together cohesively it's wonderful (small agencies who work all sides collectively)

    2. Lack of Mobile Engagement Experience - Brands and Agencies are using their online/interactive teams who have a hard time re-thinking for mobile. They see this as "shrinking the internet" and are missing what's unique about the User Experience on mobile.

    3. Doing it to Say "We did it" -- Or, a "let's try it" without putting in the thought and effort to make it succeed -- like a QR/2D Tag will magically, all by itself, create a wonderful campaign. And, the Agency can say, "yeah, we have a QR campaign out now..."

    4. Lack of Guidance -- Agencies don't like to be guided. They are the geniuses. It takes a soft-touch to guide and allow the Agency to take full credit for a campaign. Bus Dev for QR companies can do a better job than they are doing by helping achieve more "best case" applications. The olde "You said something earlier that reminded me of..." works every time.


    I'm sure the list is much longer, but those are my first thoughts.

  2. Amen, Roger. Great post. I scratch my head every time a marketing campaign follows the maxim, "Ready, Fire, Aim."

  3. Thank you for the comment. "Ready, Fire, Aim" is worth remembering.

  4. Anonymous - Thank you again...yes, it would be great if we could assemble a list and yours is a great start. I will keep this subject on the back burner and re-post from time to time with updates. To hear you theorize about turf wars within the agencies and companies makes a great deal of sense.

    As a side note...I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you off-line, off-the-record, just so I can know the true perspective from which you comment. Please send me an email. Again, thank you.

  5. Roger ...

    Amen! Amen! Amen! It's amazing how big brands - while trying to be innovative - can get the execution so wrong! I've added a link to your commentary to my article, "Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Integrating Two Dimensional (2D) Codes (QR - EZcode - Tag) In Your U.S. Marketing Plans" http://j.mp/Top10QRm

    Thanks Roger, for another excellent post on 2D Bar Code Strategy.

    Dan Smigrod
    CEO & Chief Creative Officer
    Atlanta, GA

  6. Well said Roger, as you know I see things the same way. "Anonymous" nailed it with point #3. No self-respecting CMO or Ad Director wants to be the last one to the party, hence the rushed and careless campaigns.
    I hope that as we educate people directly and indirectly we will see more successful and engaging uses of the technology. It really is a fantastic portal to the mobile universe.

  7. Dan and Rick, thank you for your comments and thoughts. Again, I will keep this subject on the back burner and revisit it over time to see how things may change.