7/23/2022

Jockey: Late Recognition Of Getting In My Pants

After months of COVID lockdown and isolation, I was finally going to set foot outside of Queens. My wife and I arranged for a weekend getaway upstate at a bed-and-breakfast with plenty of ventilation, air filtration and outdoor seating. It was our anniversary and, pandemic or not, we wanted to make it special. 

We brought masks, gloves, sanitizer, and more sanitizer. I packed a rag and Lysol disinfectant just to give our room a once-over when we arrived. We brought packaged food in case the nearby restaurants were too busy. After confirming all the details and driving north for a few hours, I realized had I forgotten my mother's advice: Always pack clean underwear. Sorry, Mom!

I discovered a Jockey outlet store near our B&B. It had reopened from COVID lockdown the day before our trip. So, on our anniversary, we stopped at the store for a couple pairs of jockeys. The store manager, also wearing a mask and plastic gloves, understood that I wasn't familiar with the brand and helped me pick out something comfortable in my size. 

The manager apologized that not all price tags were up to date as the store was shorthanded and had just reopened. No worries, I said; just ring me up. She asked to put me on the email list with an offer of an instant discount on my in-store purchase. I agreed, providing my email address.

That was two years ago. I haven't purchased anything from Jockey since then. (The underwear is fine; I simply don't need any more.)

In May of this year, I received an email with a Subject Line of "Thank you for joining Jockey Rewards!

New Jockey Rewards

New Jockey Rewards

New Jockey Rewards
Jockey Rewards Introduction Email, May, 2022

The wording of that subject line makes it seem like I recently joined the Jockey Rewards program, which is not the case. Perhaps giving the manager my email address in that outlet store two years ago had enrolled me in an older version of the program and I had now been auto-enrolled in the current program. This supposition is based on the answer on the Jockey's reward program FAQ:

Jockey Rewards FAQ
First FAQ at jockey.com/rewards mentioning "new and improved rewards program"

So, the program is "new and improved." OK. Perhaps. But since I hadn't just joined the program, better subject lines would include:

Welcome to the new Jockey Rewards!

We've improved Jockey Rewards!

Other than the confusing subject line, the email is nicely done: on brand, communicative, friendly and persuasive. Overall, the email doesn't deserve a Fail for Creative. Perhaps it merits a C+.

Lesson:
Your subject line should be relevant to your customer.


5/25/2022

PayPal: Where $1 Cash Back For Every $20 Spent Is Less Than 5%

Since last July, the value of PayPal stock has fallen by about 75%. While many analysts are discussing the company's "fundamentals" and suggesting at what price to purchase the stock, I'm staying away for a different reason -- because they often produce Mail That Fails. 

My first post about PayPal's several Fails was in 2011 when they mailed me a shoddy credit offer. There are a few more, including a recent one about a confusing and poorly targeted Venmo offer. Now, add to my list of PayPal Fails this offer of "$1 cash back for every $20 spent at restaurants." 

PayPal Restaurant Rebate Offer - May, 2022

PayPal Restaurant Cash Card Offer - May, 2022

PayPal Restaurant Rebate Offer - Disclosures

PayPal Restaurant Rebate Offer - More Disclosures
PayPal Cash Card Restaurant Rebate Offer
Received May 9, 2022

Scanning the headline might make you think that going out to lunch four times -- spending $25 each time with your GooglePay app to use your PayPal balance for those lunches -- would earn you $5 cash back ($100 divided by $20 equals $5). But you'd be wrong…twice. The offer requires me to first request a PayPal Cash Card, then receive it in the mail and use it at a restaurant. All within 5 weeks of first receiving the offer – some of which is spent waiting for PayPal to process my request for the card. That's a lot of effort and a short window of opportunity for a small benefit, e.g. a Fail for Offer

PayPal could have easily avoided this by using a rolling offer expiration date. For example, PayPal could require the customer to request the card by a specific date, but then give the customer a reasonable amount of time to use the card after activation, say, 60 days. That would be clear to explain and fair to the customer -- unless, of course, the intent is to make imply the offer is more generous then it actually is.

Which leads me to the actual offer value. I read through the disclosure text a few times, and I'm pretty sure that cash back offer is on a per-transaction basis. So, while each purchase of $25 would be worth $1 cash back and a $100 dinner might net $5 cash back, four lunches adding up to $100 would be worth only $4 cash back. If I'm right, this is a Fail for Offer and Content for being misleading. If I'm wrong, it is a Fail for Content for lack of clarity.

Another Fail for Content lies in the disclosures. It appears this disclosure was rushed and not proofread. Take this paragraph, for example:

"Eligible Purchase(s)": Eligible Purchase is defined as every $20.00 USD spent in-store or onlineusing the Card and finalized by the merchant during the Offer Period (defined below) in thefollowing category: restaurants (according to the Merchant Category Code (“MCC”) assigned byeach merchant, their processor, and the credit card networks. Only acceptable MCCs for this offerare 5812 and 5814). PayPal is not responsible for assignment of MCC codes. As a result, Reward willnot be awarded if the MCC code assigned to a particular merchant does not fall within a restaurantcategory, even if you believe that the merchant is a restaurant. Eligible Purchases do not include:(1) purchases that are marked as “pending” in your Card account as of the end of the Offer Period,(2) purchases made at eligible merchants using a third-party delivery service (3) ATM transactions,(4) gift card purchases, (5) any purchase or portion of a purchase that involves a payment methodother than the Card, or (6) in-store cash withdrawals/cash back. 

Spaces are missing between words. The punctuation is inconsistent. Some numbers in parentheses have spaces before them; some do not. There’s also a missing comma after "service" in the last sentence. 

There are references to "e-mail" in some paragraphs and "email" in other paragraphs. According to grammarly.com, both are correct as long as you use it consistently. PayPal is not being consistent.

These types of possibly misleading offers and unclear communications suggest to me that PayPal's leadership is spending their marketing dollars without full consideration of what they are doing and how they are doing it. As a stockholder, that would frighten me. As a customer, that also scares me a bit. If I can't expect to get a clean offer and clear communication, should I really be trusting PayPal to keep my personal information secure?

Lessons:

  1. Clearly communicate your offer.
  2. Allow your customers adequate time to respond to your offer and benefit from it's value.
  3. Proofread your entire communication, including your disclosures.
  4. Your customers' trust is potentially built or destroyed by every communication.
  5. The debate between "e-mail" and "email" isn't over, but at least pick a side.

5/15/2022

Pacific Magazine Billing: Even a Scam Can Be Mail That Fails

Remember the good ol' days when penny candy was only $5 a pound? Back then Entertainment Weekly actually published an issue every week. 

Those good ol' days lasted until about three years ago. In August 2019, Entertainment Weekly went monthly -- lasting only until the April 2022 issue before ceasing print publication for good. Ah, well, I used to enjoy reading their "Must List" on the subway.

About six weeks after EW's last issue, I received this envelope package from Pacific Magazine Billing. (Normally, when I first mention a company, I include a hyperlink to the company's website; however, there is no website to be found.) 

Pacific Magazine Billing not-a-bill for Entertainment Weekly

Pacific Magazine Billing not-a-bill - EW Back
Not-A-Bill for cancelled publication

The "NOTICE OF RENEWAL / NEW ORDER OFFER" was for two years of Entertainment Weekly for the low, low price of only $99.95. The Terms and Conditions call out that this is "just an offer and not a bill ..." but it sure looks like a bill. 

Outer Envelope

Pretty Simple Reply Envelope

A lot of sites declare Pacific Magazine Billing to be a scam such as here, here, here, here, here and -- well, you get the idea. Sometimes a scam is a scam but might still be legal. I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. I do know that a scam mail package is naturally a Fail for Creative. But this package isn't only an apparent scam; it is Fail for Timing. I mean, it is pushing for a subscription renewal for a defunct publication. 

Alas, I "Must Not."

Lesson:
If you are going to scam, scam smartly. 


5/04/2022

Fidelity Rewards Visa: Bonus Offer Improvement

I recently wrote about a confusing email offer from Fidelity Rewards Visa with a complex bonus statement credit for a specific category of purchases and a failure to reinforce it's basic product benefits. It merited a Fail for Creative and potential Fail for Offer. 

About six weeks later, Fidelity sent a new and better executed offer to the same person.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Bonus Offer

Fidelity Rewards Visa Bonus Offer

The offer is straightforward and simple enough to explain to my mother: Earn 3 points, rather than 2, for every dollar spent online through May 31, 2022. Unlike with the previous email, there's no minimum spend level, and the email clearly explains the $25 incremental rebate cap using icons and simple language to support communication clarity. Below the three icons, the email reinforces the basic product benefit, specifically that the bonus is in addition to the 2% cash back already available for all credit card purchases.

On the other hand, the email still has one issue. To enroll in the offer, the recipient has to click on the "Enroll now" link in the email then enter a promo code (which may be unique to the recipience, so it's blacked out here as potential PII). The code is 13 digits, which is a lot to enter. In user experience jargon, the need for a customer to enter a long code adds traction to the enrollment process.

So, how could Fidelity Rewards improve this email even more? If the promo code is unique to the customer, perhaps Fidelity could offer1-click enrollment, as other companies do. If it is not unique, why make the promo code so complex? Fidelity could go with something easy to transpose, such as "OnlineBonus22."

Lessons:
  1. Your offer should be simple to explain.
  2. Don't forget to reinforce your basic product benefits.
  3. Take as much traction as you can out of customer enrollment -- the easier for customers, the better.


4/04/2022

Fidelity Rewards Visa: Offering Nothing for Something, or simply unclear?

The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card offers a 2% rebate on purchases. Their product home page touts, "Earn unlimited 2% cash back on everyday spending." So, why are they are sending emails to  existing credit card customers offering a "2% statement credit, up to $25?" To me, that sounds like a limit.

Fidelity Rewards email with Home Improvement Offer



Fidelity Rewards Card Email with Rebate Offer


The email headline reads, "Earn up to a $25 statement credit." The offer appears to be an opportunity to earn a 2% statement credit if a customer spends at least $200 at a Home Improvement or Lawn & Garden store, with a maximum statement credit of $25. Huh? So, if a customer spends $180 at Lowe's, the customer gets nothing? And if the customer spends $2,500 at Home Depot, they get effectively a 1% rebate? This seems like eating a doughnut hole. Spend too little and there is no benefit; spend too much and the benefit is diluted. Is this a Fail for Offer, or just strange?

But what about that 2% rebate that is supposed to be available for everyday spending on that very same card? The email doesn't speak to that at all. This merits a Fail for Creative because the email does not explain that the statement credit opportunity is incremental to the 2% rebate. The headline could have read, "Earn up to $25 more when you spring into home products." Or the body copy could have read, "In addition to the rewards you already earn, enjoy an additional statement credit up to $25 when you ..." Then there could be an implication that the effective customer rebate could be as high as 4%.

Lessons:
  1. Your offer should be simple to explain and allow customers to easily benefit.
  2. Don't forget to reinforce your basic product benefits.



Updated 4/7 to remove additional PII from email.

3/06/2022

BCHP: A hard-to-find doctor for my non-existent child

When someone asks me if I have children, I sometimes joke, "None to my knowledge." In that context, when I receive a postcard asking me, "Looking for a pediatrician or pediatric specialist?" I have to wonder if someone knows something I don't.

Maybe I do have a child. Maybe my wife has a bun in the oven. Or maybe the reason I received this postcard is less dramatic  that the postcard from Boston Children's Health Physicians (BCHP) merits a Fail for Targeting.

Let's set aside for the moment the fact that I do not have any offspring and break down the postcard's content.

Boston Children's Heath Physicians
Mommy is happy with her healthy baby.

The front of the postcard simply suggests that I choose Bost Children's Health Physicians. It doesn't suggest why I choose one of their doctors. What makes their physicians desirable? To put it in marketing terms, what is BCHP's unique selling proposition?

BCHP Boston Children's Health Physicians
Where is Forest Hills, Queens?
Not in the area shown on the postcard.

The address side of the postcard includes a minor sales message that supports the Call to Action – to “find the expert care your child needs to grow and thrive.” And the postcard displays a map that appears to show the locations of doctors. There is an arrow pointing to the map, reading, “Find a pediatric provider in your area” with emphasis on “your.” Quick takeaway: most of New York City doesn’t even appear on the map.

Maybe there is a provider near me, but how would I know? Rather than communicating how to find the provider – and placing it next to the Call to Action to do so – there is a bunch of white space below the map. The response method is on the other side of the postcard…well, sort of.

Buried on the bottom right corner of the picture of mom and her smiling baby is a URL leading to the Boston Children’s Health Physicians home page. Somewhere on that home page is information that supports the postcard’s messaging, but it isn’t easy to find. The QR code doesn’t lead to the same page as the URL; it leads directly to the practice locator page. And the placement of the QR code (within an image on the opposite side) is a Fail for Creative.

BCHP Boston Children's Health Physicians
BCHP locations not quite near Queens
Let’s get back to finding a provider in my area. I tried the QR code on my smartphone. It indicated that the nearest practice was in Bardonia, NY.

As the crow flies, the distance from Forest Hills, Queens, NY to Bardonia is about 27 miles. As the parent drives in traffic, however, it is two toll bridges and typically an hour drive or longer with a sick or tired child in the back seat. (That assumes the parent has a car. After all, this is New York City.) This long distance to a physician confirms that the postcard was poorly targeted geographically – another Fail for Targeting.

Returning to the caption below the map, what is a “pediatric provider?” Why use that kind of industry jargon when the front of the postcard uses “pediatrician” and “pediatric specialist” while the address side of the postcard cites having 55 “practices”? Why throw yet another term out there? I realize I’m not a parent but, if I were, wouldn’t I want to find a “doctor” for my child?

IMHO, this postcard from Spectrum Marketing Services does not really support Boston Children’s Health Physicians. It is poorly designed, written, and targeted.
 
Finally, unless there is a back-end method in place for tracking response to the individuals being mailed, this isn’t direct marketing – it’s mailed advertising.


Lessons:

  1. Vet your data sources to target matching demographics.
  2. Just being available is not enough. Even a medical practice needs a differentiator.
  3. The means of following through on a Call to Action should be located close to the Call to Action, and easy to find.
  4. Vet your physical targeting to people who can easily get to your physical business or medical practice.
  5. If your Call to Action includes a web site, don’t just list a home page. Use a direct URL that aligns with the Call to Action.
  6. Apply jargon consistently using terms your customers understand.
  7. Even a postcard for a medical practice should include some method of tracking results.