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QR Code Mobile Engagement Transforms “Mad” Advertising into a Happy Marriage with Consumers

Are the advertising principles of the fictional agency on “Mad Men” still applicable today?  Or are technological advances and savvy consumers driving an advertising evolution?

If the character of Don Draper were alive today, he’d be 87.  That tells me it might be time for a change in the way we advertise in the 21st century compared with how Madison Avenue execs did it in the ’50s and ‘60s.

Back in Draper’s day, you might get 10 ads an hour on TV, the medium of choice.  Today, digital advertising has exploded—it’s estimated that consumers are exposed to 1,700 banner ads daily. This high volume has created a selective blindness that makes many of us instinctively close pop-ups without even viewing the content.

Advertisers have become addicted to the tried-and-true Mad Men style that features impactful creative designed for huge audiences, attracting a small—but acceptable—consumer pool.  They rationalize that, even if people don’t purchase, the company will pick up some brand recognition along the way.  Indeed, a study by ComScore and Millennial showed that, in 2012, nearly half of mobile campaigns for consumer products were focused on brand recognition.

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So, yes, I get it—this model has worked for more than half a century.  With a little retrofitting, it has even made a seemingly smooth transition to the Internet, where rich media promos and cookies have—at least so far—provided some new capabilities for direct feedback.

But on the mobile device—in the era of smartphones and social networks when young people don’t watch TV and many do not even use Facebook or email—forced digital advertising seems impersonal and intrusive.  It’s like trying to catch flies with cannon balls.

Mobile marketing is actually a personal and contextual interaction—or at least it should be.  It involves building a relevant, ongoing conversation—with the consumer in control.  And that conversation is most effective when the consumer’s interests and context are driving it.

The real magic occurs when mobile marketing connects the digital and physical worlds by adding communities of interest within social networks.  As the great Alan Moore said, these social networks have become so important to our lives that “I” needs “we” to be truly “I.”  This is the key to discovering the most relevant marketing for the 21st century:  the Marketing of Engagement.

Engagement is not a KPI or the number of times a person clicks on a link. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, fully agreed-upon between the brand and the consumer.  In fact, it’s just like a young couple planning to get married—they’re engaged, right?  If these two people have a relationship in which both contribute and both want to cultivate it—and it would eventually break up if they didn’t do it right—they’re both likely to be satisfied and happy.  The same is true for Engagement Marketing.

I’m often asked how brands can get permission to engage and start interacting with consumers.  The easy answer is that they need to serve their prospects’ communities of interest by offering services, content, exclusive offers, and meetings.  To target the right interactions, they’ll need to listen to consumers, ask their opinions, propose ideas, and allow them to participate in their products.  In short, flirt—just like our engaged couple did when their relationship was developing.

I like to sum it up this way: Engagement = Mobile Marketing + Communities, or E = M2C.

QR Codes provide one of the best ways to “flirt” with customers and unite their virtual and physical worlds.  Mobile ads are successful when they’re served to people who’ve already raised their hands (scanned a QR Code) to say they’re interested.  You can trigger all kinds of actions such as viewing videos or prompting emails—even an ad is okay here because the consumer is in control.

The right QR Code platform gives you advanced options to generate customized content and instantly respond to a consumer’s behavior and context.  With the customer’s permission, you’ll discover new ways to use context and personalization to create more relevant connections.  The icing on the cake is that you’ll get unprecedented business intelligence with valuable, near real-time reporting of consumer behavior.  These analytics are essential to guiding good marketing decisions that maximize your investment.  Your relevant conversations will keep the relationship alive and growing.

By the way, I get the . . . “But seriously, this involves changing what we do today—our creative processes, our technological capabilities, our investment in media, our relationship with our customers, our comfort zone, and the way we measure our bonus.”

Without a doubt.  Yes it does. But change brings excitement and results.   And meaningful engagements can lead to long, happy relationships.

It’s your decision.



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Mobile barcodes have changed the way we discover & share information from the world around us. We welcome your thoughts & ideas on how to make this technology matter - today and in the future.


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