Tag Archives: advertising

Do QR codes make great marketing tools?

In a recent post, I asked what people thought would be the hottest trend in 2011. A lot of responses discussed the popularity of location-based social networking sites, but there were also quite a few mentions of QR codes.

QR codes are those interesting, fuzzy-looking squares that you may have seen pop up recently on

qrcodeproduct containers, convenience store shelving, or even online. First established in Japan in 1994, the QR code is a 2-dimensional barcode consisting of black elements arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The intent is to scan data at very high speeds, usually with a camera phone or barcode reader. Due to an estimate projecting that, in 2012, more smartphones will be sold than PCs, QR codes are going to affect the way websites are designed and products are promoted.

Take an athletic shoe product, for example. At the next World Shoe Association trade show, a company can add a simple QR code to its handout, which links to a sweepstakes landing page providing key information or even a special offer. Or perhaps it can be taken further to incorporate the product and the use of a durable hiking shoe by creating a QR scan treasure hunt – where each scan links to a new splash page featuring a clue to the next one.

QR codes can be used to swap contact information. Instead of exchanging business cards, a single QR code can be scanned, and the contact information will save to your smartphone.

As this technology becomes more and more popular, there are a few ideas that should be considered to optimize results:

  1. Offer exclusive prizes, offers, or information to those scanning the QR code that are different than what is available to everyone else.
  2. Optimize the website for mobile-browsing.
  3. Include an obvious call-to-action so that the audience is encouraged to scan the code.
  4. Establish a plan to engage people who scan the code over time, rather than a one-time promotion.

The important idea to remember is that QR codes create a new opportunity to enhance the relationship with a customer/prospect who has already engaged with the brand, building positive word of mouth or even a future sale.

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Filed under Digital, Online Adveritising, Social Media

Engaging with the Big Game

There is no question that I will be engaged in the Super Bowl this weekend.  In fact, it has been on my radar for weeks.  The question is exactly how will I choose to engage?

  • Old School —  Just enjoy the game for the game’s sake.  As a native Pittsburgher with fond memories of the Steel Curtain, swirling terrible towels, and chanting “One for the Thumb,” it’s a logical choice.
  • Facebook Fanatic – Participating in the virtual cheers and jeers that are bound to continue between my Facebook friends who have been posting images of Steeler cheese graters, “Stairway to 7” slogans and other signs of their team affiliations for the past several weeks.
  • Professional – As a 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing world, there is the obligation to analyze every commercial so that I am prepared to debate the winners and losers with family, friends and colleagues on Monday morning.
  • Twitter Tags – And there is always the appeal of the Twitter buffet of 140-character musings on everything from the plays, the refs, and the commercials to the Polamalu  vs. Matthews “Hair Bowl.”

The truth is, I will probably engage with the Super Bowl in all these ways, as each appeals to me on a different level.

As a marketer, it is also a good reminder that target audiences are multidimensional and will choose to engage with brands and messages in a variety of different ways with different expectations – sometimes all at the same time.  Communications plans need to be as multidimensional as they are.

Pamela J. Alvord – EVP, Managing Director of Strategy and Operations

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Filed under Ad Agencies, advertising, Customer Experience, Engagement, Social Media, Strategy

Office Pools – the epitome of compelling, measurable engagement

It’s been said that U.S. employers lose an estimated $1.8 billion in productivity during March Madness.  What is it about office pools that not only drives employees to spend so much time planning, watching, and discussing, but also drives employers to look the other way?

Whether it’s “March Madness,” college football bowl pools, or even the weekly football pick ’em, office pools are a compelling form of entertainment that provides an office common ground in a friendly, competitive environment.

The days of copying a sheet of paper and turning it in to the office pool manager have succumbed to the digital age.  One only has to type ”office pool” into Google to see page upon page of office pool variations with free and pay-to-play websites and software.  Many of these websites and software provide tips and post-pick analytics in real time, so that everyone can see the results and how they rank against the competition.

It’s a time when the office sports geeks and sports agnostics are on the same wavelength, as employees become more engaged with one another.  Water-cooler talk turns from gossip to last night’s upset and today’s Cinderella.

Maybe employers look the other way because it’s an easy way to improve employee morale, or maybe it’s just because they’re in on the action, too.  Regardless, it’s easy to see why something as compelling, measurable, and engaging as office pools continue in the work environment.

With that, feel free to join us in some compelling, measurable engagement by participating in the 2010 Kilgannon College Bowl Pool.  It’s free to play, and you could win a gift card.

— Gary Sayers, VP, Account Director

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Social Media doesn’t mean traditional word of mouth is dead

These days, it seems we can’t make a purchase decision on our own.   We literally have the world at our fingertips, and can seek out the opinions of like-minded individuals, subject-matter experts or data aggregators before we pull the trigger.

In fact, there’s so much talk that some speculate it has watered down the impact of buzz or chatter about a brand.  We “like” things at a frenzied pace, we post and comment, tweet and re-tweet, subscribe and forward.  But as volume increases, so does our desire for more, and our need to know what others think.

Consider these stats from independent research studies conducted earlier this year:

  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product,” 71 percent claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence.
  • 53 percent of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48 percent of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
  • The average consumer mentions specific brands more than 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and coworkers.

If you don’t trust statistics, just think about the power of word of mouth (WOM) when something bad happens with a brand.  In this age of social media, word travels so fast that damage can be done in a matter of minutes.   As Winston Churchill put it, “A lie will travel half way around the world before the truth even has a chance to put its pants on.”

So, WOM is powerful.  But what exactly constitutes a WOM program? The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has been kind enough to provide a list of 11 types of programs:

  1. Buzz Marketing: Using high-profile entertainment or news to get people to talk about your brand.
  2. Viral Marketing: Creating entertaining or informative messages that are designed to be passed along in an exponential fashion, often digitally or by e-mail.
  3. Community Marketing: Forming or supporting niche communities that are likely to share interests about the brand (e.g., user groups or fan clubs) and providing content for them.
  4. Grassroots Marketing: Organizing and motivating volunteers to engage in personal or local outreach.
  5. Evangelist Marketing: Cultivating evangelists, advocates, or volunteers who are encouraged to take a leadership role in actively spreading the word on your behalf.
  6. Product Seeding: Placing the right product into the right hands at the right time, providing information or samples to influential individuals.
  7. Influencer Marketing: Identifying key communities and opinion leaders who are likely to talk about products and have the ability to influence the opinions of others.
  8. Cause Marketing: Supporting social causes to earn respect and support from people who feel strongly about the cause.
  9. Conversation Creation: Interesting or fun advertising, e-mails, catch phrases, entertainment, or promotions designed to start word-of-mouth activity.
  10. Brand Blogging: Creating blogs and participating in the blogosphere; sharing information of value that the blog community may talk about.
  11. Referral Programs: Creating tools that enable satisfied customers to refer their friends.

Some may argue that not all these programs should fall under the WOM umbrella.  I would argue that it really doesn’t matter.  Programs like these will get people talking about your brand.  And the more people are talking, the more opportunities you are creating to sell!

— Ellen Repasky, SVP, Account Director

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Baking and Marketing, the Fundamentals Are the Same

Forget about decking the halls, fighting the mall crowds, or even singing carols (at least in public); for me, the holiday season has always been about baking.  This year, as I fired up my trusty red KitchenAid mixer on Black Friday, I was struck by the similarities between baking and good marketing.

1. Start with a Recipe

Sure, a little experimentation is great now and then, but make sure the basics are in place before you deviate from the core direction.  A marketer’s impulsive cry of “We need to be on Twitter” or “Get me more Facebook likes” is the baking equivalent of “Let’s just toss in some peanut butter.” It might be great or it might just ruin the whole thing.

2. Use the Right Tools

Whether your favorite spatula, grandmother’s measuring spoons, or the perfectly shaped pan, the right tools are critical.  For marketing, this might be a promotional offer, a blog, or a brand campaign – any of them might be effective, as long as they aid in the execution of the recipe (or for marketers, the strategy).

3. Measurement Is Key

If Google analytics, conversion metrics, social media mentions, and net promoter scores are the ounces, pounds, cups, and tablespoons of marketing, then your scorecard is the final taste test.  Did you earn 5 stars or 3?  Without measurement, you won’t know where you stand or if you have improved.

4. Don’t Overlook Simplicity

A single ingredient is rarely great on its own (I can’t be the only one who has fallen victim to the captivating smell of vanilla, only to recoil in horror after tasting it).  And the layered flavors of multiple ingredients sure can be tasty, but simple is magical.   Who would imagine that something as exquisite as a meringue could come from the combination of egg whites, sugar, and a touch of vanilla?  Bakers and marketers alike would benefit from focusing less on the number of elements and more on the way in which they are combined.

5. Offer Only Your Best

No amount of presentation can cover up bad execution.  Even if your guests don’t say anything, they will notice if you scrimped on the sugar, didn’t bake it long enough, or tried to cover the burned pieces with frosting.  So don’t be afraid to start over or bring in the experts to ensure that you can confidently stand behind anything that you serve.

The annual strategic planning timeline for most companies aligns nicely with holiday baking season.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not . . .

–Pam Alvord, EVP Chief Brand Strategist

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The Internet Summit—One point worth repeating

I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Internet Summit, held in Raleigh, N.C. Two days of wall-to-wall presentations and conversation on the future of the Web, social media, mobile marketing, online video, privacy, security, you name it and someone was talking about it.

One of the keynote speakers at an eye-opening 8 AM was Chip Perry, president and CEO of AutoTrader.com. AutoTrader.com generates over $500 million in revenue each year and has an eye-popping 3.5 million new and used vehicles listed. AutoTrader.com is part of Cox Enterprises, which also owns Manheim, a client of ours. In fact, Mr. Perry was asked by Manheim to launch AutoTrader.com and was its first employee, back in the day. The company is now considered to be the world’s largest online automotive marketplace, and Mr. Perry is recognized as a pioneer in the industry.

What I found the most fascinating about Mr. Perry’s presentation was one simple point. It was quite striking, especially in light of the venue and reason we had all gathered together.

He said, “Success is more about business fundamentals and common sense than it is about the Internet.”

The point should resonate with brands, businesses, and marketers in the throes of the technology tsunami. It’s easy to get caught up in your underwear over the latest widget, gadget, etc. The basics still remain the basics. Know your customers. Respond to their needs. Use technology as a tool, not as a strategy in and of itself.

– Chris Schlegel, Principal, Chief Creative Officer

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Compelling Business Tactic or Religious Fanatic?

As a native Atlantan, I had the fortunate experience of learning how to drive in our fair city. Anyone who prepares to battle the weekday rush hour, Atlanta Police Department, or Sunday traffic could understand how getting behind the wheel, at any age, can be considered a triumphant occasion. But this past Sunday afternoon, as I was stuck in a line of an automotive exodus leaving church in the heart of Buckhead, I encountered a particularly amusing observation, which for the moment relieved me of my temporary road rage. I witnessed a pedestrian cursing the fact that Chick-fil-A was closed on Sunday.  I found this consumer’s epic FAIL quite humorous.

But I could relate. All too often I have woken up on a Sunday morning with a craving for Chick-fil-A; a craving that seems to be so much stronger on Sunday than any other day of the week. And I know I’m not the only one. In fact, when asked about craving Chick-fil-A on a Sunday, I received the following responses:


“Their morning biscuits would be wonderful on the drive to Sunday school!”

“It’s like every Sunday is when I want it and then I suddenly sadly remember it’s Sunday….my poor tummy.”

We believe that great communication is the only way to engage our audience with our brand. We assume, incorrectly, that the only means to have a brand name “top-of-mind” is with the aided awareness of great marketing. Not in the case of Chick-fil-A. It could be argued that closing on one of the busiest days of the week would be a devastating blow to their business, but a February 2010 report indicates that “Chick-fil-A generated more than $3.2 billion dollars in sales in 2009, and the chain has enjoyed sales gains for 42 consecutive years.” It seems that Truett Cathy, creator of Chick-fil-A Restaurants, was making more than a religious decision.

But one could argue that Truett was a marketing genius. By craving Chick-fil-A more when it is closed, a consumer is already engaged with the brand – and Chick-fil-A isn’t spending a dime to have the brand be top-of-mind. It is the classic “want what you can’t have.” But loyal customers are engaged with the brand, even when it’s unavailable. And isn’t that, ultimately, the goal to obtain brand-loyal customers?

Think about it next time you are craving Waffle Fries on Sunday. In the meantime, what do you do to engage your audience, outside of traditional or digital communication?

— Jonathan Ginburg, Senior Account Executive

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Filed under advertising, Compelling