Clever Doesn’t Always Scale in Marketing


I love toys. Who doesn’t? Shiny new objects, cool new things to play with. That especially holds true in Marketing. We are introduced to neat, fun technologies and tactics all the time in the name of increasing engagement. The problem is clever doesn’t always scale in marketing.

Think of pURLs, integrated campaigns, and who remembers QR codes…? All of them so cool and could have a big impact on response and engagement, or if not used correctly, could be a waste of time, effort and money. The simple fact that a tool is awesome doesn’t increase anything alone. The trending technology won’t drive more sales just because you use it. The new tactic won’t increase your sales just case you added it to the mix.

Sometimes, the greatest proponents of a new technology are driven by those who created it, and frankly, trying to sell it. “Let us show you how awesome this new tool is and how it can improve your business.”

I have fallen victim to this as well. One clever tool was doomed before it became popular and the other had 2 significant hurdles.

A number of years ago, we loved the QR code. I still like it. It offers a great way to quickly interact between a printed poster or mail piece and the web. Scan a code, go to a web site. Alas, the technology was so cool that no one (ok – mostly marketers) didn’t forward think to the fact that everyone using this tool will do so from their phone. And their websites weren’t mobile enabled, so you had to clumsily do the figure aerobics to zoom in on the web page to actually see it. The other issue was easy functionality. The idea if quickly scanning a QR code to jump to a website is great… but having to first download the QR reader app and figure out how to works (not always so simple). Even once you have mastered it, you still have to open it up, scan the code, and look at the website for it to have any real positive affect. Most people didn’t. No patience, too complicated.

Yet, there we were telling everyone how cool it was and what they could do with it. Even the USPS discounted postage on mail pieces that had it during a promo they had a few times. Still, no real impact.

Then there were pURLS (Personalized landing pages). This is a process of using pre-existing data we have on an individual, driving them to a website that can be customized to the visitor level. It’s very cool. If we know what your buying habits are, we can show you content based on it thus offering a higher level of relevancy and increased customer/prospect engagement.

Too often I have heard the claim that pURLS don’t work. I beg to differ, they do. That is, unless you do it poorly. If not, they won’t –  and that is my point. It doesn’t matter what kind of marketing tools you pull from your toolbox, if your offer isn’t worth the effort, if they don’t find the value in your product, if that service doesn’t increase their business, it won’t matter. It will not succeed.

And when it came to Cross Channel Marketing, I had a client recently tell me, they do that all the time. They have their website address on every direct mail piece that goes out. So when they read the brochure, they’ll run to the website thus using both the Print and Web Channel. Unfortunately, the point was missed.

I always feel it’s better to start with the basics. Before you leap into the latest cool tech, make sure you have 3 things place first:

  1. Value Proposition – what makes your product or service indispensable?
  2. Craft a message the clearly demonstrates that value
  3. Verify your target audience, where they are and how you can reach them.

Then, and only then do we think about how to put our message in front of them. That is where the new tools and technology can be useful.

So have fun with the new fads and technologies, but use the wisely, and when they will truly be helpful.

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