Direct Energy: Phone Sex, It's a Gas!

This is a classic Fail for Creative … 

Direct Energy, when offering a renewal price to natural gas customers, mistakenly gave out the phone number of a phone sex line rather than its own customer service number.   

No doubt a term-contract renewal mailing like this was sent dozens or hundreds of times by a large company such as Direct Energy, which makes the mistake all the more notable.  It is easy when reusing a standard mailing to overlook the obvious – proof everything every time.

Lesson: Call every phone number in your communication to verify correctness.


Recyclebank: Perishable email

There is a lot of buzz in direct marketing about ‘big data’ — “An all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using traditional data processing applications” according to Wikipedia. Nice, but before embracing the challenges of big data, marketers should be successful using the information they have. I often call this ‘small data,’ or “The collection of data already available that can be used simply and effectively.”

Which brings up the topic of this recent Recyclebank email. When I joined Recyclebank in 2011, it appeared to be the MyPoints of environmentalism, offering points for purchasing products and doing things that are good for the environment. Those points could be used for healthy and environmentally beneficial rewards. After a bit of use over the course of a year, though, I cashed out all my points for some Odwalla coupons. I earned a few points after that, but not enough to redeem for anything meaningful before they expired. That was more than two years ago.

I never opted out the program, however, and still received an occasional email with offers of points for taking part in environmentally friendly offers or for learning why drinking from cans is better than drinking from bottles. However, the email I’m talking about is a bit different. In it, Recyclebank attempts to engage me by offering point redemption offers. Nice, except I have zero points and have not had any points since 2012.

In sending this email, it appears that Recyclebank took a ‘spray and pray’ approach, pushing the same email to all customers. A smarter use of their small data, however, would have been to simply target customers with a meaningful number of points by adding a line or two in the code querying the list of customers. This would have avoided a Fail for List.

Lesson: Use the information you have in-house to target your customer communications appropriately. Avoid sending emails with irrelevant messages.