Simplisafe: The Story Is About Apartments. The Mail Is Not.

Many companies have a story connected to their foundation — often explaining what inspired the CEO to create the company. And, no, the inspiration is not, "To make a boatload of money." At SimpliSafe, the story begins with a robbery:
After his friends were robbed, Chad Laurans discovered a serious problem in the home security industry. No one was protecting renters. Alarm systems needed a ton of hardwiring and came with pricey long-term contracts that couldn’t be canceled. So Chad built something new.
This story about Chad Laurans's inspiration is quoted from SimpliSafe's page focused on apartments, located here. The same page includes a sales message referencing apartment protection:
Now SimpliSafe is the fastest growing home security company in the nation. SimpliSafe won’t lock you in a long-term contract and 24/7 professional monitoring is only $14.99 a month. Protect your apartment—the smart way.
So it would appear that Mr. Laurans understands the needs of people who live in apartments for adequate security.  That brings us to a postcard mailed to apartment homes and what I believe is a Fail for Targeting and Creative.

SimpliSafe Solicitation - Sales Side
Lead Generation Postcard

I live in a co-op apartment building, which typically consists of units that resemble apartments. Although they are cooperatively owned (rather than rented out) by their residents, these are very similar to rental apartment units in that they are underserved by the legacy home security companies.

SimpliSafe Solicitation - Address Side
Lead Generation Postcard - Address Side

On their website, if one clicks on "Shop Now" either from the home page or the /fearless landing page mentioned on the postcard, the lead product is the most expensive one. Even the "Shop Now" link found on the apartment-focused page leads to several product bundles starting with The Haven for $489 that includes 14 pieces of security equipment including a freeze sensor.

Presuming this postcard is part of a national campaign, a version should have been created specifically for people living in apartments.* The apartment-versioned postcard could support Mr. Laurans’s story by mentioning the need for even small apartments to have physical protection. In addition to communicating a low monthly price, the postcard could focus its limited space to communicating safety, peace of mind, renters insurance discounts, and effortless set-up. The Call to Action would be to a visit a landing page that reinforces service benefits while leading with a product package best suited for apartments. This could be The FoundationThe Essentials, or a similar lower-priced package. After all, many renters don't need water or freeze sensors.

Apartment-centric page - mobile view

SimpliSafe may also want to consider the entire prospect user experience that results from using the postcard as a lead generation device. Above, for example is the Apartment-centric page as viewed on a Pixel 3a XL. Much of the type is too small to read on a mobile device. Other pages in the domain require a reader to scroll left and right — cumbersome on a laptop and an outright hassle on a mobile phone. Mobile use as a percentage of internet traffic continues to increase, even for people in their homes, and especially for young renters. SimpliSafe should consider creating mobile-friendly versions of their site or fully embrace responsive design.

If SimpliSafe's communications are optimized for target market relevancy, this company's story could have a happy ending. To paraphrase a SimpliSafe tagline, that would be "Direct Marketing. Done Right."

Retargeting. Done right.
SimpliSafe Retargeting Ad - laptop view 

  1. When your product has multiple target markets, segment your list selection and messaging to appeal to those target markets.
  2. Maintain messaging consistency and product recommendations relevant to your target market segment all the way through an online sale.
  3. Consider how your content appears on mobile devices.

*It could be that SimpliSafe is segmenting rental-style apartments in their list selection, and I received a piece designed for single-family homes because I live in an owner-occupied unit. Nonetheless, the presence of an apartment number in my address should have been a flag for list scrubbing, segmentation, or at least understanding the nature of co-op apartments.


Shutterfly: Why They Call It "Snail Mail"

There are several ways a company like Shutterfly can promote sales to prior customers.
  • If the company has an app, it can push a notification to the customer's smartphone. However, notifications can be blocked or can be missed among more urgent notifications.
  • The company can send an email. The benefits of this approach include very low cost to send and precisely manageable timing. The downside is that emails can fall into a spam filter or can be easily missed or ignored by the customer.
  • The company can send a letter or postcard. The benefit of this approach is that mail gets noticed. A properly created direct mail communication is interruptive without being obtrusive. In other words, it gets noticed.  The downside is that one cannot guarantee when their mail will arrive in the customer's mailbox.
That's the case with this Shutterfly Labor Day Sale postcard. It merits a Fail for Timing because I received it on September 12 -- the day after the sale ended.  

Shutterfly's postcard arrived late
Postcard Front

In an ideal world, the postcard should arrive in home on August 28, the day the sale starts. Some retailers believe sales communications should arrive 1-2 days prior to the sale so a consumer can plan to make a purchase during the sale period; however, I believe this POV comes from an outdated brick-and-mortar way of thinking. When sending a communication with a call to action to go online or use an app, it appears to me that the marketing communication should arrive at a time when a customer can immediately take action and benefit from the offer.

Shutterfly sale
Postcard Back

The postcard size is 6" x 9", which the USPS classifies as Marketing Mail. Postage charges to send a postcard of this size are the same as for letters. However, instead of spending the extra money to send it via First Class Mail, Shutterfly sent it by Standard Rate, formerly known as Bulk Rate. This is the least expensive (but slowest) delivery method available. The cost difference between Standard Rate and First Class Mail for this type of postcard is typically 12-15 cents, depending on addressee density and other factors.

Postage Indicia - Standard Rate Postcard

Unfortunately, it took the USPS two weeks to deliver from northern California to New York City. Perhaps the postcard was put into the mail in California just prior to the sale. If so, Shutterfly could benefit from dropshipping. This is a method where an independent company ships your mail by truck to a postal network distribution center close to the recipient's location. So, rather than putting the postcard in the mail in Redwood City for the USPS to send to a network distribution center in California, then to a network distribution center in Colorado, then to a network distribution center in Missouri, then to a network distribution center in — well, you get the idea — the dropshipper puts the mail in a truck and drives it directly to a sectional center facility near New York City to be sorted for the local postal carrier to bring to homes in the Big Apple

It is also possible that this postcard was, in fact, dropshipped and sat in a local sectional center facility for about two weeks. After all, the USPS is not accountable for standard rate mail delays.

  1. Your mail should arrive at a time that is relevant to the offer and consumer interest.
  2. Dropshipping has an incremental cost, but it improves timing and costs less than First Class Mail. If you are going to invest in direct mail, optimize your delivery.


Upstep: 9/11 Sale is an un-American, Tasteless Fail

At 8:09 am on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 77 pulled back from the gate at Dulles International Airport. In the next 86 minutes, the plane was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon, killing all 64 people on board along with 125 Pentagon personnel.

Exactly 18 years from that moment, custom orthotic insole maker Upstep launches a sale. It sends emails to people on their marketing list promoting a "Patriot Day Flash Sale", complete with American imagery.

Upstep appears to be un-American
Upstep's 9/11 Patriot Day Flash Sale email

To refer to this email solicitation as merely a Fail for Creative and Timing is an understatement. 9/11 is a tragedy, not an excuse for a sale. The "flash" of the each of two planes being flown into the Twin Towers is seared in my memory as well as those millions of other Americans. This is not a time for a sales promotion -- this is a day for prayer and remembering our lost family, friends and First Responders.

The email footer states that Upstep is based on Madison Avenue in New York City; however, I cannot phantom how anyone who lived in NYC on 9/11/01 or today would consider, develop or approve this type of marketing communication.

Do not leverage 9/11 for your sales promotion. Just ... don't.