Haven’t We Learned Anything?

By | January 27, 2012

I am looking for some case studies or statistics that talk about increased response rates using PURLs. What type of response rates have you experienced when using PURLs? Or do you know of a source where I can find those stats? I have tried [industry vendors] and most other reputable sites without any luck. They talk about how it works, but not much in the way of numbers.

This request came from one of the industry ListServes. When was this request written? Last month? Last week? This morning?

The the other day, my seven-year-old spilled water on the keyboard of my MacBook. Although she sopped the water up up quickly, the keyboard did not survive. That put me back on my old MacBook from, well, the turn of the century (I’m not completely kidding about that.)

After being pleased that it fired right up, I began poking around some of the old files still on the hard drive. One of the files is a column I wrote for a publication (no longer in print) for nearly a decade. The quote above came from one of the oldest folders still on the drive – 2007.

Just in case you missed it, yes, the quote at the top of this post was written in March 2007.

Reading it gave me quite a jolt because I still read requests like this on ListServes and social media forums like LinkedIn.  Haven’t we learned anything since 2007?

The answer then, as it is now, is that there are no meaningful statistics on the lift provided by PURLs or any other element of a marketing campaign. This is because the lift will depend on all of the other aspects of the campaign, such as the list, the creative, the offer, and many other factors. The PURL, QR code, or other element of the campaign is just a response mechanism like an 800 number, tear-out form, or web address. It’s all but meaningless by itself.

That question concerned me back in 2007 because, as budding marketing service providers, the participants on this ListServe should have known the answer to this question. That’s what being a marketing services provider is (although they were calling themselves “one-stop shops” back then) about. That so many in the industry are still asking the exact same question today is unnerving.

Haven’t we learned anything?

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3 thoughts on “Haven’t We Learned Anything?

  1. John Leininger

    I think we have learned a lot, but in many cases people are not willing to share their results. There are many case studies available to read, but most are only available if you are a customer for the vendor that creates them or collects them (or if you visit them at a trade show—Xerox’s 1:1 Lab are the best) or you have to be a member of a trade association to have access a library of case studies. I think the six case studies that can be found at http://www.dukky.com are great examples and people can learn a lot.

    I only agree halfway that a PURL or a QR code is simply a response mechanism. They are tools and learning to use the right tool at the right time is critical to one’s success and learning how to use the tool right is just as important. Using a hammer to drive in a screw will work, but it will not do the job as well as drilling a hole and using a screw driver with a little bit of soap dust applied to the screw threads (by the way, the soap dust is the hidden ingredient that most people miss when working with hardwoods like oak). The design and strategy of the PURL or where the QR code takes you is just as important as the original design. What I think is more difficult to work through is that when you try to analysis the results, the results for the PURL become a percentage of the original contact tool (direct mail, email, brochure, ad). It takes a little higher level of statistical analysis to make a meaningful analysis.

  2. Dave Erlandson

    MindFire has a report called the Response Rates of Personalized Cross-Media Campaigns that has some good data in it. You can find it at


    And Caslon the management company of PODi has it’s Response Rate Report, which compares personalized campaigns vs. static campaigns, but does not focus on PURLs. This report can be found at


    The Caslon Response Rate report is free for PODi members, however if a non-PODi members wants a complimentary copy just send an email to info@caslon.net and we’ll send one to you.

  3. Ricardo Perez

    First, do check out Dave’s suggestions re: Mindfire and PODi, they both contain a wealth of information.

    Secondly, my company published a PODi case study in 2010 that tested the effectiveness of PURLs on postcards vs. “generic” postcards. In fact, we even tested PURLs on digitally printed postcards, i.e. large and easy to see, on both sides of the card, with additional targeted variable messaging vs. PURLs simply inkjetted above the address block on an otherwise generic postcard. In that A/B test, the digitally printed postcards garnered 4x the response of the generic postcard with just the PURL above the name. So I think this supports the point that a PURL by itself is not much of a factor – it is the totality of targeting the right audience with the right message, the right offer and the right creative.

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