The Principal Financial Group is one of the first financial services companies I have seen to create a 2D barcode magazine advertisement and make use of a Microsoft Tag. While I give The Principal points for trying, unfortunately, I do not believe this campaign will produce the results that they hope to achieve and, if it does, I would be very surprised.
Where to begin…first, let’s start with the size and location of the Tag. The Tag is awfully small and hard to notice and because it is positioned along side the spine of the magazine scanning can be difficult.
Second, the company has created a branded Tag, by placing its logo in the code. While I am already familiar with the company’s triangle logo, what I could not make out in the Tag is the image to the left of the triangle. To try to decipher this, I went to the company’s website to see if I could find a similar logo, and I did. The part of the logo that I could not make out is that of a cartoon image of a man leaning against the triangle. For the company to go to the trouble and expense of creating a branded Tag, why not make it big enough for readers to clearly see? Also, is a branded Tag necessary in this application?
Third, and this is the most important, there is absolutely no call to action in the ad, for the ad as a whole, as well as for the Tag. Forget about adhering to 2D barcode best practices, what about marketing/advertising best practices. The ad simply says, “So we created a Web site with tips and ideas to help you and your benefits advisor find your next move.” Yeah, so? Why would a reader bother responding to the ad, versus any other firm that can offer benefits advice or investments? Why would a reader bother downloading the app and scanning the code? And, what’s most striking of all is that the ad does not even tell or ask readers to scan the code! All it does is provide a URL for downloading the reader app.
Fourth, because this is most likely The Principal’s first foray into 2D codes, I would assume this is the reason why they do not take the time and effort to help educate and inform the public about what a code is, how to scan it and where the code brings them. Or, does the company just assume consumers know what codes are and there is no need for explanation.
So, why is all of this happening? I believe I have an answer. When I went to the company’s website to look at logos, I also went to the page which lists the company’s various advertising campaigns and found a link to an ad that matched the one above, except there was no Tag. This leads me to believe that the company recycled an already created advertisement, slapped a branded Tag on it and crossed their fingers that it would draw a response. You can also tell that there was little or no thought put into this campaign, because of where the Tag is placed. Instead of designing the ad around the Tag, as it should, The Principal’s creative team took the easy way out and just plunked down the Tag where it could fit.
For 2D barcode campaigns to succeed companies cannot take the path of least resistance. Instead, they must invest the time, energy and resources into learning about the technology and how best to apply it for marketing and promotional purposes. Widespread consumer acceptance and use of 2D will come by way of well thought out campaigns and strategies, not ones that are simply an afterthought.