Amex, Panasonic and Chase — Blown Marketing Opportunities at the US Open

In tennis, the ball is only allowed to bounce once on your side of the court before you hit it. In this blog post I’m going to give you three examples of marketers at this years US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY who invested in Mobile promotion techniques to generate customer awareness and loyalty, but blew their opportunity to score points with consumers.

The first offender was the US Open themselves.  We were lucky enough to get a parking pass and were delighted that the parking pass came with a QR code and a note to scan the QR code for directions.  Great Idea.  But here’s what happens when you scan the code: You get delivered to a web page (not even one tuned for mobile) with a choice of several text blocks with directions – really shitty, misleading and incorrect directions – to the parking lot, but no map.

Here’s what they could have done if they had been really considering an end-user who, by definition, has a QR reader on their phone and therefore access to Google Maps.

  1. Identified a specific spot on Google Maps where the parking lots are located.  (if you are driving to the Open, they are near the Queens Zoo, in the middle of Corona Park).
  2. Use the QR code to send them directly to a view of that location on Google Maps.  Most app phone users will know at that point how to get driving directions from that point.
  3. Alternatively, provide an option of a link to Google Maps, or a street address near the entry road for the parking for entry into a GPS device.

I’ve actually blocked from my mind how frustrated I was in trying to find the parking and have no clue how we actually stumbled across the entry road for the parking, but I do recall that there was swearing involved.


Panasonic was at the Open in three locations, showing off their 3-d technology (I am on record that I believe 3-D is stupid.) Panasonic’s promotion gives away a high-end TV if you visit all 3 booths and capture the QR code at all 3.  Here’s the problem:  when I captured the QR code, I was brought to a non-mobile tuned web page with a 6+ field entry form, including a 2 word Captcha.  Rediculous.  I tried it once, failed on the Captcha and got a samosa from the Indian food stand.  Fantastic samosa, btw.

Panasonic's use of QR Codes was less than simple or smart

Why couldn’t Panasonic…

  1. Allow me to just enter an e-mail address as my identifier and then on the back end see if I visited all 3 booths.
  2. Send me the contest rules and detailed information request via e-mail?

The Panasonic issue reminds me that there are lawyers out there and promotions rules people who have no idea about consumer engagement and the importance of giving people a good experience.  Panasonic blew the opportunity to give users a simple experience.

(Note:  I did notice some interesting Internet-centric TV’s, however, that have Twitter and Facebook built in.  Interesting idea.



I’m a relatively new Chase customer and I like their ATMs and iPhone app for the simple way they read and accept checks.  But I am not sure what they were trying to promote at their booth.  The booth materials said that I could use my Chase iPhone app to scan a check and be entered in a drawing for a cash prize.  But halfway through the line, a guy with an iPad came up to me, took my information and placed me in the same drawing, even though he knew I had an iPhone and the app on my phone?

But wasn’t the purpose of the promotion to drive trial of the iPhone App?  Didn’t the booth attendant know the reason for the booth?

What Chase could have done was create a number of checks on posters and place them in strategic areas (like the Chase ATMs maybe?) around the US Open site.  And then from those areas driven some activity at the booth.  Long lines at a booth, undercut by non-thinking booth attendants does not make for a good promo.


Finally, American Express.  Here’s what they did right:  Gave out US Open Radio earpieces for free to any cardmember attending.  You just give them your card, they swipe it and you get the earpiece so you can hear the TV broadcasters talk while you walk around or attend a match.  This is a very useful, very simple, very popular promotion and a nice loyalty reward.

Here’s where American Express did not do great.  At the amazing food booths (so much better than the last time I was at the Open) there was a sign that said  something like “if you check in at the Open on Foursquare or Facebook you can unlock benefits that include a $10 card credit when you purchased more than $20 of food (that’s easy!) on your Amex card. But you have to go to a website (as a public service, I will promote it here:  to connect your Facebook and Foursquare accounts with your Amex Card number.

Amex's check-in promo needed a mind-reader!


Here are the issues with Amex’s check-in promotion:

  1. No QR code on the sign to make it easy to register with your mobile device.
  2. No promotion of this promo when you get the radio.
  3. No promotional signs up before you get to the register.  There are long lines for food at the Open.  If they knew about the promotion, they could have registered for the promotion while they waited to order their food.

I want to make it clear that I think these brands are generally on the right track.  But they are not thinking about how an end-user will actually experience their promotional use of technology.  Implementing clever promotions using technology requires marketers to think like software companies.  At a minimum you need to consider:

  1. What is the most important end-result I want from my customer or prospect?
  2. How many steps am I requiring for participation?
  3. What device will they be using?  How can I make the mobile experience easy?
  4. How can I train my staff to encourage participation?
  5. How can I reward participation for non-sweepstakes winners?

I hope you get a chance to enjoy the Open in person or on TV.  The quality of play and the spirit of the crowds is truly exhilarating.  And I hope some marketers will read this and consider smart ways to “hit the ball once” and generate success using today’s mobile and social marketing opportunities.




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