Comcast: Sending the same Failed Mail – it’s Comcastic!

This letter from Comcast arrived today. If it looks familiar, it is because it is almost exactly the same failed mail I covered earlier this month. The outer envelope is exactly the same as the first mailing – e.g. semi-blind outer envelope addressed to me “or Current Resident” – so I did not bother scanning it. The letter shown here has the same offer, layout, and body copy as the original letter. The only changes are the respond-by date and response phone number.

This suggests that the original letter was deceptive. The original letter stated … this special offer is only available until March 31, 2010.” However, it now appears to be widely available for at least another half month. There is nothing wrong with creating urgency by including a specific respond-by date, but stating that an offer expires by that date when in fact it does not is misleading when you plan a second mailing of the same offer. It erodes trust with your customer. An appropriate approach in the original letter would be “Please respond to this special offer by March 31, 2010.” or “To take advantage of this special offer, call 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx by March 31, 2010”.

It is generally not misleading to have a grace period after a respond-by date. For example, if want people to respond by March 31, you could accept responses until say, April 7, because some people read their mail late, don’t get around to calling, or delivery is delayed. What is misleading is when your urgency level suggests the offer is final but you send the same offer with a later offer expiration date.

Let’s assume for the moment that the offer in fact expires April 16 and assume that the rest of the letter is final. Even if the offer is available only for existing customers, including the word “customer” in the close is superfluous. The limitation of “only” does not apply to the availability but to the timeframe. An improved means of closing the letter would be “Hurry! This special offer is available only until April 16, 2010. Call 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx today.” If your manager or legal reviewer is directing you to emphasize that the offer is available only to customers despite having a disclosure, then replace “special” with “exclusive”.

Another Fail for Creative applies for the extra space in the closer between “until” and “April 16, 2010.” Someone did not check the spacing.

Of course, a basic Fail applies for repeating use of the same envelope and letter without material modifications. As explained here, if a recipient does not open or respond to the first letter, there should not be an expectation that the recipient responds to the second one using the exact same approach.

On a positive note, Comcast intelligently used a different phone number in the second mailing. This will enable adequate tracking of raw call counts for each of the two letters.

Learnings:  While it is productive to maintain a sense of urgency, do not mislead customers about when an offer expires. Proofread your grammar and every line in your communication. When resending the same offer, modify the creative from the original version. Track distinctly responses from each sales communication.

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