American Express lets mail sink

This blog post by John Kelly of The Washington Post describes his receipt of a postcard with an offer from the the Costa Concordia -- the ship that sank off the coast of Italy.  It includes the now morbidly humorous message, "Immerse Yourself."

If the postcard was mailed prior to January 13, then I suppose the people at American Express started to freak out.  If the postcard mailed after ship and shore met, then this is a Fail for Timing.  Just as airlines typically pull their ads after a plane crash, a cruise ship marketer should pull its marketing communications immediately after a ship sinks.  There is no benefit to reminding prospective customers of a tragedy that is being covered on the evening news.

According to Mr. Kelly, a representative explained that it takes between six and eight weeks from when a brochure is put into creative to when it reaches mailboxes, making it too late to pull the mailing. It indeed does take 6-8 weeks to prepare mail, but it takes only one day to conduct a final review and release the mail into the mailstream.

I was a marketing manager at a company that spent tens of thousands of dollars preparing a national direct mail campaign only to cancel it at the lettershop because of a tragic travel incident.  It was worth the sunk cost (no pun intended) to cancel the campaign and not send mail that could damage the company's brand reputation.

Lesson: Don't force your direct mail out the door or put campaigns on auto-pilot.  Do a final check before every mailing to ensure that your product and offer is appropriate.  Don't mail an offer for a product that recently killed people. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Immerse yourself" Oh my that is awful. You are so right about the fail for timing.

The understood protocol in lettershops is that after we hand the mailing off to the Post Office it's unrecoverable (in the event of a PR disaster). In my experience however, is memory of one last minute mega-problem for the client where we were able to track down the physical trays post-entry into USPS and stop the distribution. Only possible in the very early stages of USPS handling - I still can't believe we were able to pull that one back.

More common is after a mailing is prepared some type of list issue necessitates suppressing some of the records. In the old days this would be an expensive choice between scrapping the whole job or manually finding and removing the bad names. Today we have the ability to suppress individual mail while sorting; we scan the Intelligent Mail Barcode and divert the chosen pieces to a bin. We even used this capability to help a competitor from having to toss an entire job; saving thousands.