It still amazes me how much money marketing giants spend on flawed campaigns. This week I’m going to analyze three companies that ran a full page, full-color print ads with a strong call to actions that lead their prospects down “the road to Abilene”.
The Abilene Paradox is when a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that takes them where no one wanted to go in the first place. The concept was formed by Jerry B. Harvey, who used this analogy to describe it.
A family is comfortably sitting on the front porch playing dominos until the father-in-law brings up taking a trip to Abilene (53 miles away) for dinner. The mother-in-law says that would be nice. The daughter and her husband agree. Four hours later they return exhausted, and each confesses this was a trip that not one of them really wanted to take.
Three Guilty Companies Lead Prospects Down the Wrong Road
This week, I pulled full-page ads ran by UPS, SAS, and Reach Marketing. Each ad was well designed, eye-catching, mostly benefit vs. pain front loaded and contained a QR Code®*.
The advertisements were artistically correct but imperfect in other areas beyond where the QR Code led prospects. Here is where each ad fell short.
The headline “Reach for Success” is not original; in fact some might consider it lame.
Putting the eight faces of Reach Marketing’s salespeople on the ad probably stroked their egos, but I wonder if it made the phone ring.
Finally, the fact that the QR Code lead prospects to a webpage with multiple options of signing up for a newsletter (Oh boy), testing the prospecting database or reading a bunch of bullets and copy is fairly vague. What do you want us to do, Reach Marketing? Focus on the SINGLE action, you want your prospect to take. Take us there, not to Abilene.
Hurrah UPS for using the power of three. They quickly offer up three proven ways to generate customer loyalty in the growing online shopping world with an emphasis on their ability to ensure easy returns – a big hot button for online shoppers.
The UPS ad is clean and uses white space brilliantly. The eye is immediately directed to a tempting QR Code right after you absorb the three benefits of working with UPS. Unfortunately, the QR Code leads you to a place worse than Abilene. It leads you to this message, “The server understands the request but is refusing to fulfill it. Error 403: Forbidden.” I think we’ll all agree on this one, that’s the wrong message for a fulfillment and shipping company.
SAS used the David Ogilvy philosophy of, tell a compelling story in your ad and the prospect will read and respond regardless of the length of the copy. The headline “Big Data” ties to the custom URL “SAS.com/BigValue,” which leads me to believe there will be a big price tag for their services.
Nevertheless, I love the meaty callouts on the right side of the ad that show big time results of reducing calculation times from 96 to 4 hours and optimize pricing down from 30 hours to 2. That screams tell me what you can do with my bloated database.
So I was happy to scan the QR Code and be taken to a YouTube video featuring a Bank of America executive, Jim Goodnight, giving a testimonial. Unfortunately, Mr. Goodnight nearly put me to sleep with his dull, all-talk, no-graphics presentation. However, of the three companies, SAS’ QR Code was the closest to not leading me down the road to Abilene.
Where are your QR Codes taking your prospects?
*QR Code is a licensed trademark of Denso Wave