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Is anyone actually scanning QR codes?

With the proliferation of so many new marketing tactics and points of contact with our clients’ customers, we’re constantly on the lookout for new ways to link the various tools we’re designing and producing. That’s why the QR codes are perhaps the most exciting development in some time.

For those not yet familiar, a QR (or Quick Response) code is a matrix barcode of sorts that can be read by camera phones. The information encoded can ultimately be text or other data, but the movement seems to be toward linking to a specific URL for more information beyond the product or ad containing the code.

This graphic from JumpScan shares some data they’ve gathered about QR codes, including who’s scanning them, what kind of devices they’re using, and what brands are running QR code campaigns.

And, yes, the infographic itself contains QR codes, so have your iPhone ready!

I think this is an amazing tool, but there are rumblings that despite their ever-widening use, few people are actually taking the time to actually scan a QR code.  But that’s gonna change.



When your client is just plain wrong

The dust has settled, but over the recent holidays, a colleague of mine had a particularly tough client. (I’ll not mention names for obvious reasons.)

We’re talking about  a client that is unorganized with resources, inconsistent with direction, unfocused on objectives, and not particularly open to taking advice from the marketing experts she had hired.

What do you do when you find yourself in these situations? After all, she’s the client. She pays the bills. How do you live with that?

I like the approach shared by The Mad Ad Man in his recent blog post. He writes that once you realize that drastic changes have to be made – yet your client is unwilling to upset the status quo – you have two options.  There really are three, but the last is unacceptable.

“You can radically challenge the status quo,” he writes. “You break down the house, clear it out completely, and then rebuild it from the ground back up. This will require a lot of schmoozing, and diplomatic relationship management on your end, but this has a chance of success.”

The other option is “slice by slice change” – “For you, this means, being extremely patient, and starting with smaller projects, making her part of the process, making her buy into the process, and hence, get her support. Then, you will move on to larger projects, until you have gradually changed the status quo.”

The third option is to simply surrender, give up, and wave the white flag. But our author reminds us: “You should be ashamed of yourself though, and I am sure you will feel like a prostitute, only doing it for the money, not for the love of your profession. You won’t last long this way. So no, it’s not an option.”


The case for the case study

In talking with design comrades, we often debate how best to present our capabilities in a way that makes sense to clients and prospects. Too often, we position our services in a vague or esoteric way, with terminology that requires further explanation.

We go through our creative process. We name the steps. We define the deliverables. And we preach about the value of a powerful brand. It’s our way of differentiating ourselves from others who may be competing for the work.

Yet so often the prospect is still a bit confused. Plus, of course, this approach is not always smart once we remind ourselves of the importance of talking about our client’s needs rather than our own internal processes.

In response to this challenge, Luke Mysse of Crossgrain is suggesting the use of a single case study as your presentation to a new prospect. We’re developing these now for our business-development efforts. But foremost in our minds are the following ideas:

  • Choose one — just one! — that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Make the presentation highly visual for impact.
  • Define the challenge, the tactics used, and the results. That’s it.
  • Trust that your designs are distinctive enough that you don’t have to emphasize their importance.
  • Instead, focus on the tangible business results that your efforts helped deliver for that client.
  • And finally, treat the case study as the start of meaningful dialogue, rather than as a call to action.

In a similar way, Fast Company magazine tells us that tech conferences have all but banned boring PowerPoint slide shows in favor of short, fast-paced product demos.

“It’s not about bullet points or the company, but what have they built?” says Finovate CEO Eric Mattson.

For those used to sharing portfolio samples and client lists, or walking prospects through a discussion of design methodology, etc. this can be quite a departure.

How effective can the single case study be as a presentation? Stay tuned.

The automation of branding

Don’t know if this is a cool new tool, just a curiosity, or a sign of the coming apocalypse. But this London-based startup company intends to help entrepreneurs design logos, websites and business cards instantly using their simplified web interface.

BuildaBrand’s approach is essentially to break down the brand-building process into a simple step-by-step exercise. The user is asked questions about brand values, and then BuildaBrand’s proprietary algorithms provide a selection of logos, fonts, etc. that you can tweak to your heart’s content.

Skeptics call this approach “vending machine logos,” and of course a logo should not be mistaken for a brand. But it may be a starting point. And it raises the question asked by “Can brand development really be automated, or created via an algorithm, or is it something that can only be created on a personal and strategic level?”

CEO Justin Chapney sidesteps it deftly, stating: “”We are trying to lower the barriers to entry for startups by providing them with accessible and affordable tools. Eventually, we would like to provide branding knowledge and support as well as products.”

And what does this say about the value of automation as a replacement for creative thinking?

“Our algorithm and the way it has been constructed is the result of years of branding experience and a lot of strategic research,” Chapney says. “All our designs are originated by designers, from the symbols to the colour palettes.”

Intriguing. Scary. And I definitely signed up for their closed beta.

No guts, no glory

In our age of Google AdWords and sophisticated web analytics, I can’t imagine suggesting that a client invest in TV, radio, billboards or other media where effectiveness cannot be measured. The direct-marketer approach has taught us that if you cannot measure the results, the almighty ROI … you shouldn’t do it.

But Seth Godin challenges this attitude, suggesting in a recent blog post that “Most businesses (including your competitors) are afraid of big investments in unmeasurable media. Therefore, if you have the resources and the guts, it’s a home run waiting to be hit.”

Seth goes on to name several big brands whose commitment to these media is huge. And they flourish as a result. But if you do want to stray from the “measure the results” school, make sure you don’t even try to gauge the results as the basis for smart decision-making. “It’s still an art,” he says, “not a science.”

More importantly, realize that small investments in unmeasurable media nearly always fail.  So, Seth suggests: “Go big or stay home.”

Tell your brand story

As the story goes, a young Flemish bike racer named Henri “Ritte” Van Lerberghe showed up at the starting line of a famous race directly from the frontlines of the First World War.  He borrowed a bike from a local, sped out to a sizeable lead, then decided to stop for a pre-celebratory beer.

Well, one beer led to three then four as Ritte apparently enjoyed hanging out with locals more than winning. Yet he eventually did hop back on the borrowed bike, and reportedly won Belgium’s greatest race by more than 14 minutes.

He later started up his own racing team which — following 90 years of hibernation — has now re-emerged in Southern California.

Sound far-fetched? Sure. Does it matter? Of course not.

The idea is that this simple yet engaging story perfectly captures the brand of a new bike company based out of Santa Monica. It says: “We race bikes, and we dig the sport’s traditions, but we also like to drink beer and have a good time with friends.”

Ritte Racing sells high-end racing bikes with cool paint jobs, maintains a hip website and blog, produces hilarious video promotions, and pretty much lays claim to the coolest marketing tactics in the cycling industry.

As for their brand story, there’s a lot to be learned. If you don’t have a compelling one, feel free to make it up.  Just make sure you stay true to its personality.  And, most importantly if going this route, don’t be afraid to let your customers in on the fun.

By the way, Ritte Van Vlaanderen Bicycle Company was founded by an ad agency copywriter and creative director. Go figure.

Clever marketing or cheap publicity?

We all know Lance Armstrong as much for his strong support of cancer research through his Livestrong foundation as we do for his unprecedented 7 victories in the Tour de France. So it should not have come as a surprise that he and his RadioShack team chose the final day of this year’s tour to build awareness for his favorite cause.

Lance and his teammates switched their red jerseys for black ones with a number 28 on the back in honor of the estimated 28 million people worldwide living with cancer.

French race officials freaked out — something about rules stating you have to finish the 3-week race in the same-colored jerseys you started with. The race had to stop temporarily while the cyclists were forced to switch back to their red jerseys.

Apparently, Armstrong and RadioShack had failed to work things out ahead of time with the Tour de France officials.

Or did they?

The resulting publicity was much greater than if arrangements had been made ahead of time.  Was the Tour de France just being stuffy?  Unsympathetic to cancer patients? Or was Lance Armstrong using a sporting event (packed with advertising, by the way) for his own publicity?

Either way, it worked. It grabbed attention in a clever, viral, get-the-people-talking way.

But it raises compelling questions regarding guerilla marketing (the heck with gaining permission), hijacking live events for brand awareness, and how to snag the attention of the worldwide media.

I’m not so sure the public would have been so sympathetic were Lance Armstrong promoting nutritional supplements.  But Lance + cancer research + Tour de France = perfect opportunity for a very clever marketing tactic.

Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
April 2018
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