Hilton HHonors: The Hidden Bonus

Subject line: "Earn HHonors Bonus Points when you sign-up for the HHonors Shop-to-Earn Mall"

The email subject line read, “Earn HHonors Bonus Points when you sign-up for the HHonors Shop-to-Earn Mall.” The proposition of getting more points just for signing up for a “mall” was tempting. I was not sure what it means to sign up for a mall, but if it gets me closer to nights in Maui, I would be interested. I read on for details.

The subhead states, “GEAR UP FOR FALL WITH THE HILTON HHONORSTM SHIP-TO-EARN MALL.” The call to action is to click “Shop now.” The body copy describes opportunities to earn bonus points by shopping at merchants and reiterates the call to action to visit the mall.

There are several Fails for Creative in this email. The most significant Fail is that the body of the email does not explain the offer presented in the Subject Line. How do I sign up for the mall? What bonus points are available for me to do so? Even when I visit the landing page (shown here), there is no mention of the offer to earn HHonors points for signing up.

Other Fails for Creative include:

  • Including a “TM” using the same font and weight as the main word in the subhead. If your HTML capabilities are so lacking that you can’t place your “TM” in a superscript on a subhead, do it in the first mention in the body copy. Your lawyer would understand.
  • Using the term “merchant” interchangeably with “retailer”. Be consistent about it, and consider sticking with “retailer”. After all, the primary definition of “merchant” is “a person who buys and sells commodities for profit.” Items such as Tumi handbags are not commodities; therefore, “merchant” is not a consumer-facing term.

  1. If you mention an offer in your Subject Line or headline, explain it in the body of your communication.
  2. Do not use the same font and weight for a “™” or “®” as the word it references.
  3. Ensure that your language is appropriate for the audience and is consistent.


Don't oversell & scare your customers

Although this post in Consumerist is about debt collectors, there is a lesson for direct mail marketers.  You can go overboard.  

Lesson: Don’t oversell your product or service.


LivingSocial All Wet

If you schedule your customer emails ahead of time, here is a reminder to stop and verify that you are selling the right thing at the right time: According to Valleywag, LivingSocial is selling trips to a disaster zone in Colorado.  Fail for really bad Timing.

Lesson: Do a final check before every direct marketing effort to ensure that your product and offer are appropriate. Do not send a marketing offer for something you can't sell or for travel to a flooded area.


Citi aspires to list fail

I received this email from Citi today, reminding me that I still have the opportunity to spend enough on my Hilton HHonors Reserve Visa Signature Card to achieve Diamond status in the Hilton HHonors program.  However I met the spend level. 

This Fail for List might be forgivable if I recently met the threshold.  After all, there is a lag time between when an action takes place and customer's information is updated as there is between when a list is pulled and used for direct correspondence.  However I met the spend requirement in March -- a full 5 months ago.

Lesson: Be sure your contact list is based on accurate information.

Disclosure: I used to work in Citi's Bankcard group, although I was not involved with the HHonors credit card portfolio.


Lands' End says "Daddy!"

I have been a loyal customer of Lands' End for over 20 years, purchasing clothes by mail and online for myself. Because of that, they occasionally send me catalogs and frequent discount offers.
I have not purchased any gifts from Lands' End or clothes for other people, so why did I receive this Lands' End Kids catalog? The timing is not bad -- Back to School shopping season is approaching, as is fall -- but the use of their in-house mailing list and big data is questionable. Why target someone who does not have children and has not purchased anything for children from their company?

Or perhaps the Lands' End database knows something I don't. Perhaps I'd better check in with my ex-wife.


Amica, Allstate, Wal-Mart: Bad timing on car insurance mail

I received at home mailers for auto insurance last Friday, May 23, from three different insurers. This is a Fail for Timing, albeit an accidental one. What is not accidental is that the mail arrived close to a holiday weekend. Consumers are far less likely to read mail related to low-interest categories on the business day prior to or just after a major holiday. They are more focused on, well, the holiday – traveling, hosting, or just taking a couple days off from the rat race. This is not exactly a typical time to think about saving on your car insurance.

 The three packages I received vary in their approach. Amica uses a conventional solo mail letter, with an easy-to-read Johnson Box that appears through the envelope, an official-looking savings card that reinforces a call to action, a sidebar that summarizes the benefit, smooth flow, and good use of boldface subheads and underlines. The call to action is reinforced several times, with a message of exclusivity in the closing and signator. Finally, the letter includes a postscript that reinforces the call to action and benefit. And, just to top things off, a buckslip is included that communicates popularity along with a reinforcement of benefit and call to action. Richard Benson would be proud.


Not So Free Parking at Newark Airport

Solicitation email

This email offering a free day of parking is a Fail for Creative

The email subject line reads “Get 1 Day Free at EWR & JFK”. The content of the email also touts enjoying “1 day of free parking at Newark Liberty & JFK airports!” It is not until the reader prints the coupon that he or she discovers that the free day has strings attached. The customer must park at the airport for 3 or 5 days to obtain the benefit of the free day.

Coupons with conditions
Ideally, the headline of the email should include the contingency of the offer, i.e., “Get 1 Day Free at EWR & JFK when you park 5 days.” If not, then the body of the email should include an adequate disclosure or at least reference the contingency of the offer, i.e., “See coupon for details and conditions,” “Minimum parking stay required,” or a similar message. But, even in the fine print, this email does not include a mention of the minimum parking requirement.

When a business sends offers where the conditions are not clearly communicated, it not only degrades customer trust and brand equity, it is often a violation of Federal Trade Commission rules.

Lesson: When presenting an offer, communicate the requirements for your customers to benefit from the offer upfront and clearly.

Fine print - no mention of minimum parking requirement


Tax Day Fail for Turbo Tax & Wells Fargo

Postmarked 4/8/13, arrives on Tax Day

My monthly Wells Fargo statement included an advertisement for TurboTax. The offer is mentioned only on the outer envelope, not in any inserts. The fine print mentions that the offer is valid only through April 15, 2013. The Fail is that the envelope was mailed on April 8 and arrived in my mailbox only today. Having a response window of only one day is a Fail for Timing.
The copy on the back of the envelope could also use a few touch-ups:
  • The phone number shown includes both a vanity number and the actual digits.  Communicating a vanity phone number can be useful in mass media or social media -- where the customer is expected to memorize it before dialing -- but on a static medium such as paper or email it is not necessary. Listing both the vanity and non-vanity number is a distraction.
  • This phone number is oddly capitalized. ‘WFB’ is in all-caps but ‘Open’ is not. This makes it a bit more difficult to read.
  • The use of periods at the end of statements is inconsistent. The headline does not include a period. The first statement in the call to action includes a period at the end of the URL. However, the last sentence on the second line is missing a period after the date.
  1. Give customers an adequate amount of time to respond to your offer.
  2. When communicating an offer by mail or email, provide the actual phone number rather than some vanity number.
  3. Proofread even the small print.