AT&T & Comcast: Two Bundles, One Impersonal Fail

Fail: Creative
These two solo mail cross-sell packages recently arrived at the same home a couple days apart from each other. The recipient has Comcast for cable service and AT&T for landline phone service and internet. This person has a different company for mobile phone service.

The letter from AT&T is stamped. The return address on the back includes the company name and logo. The letter inside also includes the logo and is addressed personally to the recipient.
I reviewed fails of a similar creative package from AT&T -- selling multiple products in one letter and other creative missteps -- but what AT&T does right with their mail is they recognize the value of their brand, leveraging their customer relationship, and addressing the relationship. Since my review of AT&T's second fail, AT&T improved the letter creatively by personalizing the signature and reinforcing a call to action in the postscript. Overall, the letter feels personal.

The strong aspects of AT&T’s letter highlight the Fails from Comcast:

  • The envelope return address does not include the company name. This is often referred to as a “blind envelope”, because the recipient is blind to the identity of the sender until the mail is opened. It is a common and sometimes sensible tactic in an acquisitions mailing. However, the postage indicia includes the company name. If Comcast truly intended to have a blind mailing, then the postage indicia could have used a permit number -- or better yet, use a stamp. The result of an incomplete use of this tactic is that the outer envelope is a double-fail: one for not including Comcast in the return address when mailing to a current customer (he would have opened it anyway), and a second fail to including it in the indicia. This suggests that Comcast believes it’s brand equity is negative but is not willing to take a couple extra steps in production to completely cover up it’s brand name.
  • The envelope is addressed to the recipient “or current resident”. This suggests that Comcast lacks confidence in the qualify of it’s customer list, Comcast was not concerned about production quality, or this was a mass mailing without considering who might already be actual customers.
  • The letter is impersonal. It is not addressed to the customer, it is addressed to “Dear Customer”. It does not recognize what services the customer has with Comcast. In this case, the recipient believes he already has Digital Preferred Cable but after reviewing his Comcast bill, he is not sure.
  • The offer is incomplete and potentially misleading. For example the bundle of Digital Preferred Cable & High-Speed Internet is $79.99 for 6 months. What is the price after 6 months? Based on the text in the disclosure, my guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of $135 - $150. That does not appear to be a way to “Cut down on your household bills!”
  • The tone of the letter is promotional but with needless self-bluster. Phrases such as “we are pleased to offer you” do not add value to the communication. To my knowledge, only the Queen of England has the privilege to refer to herself in the first person plural. Also, being pleased to offer something has no benefit to the customer. (Given the long-term price for the bundled services, perhaps Comcast is pleased because they are offering a potentially bait and switch price.) The letter is signed by “Comcast Houston”, an inhuman corporate entity.
Lesson: You cannot build a personal relationship by being impersonal. It is important not only to know your customers, but to address them personally as customers. Communicate to them as people and persuade them that you want to address their needs.

No comments: