6/09/2021

Charity Mail Deluge

When COVID hit last spring, I thanked God that I was fortunate enough to stay healthy and safe when so many people here in NYC were infected. I wanted to give back but, like many others too frightened to help in person, I chose to donate money. I donated to several charities, including some I had not given to before. That was April, 2020.

Then, starting in October, 2020, this happened:

102 Charity Solicitations
102 mail fundraising solicitations
October - December 2020

I received 102 mailed fundraising solicitations from charities to which I had never donated. Most of them were related to feeding people -- in Africa, South America, and Manhattan. Others were for: environmental causes; providing medical care to people in faraway lands; building houses; preventing people from being born with disabilities; helping people born with physical disabilities, orphans, wounded veterans, Native American children, Native American senior citizens, "inner city children" who can't afford a Catholic education, and one that appeared to have something to do with housing recovering drug addicts in hotels.

Many of the classic direct mail fundraising techniques are included: blind envelopes, pictures of children near death; envelope teasers reading "URGENT NEED NOW", "EMERGENCY APPEAL" or simply "PLEASE"; envelopes a layperson might think had been hand-addressed and stamped; tear-jerking letters; promises that my donation would be matched by a mysterious benefactor; business reply envelopes; blessings by nuns; Christmas cards; a decade's supply of return address labels; pens; baby socks; and so on. If you have created or supported direct mail fundraising solicitations, you know these packages.

It appears to me that one or more of the charities that received money from me in spring 2020 chose to make some more money by including my name on a rentable mailing list. I was included on a Hot List of new donors or a timely "COVID Giving List" of sorts.

There is a part of me that feels negative about this experience. I could go into a rant about how the federal government subsidizes charities with lower postage rates, or how many of these organizations are charities in name only because they pour more money into soliciting donations than they do actually supporting their supposed cause. But, hey, that's the nature of the medium.

(Personally, I'm a bit disappointed at myself. I typically research charities, preferring to contribute to those that have low administrative costs and can demonstrate how they are effectively using the money given to them. I didn't fully vet the three that potentially had actualized additional funds from my proactive donation. That's my personal lesson today.)

I looked back at my donation history and narrowed down the list of charities that broke my heart to three. I won't name them here, but I know who they are and I know I will never donate to them again. That type of charity merits a type of Fail for List.

Direct response marketing guru Joan Throckmorton taught me something I wish I had recalled last year: When doing business with a new organization, consider using a fake middle initial. When you see that middle initial show up elsewhere, you know where it came from. So, that's my direct marketing lesson today.

OK, that and including baby socks in your fundraising solicitation is pretty crass.


Lesson:

If you want to see how information about your personal activity is shared and sold, use a fake middle initial. You have 25 of them to work with, so go at it.

6/03/2021

Dunkin': Everything is Direct Marketing, including my name

How do we define "Direct Marketing?" Let's look at the definition from Investopia:

Direct marketing consists of any marketing that relies on direct communication or distribution to individual consumers, rather than through a third party such as mass media. Mail, email, social media, and texting campaigns are among the delivery systems used. It is called direct marketing because it generally eliminates the middleman, such as advertising media.

Put it simply, direct marketing is any direct customer communication. In that context, my communication with Dunkin Donuts Customer Service merits a Fail for Creative

Last month, I noticed that, for the first time since COVID hit over a year ago, my favorite Dunkin' was open at 5:00 am. The next morning, I tried to advance-order a cup of joe; however, according to the app, the location did not open until 6:00 am. I spoke with the manager, who explained he had been trying for a week with "headquarters" to get the app updated with the correct hours.   

I wrote an email to customerservice@dunkinbrands.com:

Hi,

I am a DD loyalty club member: [redacted]
 
My favorite DD is [redacted]
 
I walk my dog at 5:30 am each day.  This location is open; however, I cannot place a mobile order because according to your app, it does not open until 6:00 am.  
 
I confirmed this morning with the owner/manager that the location is open on weekdays at 5:00 am.
 
My request to you is to update the hours on the app so I can place the order ahead of time and grab the order quickly without having my dog wait too long for me.
 
Thank you,
 
Marc Davis

It was a friendly email with a minor request to improve my customer experience. 

Five days later, I received a reply:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to contact.

I apologize that your store was closed when you placed your On-the-Go order! We can definitely assist with getting crediting [sic] this transaction for you. Can you please respond with the order number of the transaction that you wish to be credited for? If you have previously sent a screenshot of the order, please respond with the order number from the screenshot, it assists us in locating the transaction faster for you.

We are looking forward to serving you again soon.

Eliezer

Support Center Coordinator

Case #[redacted]

Huh, what?

Dunkin's reply had ignored pretty much everything I wrote. My issue wasn't about an unfilled order, and I wasn't requesting a credit. It was about updating a local store's hours on the app -- and they had ignored that, too. It was as if Eliezer had only scanned my email. 

And why did Eliezer misspell my name? I can understand misspelling 'Marc' if I had called Customer Service and provided my name, but they had it in my email. All it would have taken to spell my name correctly was copying & pasting it from the email.

Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame member Joan Throckmorton once taught me that a person's name is the most important word on a letter. She was right. I hate seeing it misspelled, yet that is what Dunkin' did. 

I bit my lip about that last part and responded:

I did not request nor do I see a need for a credit. 
My request is for your app to be updated so that I can place an order on your app for [redacted] when it opens at 5:00 am on weekdays.
Thank you,
Marc

The reply came the next day.

Hello Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about your experience at the Dunkin' restaurant in [redacted]. We are sorry that you had a bad experience and will alert the franchisee and our field operations team immediately to let them know what happened.

We want every restaurant experience to be a great one and would like to have this experience addressed for you as soon as possible. We take guest satisfaction seriously and hope you’ll give Dunkin' another chance.

Thanks again for taking time out of your day to let us know.

Eliezer 

Support Center Coordinator

Case #[redacted]

The reply increased my disappointment: Customer Service was blaming the store even through my unpleasant experience wasn't because of franchisee or from field operations; it was because of the corporate app and Eliezer.  

The store hours on the app were updated, but I had a bitter taste in my mouth that wasn't from coffee. I guess Dunkin' can bake the donuts, but cannot adequately read customer emails.

The Starbucks on my dog walking route is also open early. Despite memes like this, Starbucks has never misspelled my name. Just sayin', Dunkin'.

Lessons:

  1. Every customer interaction is marketing. Every direct customer communication is direct marketing.
  2. When your customers correspond with you, fully read the communication and reply appropriately.
  3. Always spell the names of your customers correctly.

5/09/2021

GetRiver.com & Colibri: Less is Less

This recent email for river by Colibri IO is a textbook Fail for Creative.

GetRiver.com sales email
Email with Call to Action to buy something now



Lesson: Include in your marketing emails elements missing here:

  1. Explanation of the product or service
  2. Explanation of what the reader is supposed to buy
  3. Offer expiration date -- specifically, when does the coupon code expire
  4. At least some information about the cost
  5. A live Facebook presence when including a link to a Facebook page
  6. Content on your Twitter page from less than three years ago when including a link to Twitter.

5/02/2021

Freshly: How Do I Share My Code?

This email from Freshly merits a Fail for Creative.

Freshly referral / share email
Freshly email to customers inviting them to share


Freshly is a meal subscription service. It offers reasonably healthy, pretty fresh refridgerated meals that can be prepared in the microwave in about three minutes. Personally, during the pandemic lockdown, it helped me have several quick, tasty lunches between Zoom meetings. They've offered a referral program since as long as I've been a customer (at least I think so -- during the lockdown, one business day sometimes faded into the next). 

This offer is a bit different. The email recipient, a current customer, is given a "share code" to send a Freshly Freebie to someone who can get a free week of meals. Nice; however, there is no explanation of how to share. The email lacks an explanation of what I or that special someone needs to do to use that share code and enjoy that free food. This lack of explanation puts traction in the customer process of sharing, which reduces the likelihood of customer action.

The offer was sent on April 29 and expires May 6. This means the offer expires only a week after sending. The offer window is appropriately sized for an emailed offer; however, because the expiration date is mentioned only in the disclosure, the attribute of immediacy in the Call to Action is lost. The expiration date should be communicated in body copy, e.g. "Your share code is valid only through May 6, 2021, so be sure to share your Freebie today!"

Lessons:

  1. Your Call to Action should clearly describe the steps required for the customer to take advantage of your offer.
  2. Do not bury your offer expiration date in your fine print. 


4/15/2021

Norton Lifelock: Renewal Email Reminds Me of Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller had a show than ran for eight seasons: “Penn & Teller: Bulls---!” According to Penn Jillette

If we said it was all scams we could also be in trouble, but 'bulls---,' oddly, is safe. So forgive all the 'bulls--- language', but we're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court."

This leads to a recent email I received from Norton. IMHO, it goes beyond merely a Fail for Creative

Norton Antivirus Renewal Notice

The email offers the customer an opportunity to review their virus protection for $39.99, with an asterisk mentioning that this is the price for just the first year. That asterisk references a Disclosure rendering in 4.5-point font size:

I'll enlarge the fine print to a readable font size:

You are enrolling in an automatically renewing subscription that begins when your purchase is completed online (or otherwise, when your offline payment is received). Please download and install on each device, up to the specified number of devices, to get protection. Price shown is valid for the first term only. After that, your subscription will renew each year at the applicable annual renewal price here. You can cancel your subscription at my.norton.com or by contacting Member Services & Support. For more details, please visit the Refund Policy. Your subscription includes product, service and/or protection updates and new features as available during the subscription term, subject to acceptance of the License and Services Agreement. Features may be added, modified or removed during the subscription term.


So, to find out what the second-year price might be, I have to search through literal mouseprint to find the correct link to learn that the actual long-term price is currently expected to be* 50% greater than the advertised price.

Why isn’t Norton upfront about this in the email? Is it perhaps that Norton believes customers will not look for it now and just accept the higher price in a year?

I understand the subscription business model. Norton is offering me software as a service. So does Microsoft, but they don’t obfuscate the fact that I pay $70 a year to use Microsoft Office. Other companies offer introductory prices, but I rarely see the long-term subscription price this hidden.

An honest yet persuasive approach would be to explain the subscription option and offer $20 savings off the first year. The people at Norton know this -- they use this approach as landing pages from PPC ads.

When companies hide relevant information from customers, they might get sales but they’ll also earn distrust. If I can’t trust Norton to be forthcoming about its subscription price, can I trust it to protect my computer? That's why I believe Norton's approach to disclosing prices to customers like this is bulls---.

Lesson: Your relationship with your customers goes beyond one transaction. Honesty is the best policy for long-term customer retention.


* The header of the pricing landing page reads: "Our renewal prices for standalone and add-on subscriptions are listed below. They may change, but we will always send you a notification email prior to billing." In other words, the actual second year price in 12 months could be substantially greater than the price shown today. 

2/06/2021

SpotHunter: How to Hunt for Customers

Last week, I received this flyer:

SpotHunter flyer
SpotHunter flyer
1-sided. Copy appears at a bit of a slant

It arrived in a blind envelope addressed to the impersonal "Current Resident." It is obviously marketing mail. IMHO, it has all the makings of low-end j--- mail. (I'm not writing out the word because I avoid inappropriate 4-letter words on this blog.) The envelope appears impersonal, it has no return address, and it includes a spotty-looking postage permit stamp. 

SpotHunter Outer Envelope
Simple Blind Outer Envelope.
No return address.

I opened it because, well, I love direct mail marketing. But would a typical consumer open it? I don't think so. I noticed several of the same pieces -- addressed to "Current Resident" at other units in my building -- placed in a well-named trash receptacle located in the mailroom.

Mailroom Trash Receptacle
(Inappropriate 4-letter word blacked out)

Inside, there is an impersonal flyer for an app called SpotHunter. The headline reads "Have Trouble Finding Open Street-Parking? Let Us Help." In this context, the hyphen between "Street" and "Parking" is improperly placed. Plus, there's no period at the end of the headline's second sentence. These types of errors may appear minor; however, this type of errors often subconsciously distracts readers from the content and reduces confidence in the product itself. That is a minor Fail for Creative.

Overall, the flyer appears to clearly convey a message: Use this app to find parking and help other people find parking spots. 

Is this really going to work? I don't know. What I do know is that in most of New York City, open parking spots are hard to find and disappear quickly. New Yorkers get into fist fights over parking spots. Even if an app yells "There is an open parking spot 3 blocks away!", the spot may not be open when the driver arrives there two minutes later. And let's not forget that touching your mobile phone while driving is illegal in New York. So, if one cannot utilize the app while driving and a driver cannot expect that a spot appearing on the app is truly available, how useful is it? I guess the app needs scale to be useful; however, the more people that use the app to find parking, the more people are going to go after that precious parking spot a few blocks away.

Well, I can't try out the app -- for me, it is currently useless. It is available only on iPhones, and my phone uses the Android operating system. In fact, about half of the mobile phones in use today are using the Android operating system. So, upfront, half the people who received the mail cannot use the product. That's a Fail for Targeting.  

Given that it appears  everyone in my Queens building received the flyer, I assume SpotHunter carpet-bombed the neighborhood. That's another mistake, because many people in Queens do not have cars. They use mass transit to get around. According to NYCEDC, 62% of Queens residents have cars. In my neighborhood, that percentage is closer to 40%. So that means about half of the 40% people receiving the mail cannot use the product, e.g. 80% of the mail is truly j---,  furthering the Fail for Targeting.

If I were responsible for a marketing campaign for SpotHunter, I would first suggest not using direct mail. Consider perhaps a guerrilla marketing campaign such as placing flyers on cars parked in the neighborhood. Annoying, yes, but at least you are reaching people who have cars to park. A highly geotargeted online effort could also be a good use of limited spend. Some social media platforms allow you to target people who self-identify as having cars. Or consider targeting based on attributes likely to be associated with car use. Then segment down to the type of operating system being used. 

If I were required to utilize direct mail without targeting, I would:

  • Create a simple postcard that conveys the sales proposition. One side would include the headline benefit statement with a visual supporting message, while the address side would include supporting benefit statements and the call to action to Download the app for free.
  • Or, create a flat and geographically target homes with residents likely to benefit from the app using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool.
  • Drop mail as soon as the app is available for Android.

Lessons:

  1. Make sure your content is free of grammatical errors.
  2. If your app is available only on an iPhone, you are missing half the market.
  3. If your mail has a simple message, consider a postcard rather than a flyer in an envelope.
  4. If you are targeting geographically rather than individually, consider using the Every Door Direct Mail service from the US Postal Service. 

1/31/2021

Amazon Music Unlimited: Improving the Pitch

 This letter from Amazon Music Unlimited merits a Fail for Creative for a combination of mistakes and missed improvement opportunities. 


Some positive elements of the solo letter package:
  • The letter is addressed to an Amazon Prime customer in a closed-face envelope with simple Amazon branding. This approach ensures a high open rate because Amazon and the customer have an ongoing business relationship, meaning the Prime customer will open the letter to see what it is about.
  • The front of the letter is easily scannable. The Johnson Box clearly communicates that the Prime customer would benefit from 3 months of free … something.
  • The sparse use of copy and generous use of white space help call out the benefits of Amazon Music Unlimited.
  • The letter opens with a personal salutation, addressed to the Amazon Prime customer.
  • The Call toAction on the front of the letter is easy to find.
Amazon Music Unlimited Offer Letter
Front of Letter
using Amazon Music Letterhead



However, there are opportunities to improve on this approach.

The letterhead is from “Amazon Music,” which is already free with Amazon Prime. The Johnson Box could communicate that the offer is for 3 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for free.

The opening sentence is not grammatically correct. It opens with “As a valued Amazon Prime member, we have a special offer for you:” This is an incorrect use of a dangling modifier. The opening phrase “as a valued Amazon Prime member” describes “you,” the customer -- not “we,” the company. The independent clause that begins with “we” does not match the opening phrase, which lacks a subject. While typical customers reading the letter might not remember grammar rules taught in high school, they might subconsciously notice that the sentence feels clunky, which detracts attention from the message. Keeping the message intact, a better opening would be:

“As a valued Amazon Prime member, you are eligible for a special offer:”
or, perhaps,
“As a valued Amazon Prime member, you can enjoy this special offer:” 

The complete value proposition of the low price is hidden in the Disclosure on the back. I would be forthright and mention upfront that the cost is under $8 a month after the third month.

The letter mentions the feature of being “ad free” a couple times (with varying use of hyphens). This could be brought up a level by messaging the benefit, i.e. “Listen to music non-stop, without interruptions.”

While the letter opens with a personal salutation, the closing is from “Amazon Music Team.” A truly sincere closing would be from Bob Bowen, Worldwide Head of Music, or even Jeff Bezos.

The letter includes supporting messages on the back. The front of the letter could use a message referring to the back of the letter to learn more.

Amazon Music Unlimited Marketing Letter
Back of letter

On the back of the letter, the Call to Action appears twice; however, it is easily lost. In one location, it is almost as small as the Disclosure copy. It could be larger and positioned below the Disclosure without being distracting.

The front of the letter mentions “Limited time only.” It fails to mention how limited the offer is. The offer expiration date is buried in the Disclosure on the back. The problem with this approach is two-fold:

  1. The implied need for immediate action is lost, because the customer doesn’t know by when to take action. In other words, it’s easy for the customer to say, “I’ll take care of this later,” then forget about it.

  2. If the offer truly expires on the offer expiration date, and the customer attempts to sign up after the offer expires, the customer will be unhappy from the experience of missing out on the promotion. That dissatisfied customer would view Amazon less positively -- perhaps taking out their frustration by shopping less or even cancelling their Prime membership.

Simple Envelope


Below is a rewrite of the front of the letter, with a bit more focus on product benefits. If Amazon likes the rewrite, I am willing to accept a personally signed thank-you letter.

Dear <Customer Name>,

Would you like to enjoy access to millions of songs, anytime, without interruption? Then here is an offer for Amazon Prime members like you: 3 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for FREE.

Sign up today to get unlimited access to more than 70 million songs. Listen ad-free from your home or mobile phone anytime with offline listening and unlimited skips. With so many new releases and thousands of playlists and stations available, we are sure to have your favorite tunes ready for your delight. In fact, with Amazon Music Unlimited, you can even control your music hands-free with Alexa, included in the Amazon Music mobile app and Amazon Echo devices.

BENEFITS OF AMAZON MUSIC UNLIMITED

Ö        Unlimited anytime access to more than 70 million tunes

Ö        Listen to music non-stop, without interruptions

Ö        Enjoy music anywhere, online or offline

Ö        Skip as much as you like 

Ö        Hands-free listening with Alexa

I’m so sure you’ll like Amazon Music Unlimited, I’m offering it to you for FREE for 3 months. After that, your subscription will renew for only $7.99 a month. You can cancel anytime.

This is a limited time offer, so visit amazon.com/trynow to sign up today.

Sincerely, 

[signature]

Bob Bowen

Worldwide Head of Music

P.S. This offer is good only through <expiration date>, so be sure to review the information on the back of this letter and visit amazon.com/trynow to sign up for Amazon Music Unlimited today.

Lessons:
  1. Use correct grammar.
  2. Your benefits sell your product, so communicate them.
  3. Ensure that your Call to Action is easy to find.
  4. If your offer has an expiration date, don’t bury it.
  5. A personalized letter should be personally signed.
  6. When your brand covers multiple products in a customer relationship, an experience with one product can impact the entire relationship.
  7. Don’t just ignore the back of the letter -- you can both sides of a page to make your sale.

12/15/2020

FTD Flowers: A Mistake and a Quickly Wilting Apology

In a single day last week, I received five emails from FTD Flowers, each with a different subject line:

  1. Psst... Someone Special's Birthday is 5 Days Away
  2. Share The Love ❤️ An Important Anniversary Is In 7 Days!
  3. 🌹🌹🌹 3 More Days To Order Anniversary Flowers! 🌹🌹🌹
  4. Someone Special's Birthday is TOMORROW!
  5. Someone Special's Birthday is 7 Days Away!

Here is an example of one of those five emails.

FTD Anniversary Coming Email
1 of 5 emails I received on 12/9/20

That evening, when I read the first one, I was confused. Whose birthday was in 5 days? According to my Google calendar, the only person I could find with a birthday that day was a former business colleague. We were friends, but not close enough that I'd send him flowers. I checked my FTD purchase history and found nothing for this timeframe. Hmm, I thought -- maybe I need to dig up my old personal calendar I last used during the Clinton administration. 

The next email reminded me of an important anniversary in seven days. It wasn't between my wife and me -- we had a June wedding. It wasn't my parents' or my siblings'. I was confused.

By time I read the third email, I realized something was off with FTD. So, I ignored the forth and fith emails. Ah, well, I thought, we all make mistakes. I categorized this as a Fail for Timing and figured that FTD incorrectly sent those emails.

The next day, I received an email from FTD with a subject line of "Ooops! Hit Send WAY Too Soon 😬". I correctly guessed that FTD had realized their mistake.  

FTD apology email
Apology Email Sent 12/10/20
25% Discount Expired 12/11/20

FTD had quickly recognized its issue, admitted the error, and offered an explanation and an apology. This is a thoughtful approach, similar to what Amazon did several years ago when it sent out a BCS Championship winner merchandise email early

But FTD went a step further ... sort of. The apology email on December 10 included an offer of 25% off my next purchase "to show our appreciation for your understanding." I state, "sort of" because, buried in the email's disclosure, was information stating that the 25% discount would expire just before midnight on December 11 -- and that was the next day.

*Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. CT on 12/11/2020 or while supplies last. Quantities may be limited. All discounts shown. Discounts are not applicable on: (i) product customizations including vases or product add-ons, (ii) FTD Membership fees, (iii) gift card purchases, (iv) service, delivery or shipping fees and applicable taxes, (v) special collections including Nambé, Baccarat or other special collections designed by FTD, and (vi) all "Gifts"under $24.99 or products under $19.99. Discounts cannot be combined. Offers may be subject to change without notice. See www.ftd.com for additional details.

The apology email merits Fails for both Offer and Creative. The Fail for Offer is because the discount window less than 38 hours after the apology email was sent. That's barely enough time for a customer to react to the email and make a purchase. The Fail for Creative is because a customer has to read the fine print to realize this, thus the apology appears to be disingenuous. 

When an offer with a short response window does not message the offer expiration date in the body of the communication, the seller risks customer dissatisfaction -- the type that motivates a customer to shop elsewhere. Or, to put it bluntly, if you pee on a customer's leg and tell them it's raining, that customer will not buy an umbrella from you.

Lessons:

  1. If you make a mistake, own up to the error.
  2. When making amends for a mistake, offer a genuine goodwill gesture.
  3. If your offer expires quickly, you should communicate that fact in the body of a communication, not bury it in a disclosure.

11/24/2020

Truvia: Postcard could be sweeter

I recently received this postcard introducing me to Truvia, a zero-calorie sweetener. 

Truvia Sweet Complete
Postcard front

Visually, this postcard makes Truvia seem like a compelling alternative to sugar. The picture on the front suggests this is something I could use when baking a cake, making a smoothie, or sweetening coffee. Plus, as a potential customer, the postcard offers me the opportunity to try out one of their products for free. 

Free is a great price for a new product. It is a proven way to get a potential new customer to go outside of their comfort zone, to try something new, and to experiment a bit. It's such a common sales practice that drug dealers reputedly offer the first hit of crack cocaine for free. Customers get addicted, and they pay for more drugs. A sugar-alternative zero-calorie sweetener shouldn't be treated like crack cocaine but, hey, the makers of Truvia certainly want me to be hooked. 

Truvia Sweet Complete Free Offer
Postcard address side

The address side of the postcard includes supporting copy: a well-written product explanation, a benefit statement, an explanation of how to use the product, and a coupon for a free 16-ounce bag. I'd say that's sweet (pun intended). 

The Call to Action is simply "Find it at your local ShopRite." Therein lies the rub (or, should we go with the pun, the 'topping'). From where I live in Queens, the nearest ShopRite is typically a 25 minute drive in traffic -- under 10 miles as the crow flies, but that crow doesn't have to worry about Big Apple traffic. So, no disrespect to ShopRite, but I won't shop there when there are 3 supermarkets and a Target within walking distance. 

So, would I give this call to action a Fail for Targeting? Not really. Presuming this was a national campaign, I can't fault the marketing manager for including someone located several miles from an eligible supermarket. It's pretty complex to design targeting criteria based on travel time to a supermarket chain.

However, I could give the call to action a Fail for Creative. The coupon is valid at any retail location that carries the product. It turns out that, according to the Where to Buy link on the Truvia web site, the advertised product is available at a nearby Foodtown. Rather than mentioning only ShopRite, the postcard should have mentioned their "Where to Buy" website, e.g. 

Visit www.truvia.com/where-to-buy for a store location near you
or
Use your free coupon at ShopRite,
or visit www.truvia.com/where-to-buy for other nearby locations

When a prospective customer can try your product for free with few hassles, that is like zero-calorie icing on the cake.

Lesson: 
Make coupon redemption easy for your customer by offering relevant redemption options.

10/27/2020

PayPal: Selling Honey Without the Other Ingredient

A couple weeks ago I wrote about an email from PayPal selling Honey without communicating a value proposition. Over the weekend, I received this email:

PayPal Honey Value Prop email

PayPal explains Honey in one sentence, "Install Honey in just two clicks so when you shop online you can automatically get some of the best prices from over 30,000 online retailers." That is a well-worded product value proposition. 

Where the prior email encouraged immediacy but lacked a value proposition, this email includes a value proposition does did not encourage immediacy in the call to action. As I draft this post, the $5 bonus offer appears to still be active. Perhaps they have not reached the limit of 40,000 new customers eligible for the offer they mentioned in their first email.

Here's an idea: Combine the value proposition and encourage immediacy in a single communication by explaining the product then closing with a $5 bonus offer. The email could be summed up in a few sentences:

"Install Honey in just two clicks so when you shop online you can automatically get some of the best prices from over 30,000 online retailers. Hurry -- the first 40,000 people to install Honey and make a purchase of $10 or more will receive a $5 bonus."

Will you get that $5 bonus in addition to shopping online with Honey? I don't know, but you should make sure your email isn't a Fail. Act now!

Lesson:

Communicating a value proposition is important, but so is giving the customer a reason to take action now.

10/25/2020

Caviar: What Is It?

Two postcards arrived within a day of each other. One includes elements that can make direct mail successful; the other Fails in multiple ways.

freshdirect new customer offer

freshdirect new customer offer

This postcard from freshdirect reflects smart use of these elements, specifically:

  • Targeting: No one at the targeted home has purchased from freshdirect. The targeted home is in a freshdirect delivery area and in a zip code where overall use of grocery delivery has increased.

  • Offer: There is a new customer incentive of $25 off the new customer's first purchase, -- a good reason to to give freshdirect a try. Plus, the offer is valid for about three weeks from the postcard's in-home date, motivating that customer to take action right away.

  • Creative: The 5 1/2" x 10 1/2" postcard clearly communicates its sales proposition both visually and in prose. One side of the postcard succinctly communicates the service provided, and even includes a tag line to reinforce the sales proposition. The address side includes the call to action and supporting benefits messages. The incentive is unambiguous -- at a glance, the reader knows what it is, the value, when to use it, and how to take advantage of it

  • Timing: Mid-October is likely the last time of year to mail and avoid the oncoming clutter associated with holiday catalogs and other gift-related mailings.

  • Execution: The postcard was printed with spot varnish to protect the pictures from appearing scuffed.

  • Tracking: The new customer incentive includes a promo code for the customer to use. This promo code facilitates the customer discount, but it also allows freshdirect to track the customer's path to becoming a customer. This means freshdirect can reasonably assume it was the postcard that motivated customer action.

Well done, freshdirect!

On The Other Hand ... 
The below 6" x 11" postcard from caviar is physically larger than the one from freshdirect, yet it communicates much less. From looking at the postcard, can you answer the question: What is caviar? 

caviar new customer offer 10/2020

caviar new customer offer 10/2020


OK, its a food delivery service -- but what kind of food delivery? Does it deliver meals and groceries like freshdirect, in-home food kits like Blue Apron, or perhaps single-person prepared meals like freshly? From the pictures of the kale salad and what I now think may be a poke bowl, I couldn't tell, but a google search revealed that caviar is a delivery service specializing in meals from high-end restaurants. So, I guess it's more like seamless.

According to their snippet on a Google search caviar offers, "Delivery & takeout from the best local restaurants. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and more, delivered safely to your door."  There you go: a brief, succinct explanation -- one that should have been included on the postcard. The snippet also mentions, "Now offering pickup & no-contact delivery.That is an important supporting message during this pandemic that should also appear on the postcard. The lack of a sales proposition and supporting messages is a Fail for Creative. The postcard has plenty of white space, so why not use it?

Also, it takes a pair of reading glasses to review the disclosure noting that this offer is good through December 7, approximately eight weeks after the postcard arrived. That response window is too long to encourage what is typically an impulse decision: namely, what to have for dinner tonight. This wide response window merits a Fail for Offer.


caviar postcard disclosure text 10/2020
The caviar introductory offer is not valid for DoorDash customers.
It expires eight weeks after arriving in home

That fine print also leads to meriting a Fail for Targeting. The recipient is a regular DoorDash customer, making that person ineligible for the discount. 

wondered why a meal delivery service would make customers of a different meal delivery service ineligible for a discount. In my research, I learned that DoorDash had bought and integrated caviar into the DoorDash network several months ago. Here in New York City, the integration did not go well

For the postcard recipient's mailing address, Caviar offers delivery from only 17 restaurants. That’s a small number compared to DoorDash’s 398 restaurants. (Furthermore, all 17 of Caviar's restaurants were inclusive to those available through DoorDash.) This lack of compelling selection might merit another Fail for Targeting.

There is no reason to expend the cost of sending mail that does not communicate a sales proposition with an invalid, non-urgent discount offer to a home that has limited purchase opportunities. If DoorDash continues to waste marketing dollars like this, caviar's days are numbered. 


Lessons:
  1. When soliciting new customers, communicate a compelling sales proposition.
  2. A response window should be long enough to give a customer time to respond, but not so long that immediacy is discouraged.
  3. Mail your offer only to customers who might be eligible to take advantage of the offer.

10/12/2020

Merrell: Well-timed offer lacks expiration clarity

A recent conversation at home went like this:

Me: "Hey, honey, did you say you needed new hiking shoes?"

Wife: "Eventually. Mine are starting to wear. Why?"

Me: "We got an offer in the mail from Merrell for 25% off footwear."

Merrell One Year Discount Offer

Merrell One Year Discount Offer - 25% Off

Wife: "Well, I do like Merrell, but I don't plan to use hiking shoes in the next few weeks. Maybe I should get replacements now with the discount. When does the coupon expire?"

Me: "It doesn't say."

Wife: "Really?"

Me: "I'll look closer." (Puts on reading glasses.) "It says it expires '30 days from postmark.'"

Wife: "When is that?"

Me: "I don't know. It's not postmarked."

Wife: "Well, whatever, I don't need new hiking shoes right away and I'm pretty busy right now."

This conversation outlines why the postcard merits a Fail for Creative

On September 13, 2019, I purchased a pair of Merrell Moab 2 hiking shoes. They are perfect for that outdoor hike around the lake, through a park or in the snow. The postcard arrived October 2, 2020, just a little over a year after I started wearing my previous purchase. So, the timing and messaging around my "Merrell anniversary" are spot on. Kudos to Merrell for Timing.

The postcard included a personalized coupon code for 25% savings; however, there is no mention in the headline regarding when the coupon code expires. I found some information in the disclosure.*

Merrell One Year Discount Offer - 25% Off
Postcard disclosure text

As I wrote in prior blog posts such as this one and this one, a Call to Action should include a clearly communicated offer expiration date. This is important: The right response window encourages immediacy of customer action; one that's faulty or unclearly defined, however, only encourages inertia.

With the Merrell postcard, the coupon code's expiration date is not only buried in the disclosure, it also references expiring "30 days from postmark"; however, there is no postmark. Postcards mailed Standard Rate are not postmarked by the USPS. So, how do customers know when the coupon code expires? They don't.

There are several ways to care for expiration date communication without jeopardizing the integrity of the message, diluting Merrell's branding or adding production costs. Here is one: Include an offer expiration date in the address section of the postcard. 

Merrell postcard mock-up, modified to add expiration date
Mock-up. I added the expiration date in the address panel

In the above mock-up, the coupon code expiration date is clearly communicated. The date is specific and reasonably prominent. The messaging complements the headline and supports immediate action. It can be inkjet- or laser-personalized using the same variable data method as the producing the coupon code and customer name and address. Depending on the postcard's production method, it could appear in spot color without incremental print expenses.

If Merrell adapts this approach, the only incremental edit would be to rephrase the disclosure to reference the expiration date in the address panel.

Lessons:

  1. Your call to action should include a clearly communicated, definitive offer expiration date.
  2. Postcards mailed Standard Rate are not postmarked.


* Many people mistakenly refer to small print associated with marketing communications as a disclaimer, when in fact it is a disclosure. According to dictionary.com, a ‘disclaimer’ is “the act of disclaiming; the renouncing, repudiating, or denying of a claim; disavowal” while a ‘disclosure’ is “the act or an instance of disclosing; exposure; revelation.” ‘Disclose’ is defined as “to make known; reveal or uncover” From a Marketing standpoint, a disclaimer is an admission that the headline is false – otherwise why renounce it? However, a disclosure provides secondary but relevant facts of an offer. So the only reason an offer or marketing communication would require a disclaimer is if it was misleading from the onset.



10/02/2020

PayPal: Selling Honey Requires a Key Ingredient

   This recent email from PayPal merits a couple Fails for Creative

PayPal Honey Offer. What is Honey?
PayPal Honey Offer. What is Honey? 

The email includes a Subject Line of "Get a $5 bonus for shopping smart with Honey." The headline reads "Give Honey a try. Spend $10, Get $5." Below that is a gif of a small box parachuting into a celebration, followed by a message reading, "When you add Honey to your browser for the first time, create an account, and spend $10 or more with PayPal, you'll get a $5 bonus. That's just the start of the savings. Honey members save over $126 annually." Below that are step-by-step instructions about how to install and use Honey, and a disclosure.

There is a clear Call to Action and an incentive for the customer to take action now. The email was sent on September 25 with an offer expiration date of October 4, so immediacy is encouraged. 

But, what is HoneyWhy would I add it to my browser? How do honey members save money, and compared to what? None of these questions are addressed in the email.

Based only on the email, one might guess that Honey is a rebate program or online savings account. In actuality, though, it is an online coupon provider. According to their home page, "Honey helps you find some of the best coupon codes on 30,000+ sites." That is Honey's value proposition, and it is missing from this email.

The other Fail is less important, but worth mentioning.  According to the disclosure and the detailed Terms & Conditions found on Honey's site, only 40,000 customers are eligible for the award. Once that limit is reached -- even if before offer the expiration date -- the reward will no longer be available. This type of restriction is fairly common in direct-to-consumer marketing. I've included number-of-customer limitations in several campaigns to ensure the product is not oversold or to cap potential incentive liability. When I did, I would use this clause to my advantage by communicating it in the body of the email. PayPal could do this by including above the Call to Action a message along the lines of...

Be one of the 40,000 people to get your $5 bonus by October 4th. Bonus must be used by October 31st.* 

or ... 


This exclusive bonus offer is limited to the first 40,000 people to take action by October 4th. Bonus must be used by October 31st.* 

This type of messaging approach not only makes the in-house lawyers happy by clearly communicating an offer restriction; it also communicates scarcity, which is a known factor to drive immediate action and increase response -- and that makes your manager happy.


Lessons:
  1. It is not enough to have a call to action and encourage immediacy in your direct-to-consumer emails. They should always include a value proposition.

  2. If your offer is limited to a specific number of customers, do not bury that restriction -- use it to your sales advantage.