Facebook sends email at the worst time, perhaps on purpose

DirectMarketing guru Bob Stone once said, “Once JCPenney has its first Christmas Sale, you are done for the year except for giving gifts and charity.” Back then, JCPenney actually had sales and, when he said that, JCPenney’s first sale was typically around November 7. 

A separate direct marketing conventional wisdom is that sending marketing communications too close to a holiday dilutes the likelihood that a customer will read it.  Consumers are focused on preparing to travel or host people -- or perhaps a holiday event -- to read what you send.  And when they return, they are focused on digging through the most important email (or snail mail) to read marketing communications.

These two things intersect when considering that Facebook recently sent this notification of a change in privacy policy to its users at around 11:12 pm on the day before Thanksgiving. That would be a Fail for Timing.

Or perhaps they did not want many to read it – the email was a notice of a change in terms that are not favorable to Facebook's users. Some people have interpreted this change to mean they have to declare their postings off limits while sharing with hundreds of friends, leading to explanations on Snopes and news sites

Lesson: If you want people to read your email, avoid sending it too close to a holiday. If you do not want people to read your email, time it to arrive close to a holiday.


Embassy Suites: A hotel for old people?

I consider myself a young guy. I haven’t hit my midlife crisis yet, although I did eye a red sports car last week. I relate to ’80s music and take issue when the Classic Rock radio station groups it in with ’60s and ’70s music. Hey, Men Without Hats is still current!

Are they drinking apple juice?
Perhaps I am older than I perceive myself -- so old that Embassy Suites thinks I am at least 50. Otherwise, why would they send me an email promoting an AARP Member discount? Those people in the picture appear to be older than my parents (or maybe my parents are older than I think they are. Mom still says her age is “39 and a bit”.)

The email is a Fail for both List and Creative.  From a List standpoint, the hotel chain and Hilton HHonors should be judicious before sending out age-specific emails. Don’t presume your customers are old -- ask them their age. The Creative Fail is that the picture shows a couple of old people hanging out; however, the image does nothing to suggest that they are at an Embassy Suites hotel. Why not show them enjoying their signature Embassy Suites breakfast or manager’s reception, or perhaps at an outdoor table in front of the hotel? Perhaps the ad designer is concerned the intended target market might confuse the hotel for a local diner serving the early bird special.

  1. Do not send customers an age-specific message unless you know their age.
  2. Present your product or service with images of your customers using them.
  3. Don’t use visuals of old people that make them appear old.


Even the best mail can run afoul of a bad wind

Two weeks ago, I launched a direct mail campaign in the northeast offering prospective customers savings on electricity supply. The mail went out Standard Rate with expectations of reaching prospects in 3-5 business days.  
Last week, Hurricane Sandy made its way up the East Coast. Based on the timing of when people on the seed list received their mail, I know that much of the mail arrived as people were preparing for the storm or recovering from the storm. Many people in the area targeted by the direct mail campaign lost power for several days. Saving money on electricity is not top of mind when you have no electricity, so it comes as no surprise that this campaign is not performing up to expectations.

  1. Develop and use a seed list. A seed list is a group of people who are added to your mailing who are not customers and can note the timing and quality of the mail received. Ideally, they should have addresses that are close to your target market and be fully integrated into the list so your creative agency and mail house treat them exactly the same as your target audience. This article from unsolicitedmarketingadvice.com is a good starting point to learn more about the benefits of seed lists.
  2. Stuff happens. More professionally stated: sometimes the best planned marketing effort can be impacted by acts of God. Make the best of it, learn from it, and move forward.


Who Am I? 1 of 3 possible voters at my address

The Pennsylvania Voter ID law requires voters to show proof of identification in order to obtain their right to vote on Election Day. Implementation of the law was postponed until next year, but I thought I would use this Election Day to share some mail I received at home.

A few weeks ago -- before implementation of the law was postponed -- my mailbox included three postcards, all the same. Each one was addressed to a different person with my street address. This means the state of Pennsylvania has three records on file for this address, even though only one person lives here. Perhaps that is why they want to make sure each voter positively represents him or herself.

The three postcards below do not quite merit a Fail for List, because the state is striving to reinforce the new law, but it certainly is interesting. No lesson today, just friendly a reminder to vote.
Not me
Not me

The real me


Health Magazine: Wandered in a bit late

This advertisement for Wanderlust Yoga in the City was included in the September 14 issue of Entertainment Weekly.  It includes a contest that ended August 29 for an event that starts September 7, the same day the issue hit homes.  Easy fail for Timing and a waste of Health Magazine advertising dollars.
Lesson: When running a promotion, time your communications appropriately.


Drake Harper: Vindictive Spammer

Today, I received a spam email from Drake Harper, LLC, an Accounts Receivable firm (AKA collection agency).  I made the mistake of clicking on their Unsubscribe link and completing their unsubscribe form.  Approximately an hour later, I received this reply:

You have successfully added your email to our list 5 more times.

Many thanks,

Drake Harper, LLC
[address & ph # redacted]
This is a Fail for List -- sending spam -- and Creative -- writing rude messages to people who are not interested your services and never opted-in for your emails.

Lesson: Do not send spam and don't be rude to prospective cusotmers, or they might just write a blog post about you.


Celeb Boutique: Look before you tweet

Twitter is a popular way to connect with customers. Trends can be followed and shared with customers, sometimes automatically. This post on consumerist.com is an example of being too aggressive. An offshore social media agency for celebboutique.com had misinterpreted a trend -- no doubt because they were not following U.S. news media.

1) Don't rely on a company located physically and culturally far from your target audience to develop and execute your marketing communications. 
2) Don't leave your marketing communications on autopilot. You own it, not your agency.


7-Eleven: Inconvenient Timing, Quick Recovery

National Slurpee Day is tomorrow, July 11. 7-Eleven sent an email to their loyal Slurpee enthusiasts reminding them to get their free Slurpee "today". However, it was sent two days early. Perhaps some eager junior person hit the Send button too quickly, or 7/11 11:00 am was incorrectly programmed as 7/9 9:00 am. Regardless, this is an easy Fail for Timing.


Three and a half hours later, 7-Eleven emailed a correction. While it is a late recovery from a Fail, at least the email keeps the mood positive. I look forward to my free half-Coke half-Cherry Slurpee tomorrow!


Chase: Double the Mail, Double the Fail

Two, two packages in one
I recently received not one but two solicitations for the Chase United MileagePlusExplorer card. The pieces were addressed exactly the same to me. The lack of removing duplicate names is a classic Fail for List.

Is this a side effect of the Continental / United merger?

The inside flap of the self-mailer shows my mileage balance -- a prudent and creative method of demonstrating the potential of the credit card by showing how many miles I can get for acquiring the credit card. However, in this case, the difference between the two mailers also suggests why I received two of them. One reflects my miles balance on my legacy Continental OnePass account while the other reflects my balance on a legacy United MileagePlus account. 

The man holding the credit card on the mailer I received appears to be African-American while the man holding the credit card on the landing page, billboards, and TV ads look like a young Jeff Goldblum. Why the difference? Did Chase attempt to appeal to a presumed heritage based on the fact that my last name is Davis? If so, that would be a Fail for List & Creative because I don’t fit the racial profile.
Chase Bank appeals to an incorrect racial profile -- twice.

  1. Dedupe your solicitation mailing list by name and address. 
  2. Carefully consider when and how to use race-based visuals.