Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tricked by the Envelope: A Lesson in Ethical Marketing

By Jennifer Spitzer

As marketers, we’re bound by many laws and regulations that help protect consumers. You can’t call someone registered on the Do Not Call list unless they’re an existing customer. If you send an email to promote your service and you don’t have permission to send that email, you’re in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. And what you advertise about your product needs to be true. Remember those comic book ads for X-ray vision eye glasses? Imagine how many people would own a pair if they really delivered on the promise.

Even with the laws we have in place, marketers have plenty of gray area to play in, which is why the Direct Marketing Association (DMA, www.dmaresponsibility.org) advocates self regulation among marketers. In its Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice, the DMA clearly outlines principles to help marketers make responsible decisions about how they communicate to clients and prospects.

In the mail today, I received an EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, RUSH TO ADDRESSEE via Priority Express Mail envelope. The sender was not identified anywhere on the envelope and there was no hint of the content. This is serious. This is official and by the looks of the “posting number” and the various check boxes on the address panel indicating rush processing, Priority 1 and “dated material enclosed”, there’s something really important in this envelope. I tear into it with urgency.

Inside this oversized, official-looking Priority Express envelope is a single sheet of paper, “We will Match or Beat Your Current Mortgage Offer!”

I feel like I have been tricked into opening this… how embarrassing. Okay, Quicken Loans, you got me.

Using this tactic to get a consumer’s attention is perfectly legal but in my opinion, falls within the gray area of self-regulation. Ethical guidelines state that envelope copy on any direct mail effort must be honest and “Offers that are likely to be mistaken for bills, invoices, or notices from public utilities or governmental agencies should not be used.”

I forgive you Quicken Loans for tricking me into opening your envelope. For your next campaign, consider identifying yourself. Work on your mail list so that you’re targeting consumers with the highest propensity to become a customer. Develop your creative, message and offer so that it’s relevant and compelling. Be a responsible marketer and you’ll see results.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

QR Codes: What's in the Box?

By Jennifer Spitzer

Quick Response Codes, a.k.a. QR Codes, are those funky looking boxes you're starting to see on things like direct mail promotions, restaurant menus, product packaging and magazine ads. They're not mainstream yet, so unless you're an early adopter of technology, you're probably scratching your head about why consumers should even care about these bizarre looking barcodes. Consumers aren't the only ones baffled. Most marketers still haven't figured out how to integrate the little two-dimensional code into their mix.

Here's the skinny on how these high speed codes were developed. Denso-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary, developed the code in 1994. In a world where technology can be obsolete within a few months, to say this was developed before its time is an understatement. Denso-Wave owns the patent rights on QR codes but they've chosen not to exercise them, which means the use of these codes is absolutely free.

It won't be long before we see these codes everywhere. Here's a brief list of ways marketers will use the codes to promote their products and services.

1. You're running a promotion, exclusive to your Facebook page so you can increase the number of consumers who Like you. The QR code on all of your printed material, including in-store signage and POS materials, instantly takes the consumer to your Facebook page.

2. You're doing a product launch and you want prospects to have quick, easy access to specific information and offers on your website.

3. You're at a friend's house and they're letting you try out their newest widget. You love it and want one. Scan the QR code on the box and it takes you directly to the website where you can buy it.

My personal favorite helps me in my attempt to constantly multi-task. I'm driving in my car with my trusty iPhone within reach. I'm sitting at a red light and a van pulls up next to me, advertising the precise service I've been looking for. I grab my iPhone, hit my QR app, point it at the van and voila, I've captured the website just as the light turns green. It's a good thing. Afterall, who can possibly type while driving?

Try it! First you will need to download a QR Reader application to your smart phone. Then, go to http://qrcode.kaywa.com/, key in your business's web address and your free QR Code will appear.