Here’s £30 free. Here’s some bad analytics.

Voucher codes were a great way to track marketing channels until individuals were given a scaleable way to tell their friends about them. You could call it “viral marketing” but it is being measured as channel marketing. Now promotional vouchers are starting to eat away at the brand’s margins. Here’s why.

Want £30 free from Google? Go to www.google.co.uk/advertising-offercode and get your £30 off.

Voucher codes have been a very popular way to track the effectiveness of campaigns even before the web came along. They are great because they transcend marketing mediums. You can give a voucher online to be redeemed in store or you can give a voucher code to a chap handing out calling cards on Oxford Street for redemption online. They have been working well until recently.

Now I hear rumblings. Rumblings from the affiliate community that voucher codes are killing all theit hard work. An affiliate spoends loads of time pre-selling a customer and at the last moment the buyer sees a box saying “if you have a promotional code. enter it here”. This kills the poor affiliate’s commission and gives it to some other affilate. Case in point – we went to Centerparcs last year and managed to get a discount by doing that search at checkout.

But on balance, surely the affiliates win. Well – thiose offering voucher codes win. It’s the brands that lose. 20 seconds before pushing the “sale” button and savvy internetters go to their not so favourite search engine and get a discount on something they were going to buy anywy. Everyone loves a deal. But the problem is that the voucher code as a way of tracking the source of a marketing channel is breaking down.

Last month I went to buy one of those needlessly large fridges with needless ice making and cold water facilities. (Significantly better for the environment than the half size one we had before, by the way.) We went to Currys, and found the exact one. Delivery charge… £45 extra. Since we decided that even if we could fit it into the estate (car, not house), we couldn’t carry it into the kitchen, we decided to just check online first.

The net result? We got a discount through Can’t B arsed.com after a quick trip to Google. We also got it from Dixons’, not from Curry’s. We also got free delivery.

So I’m happy. I got the deal. But as a tracking mechanism, promotional vouchers are rapidly becoming unreliable.

Oh yes… that Google voucher? I got it from a Google paid link in New Media Age this morning.

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