Showing posts with label creative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creative. Show all posts

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.


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.


12/16/2021

Athletic Greens: Landing page does not work out

For more than a decade, I've written about the four pillars of a successful direct marketing campaign: Targeting, Offer, Creative and Timing (TOCT). But there is something that binds these pillar together: Execution.

If you properly thought through your TOCT and planned your work, execution is working the plan. To execute successful, everything should work the way it should.

Which brings us to Athletic Greens. I recently received this self-mailer:
Athletic Greens
Cover panel

Athletic Greens
Address panel, with offer URL


Athletic Greens
Inside panel



Athletic Greens
Sales panels
Athletic Greens


Creatively, this is quite a good piece for the category. The paper stock is thick, making it stand out in the clutter of mail. The message are simple and straightforward. The Call to Action is to subscribe to receive dietary supplements by visiting www.athleticgreens.com/startag1 and taking advantage of an offer for new customers. When I tried it, the URL did not work. 
Athletic Greens
Non-functional landing page


Because the landing page was non-functional, this otherwise compelling self-mailer merits a Fail for Execution. If customers can't get the offer they were promised, why would they trust the product?

And it's not like a prospective customer can easily call to take advantage of the offer. The self-mailer lacks a phone number. Sure, there is one on a page buried in the web site (888-390-4029), but that is listed as "Customer Service." Are there no salespeople available? I believe this approach of mailing an offer without a phone number as a secondary call to action is pennywise and pound foolish. It may merit a Fail for Creative.

I received the self-mailer 10 days before Christmas, a time when people are thinking about indulging for the holidays, visiting family and friends, and end-of-year financial activities. A typical mailbox is full of charity solicitations, catalogs and holiday cards. Is this really a time to mail an offer related to personal self-improvement that attempts to motivate people to change their dietary habits? I think no, and that this could be a Fail for Timing

If I planned this campaign, I would have timed the maildrop with an in-home date three weeks later, e.g., the first week of January. I would have also tested the landing page before mailing.

Lessons:
  1. When you include a web address on your solicitation, make sure it works.
  2. When using snail mail to sell your product, don't assume people will go online to response. Include a phone number in your Call to Action.
  3. Carefully consider the impact of seasonality when timing your mailing.






11/30/2021

PayPal: Venmo $10 Giveaway Email Lacks Explanation or Focused Targeting

This recent email from PayPal trying to cross-sell Venmo merits Fails for Creative and Targeting.

PayPal Venmo $10 Offer
Enrollment offer email, sent to long-term
Venmo customer

The email offers me a straight cash bribe (or, as we say in marketing, an incentive) to sign up for Venmo. The Call to Action is to click on the “Claim Your $10” link that will bring me to the below landing page.

Venmo $10 Offer Landing Page
Landing page
lacks explanation of Venmo product features or customer benefits

The landing page reinforces the incentive and discloses information about fees -- and allows me to sign up for Venmo and verify my phone number.

But what is Venmo? Neither the email nor landing page include a product explanation. Simply put: If someone hasn’t used Venmo -- which is, after all, the kind of person the email is targeting -- they would have no idea what it is or why they should provide their mobile number to get $10. Both the email and landing page should include benefit statements or at least some brief sales messages.

Now, in fact, I know all about Venmo. I’ve been using it for a long time, long enough for Venmo’s parent PayPal to know that I am an active customer. That is why I give this a Fail for Targeting. There is no value in sending a new customer acquisition offer to a long-term active customer like myself. Communications like this can make customers question the strength of a brand.

Speaking of brand, why doesn’t PayPal put its name behind Venmo -- at least on this marketing email? For customers who haven’t heard of or used Venmo (like the ones targeted by the offer), including phrasing such as “backed by PayPal” or “a PayPal service” would at least lend some credibility to the product.

This isn’t the first time PayPal has offered me an incentive for something without explanation. Last year, PayPal sent me an offer for Honey that lacked a product value proposition. Nor is this the first time that PayPal has demeaned its brand with shoddy marketing communications. These communications can implicitly send a message to customers that PayPal doesn’t have its act together, which could lead to decreased trust and decreased use. Is this a company to trust with cryptocurrency purchases?

Sometimes marketing managers are so obsessed with their products, they forget the basics. That’s why they need to take a step back, review lessons like the below, and avoid sending Mail That Fails.

Lessons:

  1. Explain what it is you are selling and why it is beneficial.
  2. Extend your new customer offer only to potential new customers.
  3. If selling an affiliate service, consider explaining the relationship with the affiliate.

10/25/2021

DoorDash: No Sleep till Queens ?!?

We live in Queens -- a borough of New York City. It is also it's own county. It is not like any other borough or any other place in the world. 

So to suggest that we live in nearby Brooklyn is like someone suggesting San Francisco-based DoorDash is actually in Oakland -- sure, it's nearby, but it's a different world.

I ordered from DoorDash once, although I'm not sure when or why. Maybe it was to take advantage of a credit card offer, or perhaps it was that time last year when my wife and I really, really wanted a Carvel ice cream cake but didn't feel safe taking the subway there in the middle of a pandemic. Regardless, that one order was enough to be added to their email marketing list.

DoorDash email to Queens customer touting Brooklyn

DoorDash knows where I live: firmly in a Queens zip code. So, the only reason to send me an offer email with a Subject line of "Hey, Brooklyn" is to want to get a Fail for Creative. Brooklyn is a nice borough, but to suggest that we live there is insulting to those of us who can walk to the World's Fair Site or the Louis Armstrong Museum -- or can brag they live in the same borough where Peter Parker grew up with his Aunt May.

But, to suggest I live in Brooklyn? Ouch! Not even a month of free pizza could get me to say, "Fuhgeddaboutit." I'm going to just leave this picture here.

Lesson: 
If you want to appeal to your customers based on locality, make sure you get their location right.



10/11/2021

Hooters: Timing and Grammar Matter

This birthday email from Hooters merits a Fail for Timing and a Fail for Creative.  

The email informs the recipient that he has "10 Free Wings (Birthday)" and that his offer will expire in "1 days."

Hooters Birthday email - after the fact
Hooters Birthday email
arrived well after the birthday


The recipient's birthday was in late August. He did not receive a communication about his free wings prior to his birthday or on his birthday. The first time he found out he had the opportunity to have free Hooters wings served to him (presumably by a "Hooters Girl") was on September 20 -- one day before the offer expired. 

The opening of the email reads:

Just a friendly reminder that your 10 Free Wings (Birthday) is about to expire. Come in and redeem your offer before it expires in 1 days.

This brief paragraph would read better as:

Just a friendly reminder that your 10 Free Wings offer for your birthday is about to expire. Come in and redeem your offer before it expires tomorrow.

One might joke about the sentences being written by a Hooters Girl, but that would be insulting to smart women who take the job. Regardless, it appears to me that the sentence was written by a someone using rudimentary mail merge software. The first sentence identifies the type of free offer in parenthesis. The programming of the second sentence did not take into account that the number of days may be a singular number. 

Let's hope the wings are better than the grammar. 

Lessons:

  1. Recognizing a customer's birthday is a useful way to engage a customer, but only if properly executed.
  2. When using numerical values in your communications, make sure to account for values that are not plural.

8/26/2021

Hard Rock Casino: Guns N' Rose ?!?

The Hard Rock Hotel Casino recently sent this email about upcoming entertainment that included a band called "Guns N' Rose".

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino email for Guns N' Roses
Email from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

This is a Fail for Creative, but no worries -- the band is going to make up for this faux pas by playing their new song "Sweet Children of Ours."

Lesson: 
Be sure to thoroughly proofread your communications, including the email Subject Line.

 

8/14/2021

Freshly: Referral Offer Freshens Up

 A couple months ago I wrote about a referral offer from Freshly that merited a Fail for Creative. Last week, the company sent me a similar offer and, from a creative and user experience standpoint, it is an improvement. 

Freshly Referral Offer
Freshly email

This email is personalized, addressing me by name. Although it positions the referral offer as something I had "earned" (which feels a bit gimmicky), the email does recognize both my purchase history and enthusiasm for the product. 

Rather than the previous mailing -- which provided a code to share but without adequate instructions about how to use it -- this email offers a simple link with a Call to Action to "Send a Free Box." That seems easy, and needs no special codes. 

The landing page includes a 3-step, easy-to-understand process for the customer to follow to give a friend a free week of Freshly. 

Freshly Freebie Box Landing Page
Referral offer landing page

The input fields are clear. The email message and subject lines include stock language with an opportunity to personalize. That's almost as flexible as switching next week's meal from the Cauliflower Shell Beef Bolognese to the Indian-Spiced Chickpea Curry Bowl.

One element included in the May email that is lacking here, however, is an expiration date. Instead, the email body copy mentions "... and will expire unless you share it soon ...", while the disclosure reads, "Freshly reserves the right to modify, replace, or cancel offer(s) at any time" -- a statement that lacks a sense of immediacy. This is not a Fail for Creative but is an improvement opportunity. Even if this referral offer is intended to be evergreen, I would include a soft expiration date using language such as "... so send a Freebie Box in the next 7 days and give the gift of better meals made easy!"

Referral offer Thank You page

Lessons:
  1. Referral programs are a useful approach to allowing your customers to be your advocates.
  2. When you want your customers to do something, take all the traction out of the process.
  3. If your offer does not have a expiration date, at least suggest a timeframe for the customer to take action.

7/16/2021

Mr. Cooper Renovates His Mail

Last year, I wrote about a direct mail letter from Mr. Cooper offering a home mortgage. It was a Fail for Creative for several reasons. This letter avoids those mistakes and, in fact, applies some smart direct mail marketing tactics.

Mr. Cooper Mortgage Offer
Mr. Cooper
Invitation to Apply letter



The Johnson Box describes the sales proposition and includes a clear Call to Action. Below it, the headline "Buying a Home Soon? Here Are 3 Reasons to Prequalify with Mr. Cooper" supports the Johnson Box and teases a reason to take action. The body copy supports the headlines by communicating those three reasons to take action. 

The letter goes on to make reference to Mr. Cooper Real Estate Rewards and offers a brief statement that explains the benefit. It closes with a Call to Action to "Call today to prequalify," with an attempt to overcome inertia by explaining that it is fast, simple and totally free.

After the close, there is a modern twist on the classic P.S. with yet another Call to Action. It reiterates the action requested of the reader -- prequalify for a mortgage -- and how to do it -- call a phone number or visit a specific website. 

In the consumer financial industry, this type of letter is an "Invitation to Apply" for credit, while the letter I reviewed last year is considered an "Presentation of a Prequalified Offer." The later requires many disclosures such as a big box on the bottom of the front page with opt-out language. the result is that it is easier for an Invitation to Apply letter to appear clean. Still, that doesn't excuse the mistakes in Mr. Cooper's letter from last year.

Lessons:
  1. Have a clear Call to Action and offer. Communicate it multiple times to encourage action.
  2. Proofread your communications for language and grammar. 

6/03/2021

Dunkin': Everything is Direct Marketing, including my name

How do we define "Direct Marketing?" Let's look at the definition from Investopia:

Direct marketing consists of any marketing that relies on direct communication or distribution to individual consumers, rather than through a third party such as mass media. Mail, email, social media, and texting campaigns are among the delivery systems used. It is called direct marketing because it generally eliminates the middleman, such as advertising media.

Put it simply, direct marketing is any direct customer communication. In that context, my communication with Dunkin Donuts Customer Service merits a Fail for Creative

Last month, I noticed that, for the first time since COVID hit over a year ago, my favorite Dunkin' was open at 5:00 am. The next morning, I tried to advance-order a cup of joe; however, according to the app, the location did not open until 6:00 am. I spoke with the manager, who explained he had been trying for a week with "headquarters" to get the app updated with the correct hours.   

I wrote an email to customerservice@dunkinbrands.com:

Hi,

I am a DD loyalty club member: [redacted]
 
My favorite DD is [redacted]
 
I walk my dog at 5:30 am each day.  This location is open; however, I cannot place a mobile order because according to your app, it does not open until 6:00 am.  
 
I confirmed this morning with the owner/manager that the location is open on weekdays at 5:00 am.
 
My request to you is to update the hours on the app so I can place the order ahead of time and grab the order quickly without having my dog wait too long for me.
 
Thank you,
 
Marc Davis

It was a friendly email with a minor request to improve my customer experience. 

Five days later, I received a reply:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to contact.

I apologize that your store was closed when you placed your On-the-Go order! We can definitely assist with getting crediting [sic] this transaction for you. Can you please respond with the order number of the transaction that you wish to be credited for? If you have previously sent a screenshot of the order, please respond with the order number from the screenshot, it assists us in locating the transaction faster for you.

We are looking forward to serving you again soon.

Eliezer

Support Center Coordinator

Case #[redacted]

Huh, what?

Dunkin's reply had ignored pretty much everything I wrote. My issue wasn't about an unfilled order, and I wasn't requesting a credit. It was about updating a local store's hours on the app -- and they had ignored that, too. It was as if Eliezer had only scanned my email. 

And why did Eliezer misspell my name? I can understand misspelling 'Marc' if I had called Customer Service and provided my name, but they had it in my email. All it would have taken to spell my name correctly was copying & pasting it from the email.

Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame member Joan Throckmorton once taught me that a person's name is the most important word on a letter. She was right. I hate seeing it misspelled, yet that is what Dunkin' did. 

I bit my lip about that last part and responded:

I did not request nor do I see a need for a credit. 
My request is for your app to be updated so that I can place an order on your app for [redacted] when it opens at 5:00 am on weekdays.
Thank you,
Marc

The reply came the next day.

Hello Mark,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about your experience at the Dunkin' restaurant in [redacted]. We are sorry that you had a bad experience and will alert the franchisee and our field operations team immediately to let them know what happened.

We want every restaurant experience to be a great one and would like to have this experience addressed for you as soon as possible. We take guest satisfaction seriously and hope you’ll give Dunkin' another chance.

Thanks again for taking time out of your day to let us know.

Eliezer 

Support Center Coordinator

Case #[redacted]

The reply increased my disappointment: Customer Service was blaming the store even though my unpleasant experience wasn't because of franchisee or from field operations; it was because of the corporate app and Eliezer.  

The store hours on the app were updated, but I had a bitter taste in my mouth that wasn't from coffee. I guess Dunkin' can bake the donuts, but cannot adequately read customer emails.

The Starbucks on my dog walking route is also open early. Despite memes like this, Starbucks has never misspelled my name. Just sayin', Dunkin'.

Lessons:

  1. Every customer interaction is marketing. Every direct customer communication is direct marketing.
  2. When your customers correspond with you, fully read the communication and reply appropriately.
  3. Always spell the names of your customers correctly.

5/09/2021

GetRiver.com & Colibri: Less is Less

This recent email for river by Colibri IO is a textbook Fail for Creative.

GetRiver.com sales email
Email with Call to Action to buy something now



Lesson: Include in your marketing emails elements missing here:

  1. Explanation of the product or service
  2. Explanation of what the reader is supposed to buy
  3. Offer expiration date -- specifically, when does the coupon code expire
  4. At least some information about the cost
  5. A live Facebook presence when including a link to a Facebook page
  6. Content on your Twitter page from less than three years ago when including a link to Twitter.

5/02/2021

Freshly: How Do I Share My Code?

This email from Freshly merits a Fail for Creative.

Freshly referral / share email
Freshly email to customers inviting them to share


Freshly is a meal subscription service. It offers reasonably healthy, pretty fresh refridgerated meals that can be prepared in the microwave in about three minutes. Personally, during the pandemic lockdown, it helped me have several quick, tasty lunches between Zoom meetings. They've offered a referral program since as long as I've been a customer (at least I think so -- during the lockdown, one business day sometimes faded into the next). 

This offer is a bit different. The email recipient, a current customer, is given a "share code" to send a Freshly Freebie to someone who can get a free week of meals. Nice; however, there is no explanation of how to share. The email lacks an explanation of what I or that special someone needs to do to use that share code and enjoy that free food. This lack of explanation puts traction in the customer process of sharing, which reduces the likelihood of customer action.

The offer was sent on April 29 and expires May 6. This means the offer expires only a week after sending. The offer window is appropriately sized for an emailed offer; however, because the expiration date is mentioned only in the disclosure, the attribute of immediacy in the Call to Action is lost. The expiration date should be communicated in body copy, e.g. "Your share code is valid only through May 6, 2021, so be sure to share your Freebie today!"

Lessons:

  1. Your Call to Action should clearly describe the steps required for the customer to take advantage of your offer.
  2. Do not bury your offer expiration date in your fine print. 


4/15/2021

Norton Lifelock: Renewal Email Reminds Me of Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller had a show that ran for eight seasons: “Penn & Teller: Bulls---!” According to Penn Jillette

If we said it was all scams we could also be in trouble, but 'bulls---,' oddly, is safe. So forgive all the 'bulls--- language', but we're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court."

This leads to a recent email I received from Norton. IMHO, it goes beyond merely a Fail for Creative

Norton Antivirus Renewal Notice

The email offers the customer an opportunity to review their virus protection for $39.99, with an asterisk mentioning that this is the price for just the first year. That asterisk references a Disclosure rendering in 4.5-point font size:

I'll enlarge the fine print to a readable font size:

You are enrolling in an automatically renewing subscription that begins when your purchase is completed online (or otherwise, when your offline payment is received). Please download and install on each device, up to the specified number of devices, to get protection. Price shown is valid for the first term only. After that, your subscription will renew each year at the applicable annual renewal price here. You can cancel your subscription at my.norton.com or by contacting Member Services & Support. For more details, please visit the Refund Policy. Your subscription includes product, service and/or protection updates and new features as available during the subscription term, subject to acceptance of the License and Services Agreement. Features may be added, modified or removed during the subscription term.


So, to find out what the second-year price might be, I have to search through literal mouseprint to find the correct link to learn that the actual long-term price is currently expected to be* 50% greater than the advertised price.

Why isn’t Norton upfront about this in the email? Is it perhaps that Norton believes customers will not look for it now and just accept the higher price in a year?

I understand the subscription business model. Norton is offering me software as a service. So does Microsoft, but they don’t obfuscate the fact that I pay $70 a year to use Microsoft Office. Other companies offer introductory prices, but I rarely see the long-term subscription price this hidden.

An honest yet persuasive approach would be to explain the subscription option and offer $20 savings off the first year. The people at Norton know this -- they use this approach as landing pages from PPC ads.

When companies hide relevant information from customers, they might get sales but they’ll also earn distrust. If I can’t trust Norton to be forthcoming about its subscription price, can I trust it to protect my computer? That's why I believe Norton's approach to disclosing prices to customers like this is bulls---.

Lesson: Your relationship with your customers goes beyond one transaction. Honesty is the best policy for long-term customer retention.


* The header of the pricing landing page reads: "Our renewal prices for standalone and add-on subscriptions are listed below. They may change, but we will always send you a notification email prior to billing." In other words, the actual second year price in 12 months could be substantially greater than the price shown today. 

2/06/2021

SpotHunter: How to Hunt for Customers

Last week, I received this flyer:

SpotHunter flyer
SpotHunter flyer
1-sided. Copy appears at a bit of a slant

It arrived in a blind envelope addressed to the impersonal "Current Resident." It is obviously marketing mail. IMHO, it has all the makings of low-end j--- mail. (I'm not writing out the word because I avoid inappropriate 4-letter words on this blog.) The envelope appears impersonal, it has no return address, and it includes a spotty-looking postage permit stamp. 

SpotHunter Outer Envelope
Simple Blind Outer Envelope.
No return address.

I opened it because, well, I love direct mail marketing. But would a typical consumer open it? I don't think so. I noticed several of the same pieces -- addressed to "Current Resident" at other units in my building -- placed in a well-named trash receptacle located in the mailroom.

Mailroom Trash Receptacle
(Inappropriate 4-letter word blacked out)

Inside, there is an impersonal flyer for an app called SpotHunter. The headline reads "Have Trouble Finding Open Street-Parking? Let Us Help." In this context, the hyphen between "Street" and "Parking" is improperly placed. Plus, there's no period at the end of the headline's second sentence. These types of errors may appear minor; however, this type of errors often subconsciously distracts readers from the content and reduces confidence in the product itself. That is a minor Fail for Creative.

Overall, the flyer appears to clearly convey a message: Use this app to find parking and help other people find parking spots. 

Is this really going to work? I don't know. What I do know is that in most of New York City, open parking spots are hard to find and disappear quickly. New Yorkers get into fist fights over parking spots. Even if an app yells "There is an open parking spot 3 blocks away!", the spot may not be open when the driver arrives there two minutes later. And let's not forget that touching your mobile phone while driving is illegal in New York. So, if one cannot utilize the app while driving and a driver cannot expect that a spot appearing on the app is truly available, how useful is it? I guess the app needs scale to be useful; however, the more people that use the app to find parking, the more people are going to go after that precious parking spot a few blocks away.

Well, I can't try out the app -- for me, it is currently useless. It is available only on iPhones, and my phone uses the Android operating system. In fact, about half of the mobile phones in use today are using the Android operating system. So, upfront, half the people who received the mail cannot use the product. That's a Fail for Targeting.  

Given that it appears  everyone in my Queens building received the flyer, I assume SpotHunter carpet-bombed the neighborhood. That's another mistake, because many people in Queens do not have cars. They use mass transit to get around. According to NYCEDC, 62% of Queens residents have cars. In my neighborhood, that percentage is closer to 40%. So that means about half of the 40% people receiving the mail cannot use the product, e.g. 80% of the mail is truly j---,  furthering the Fail for Targeting.

If I were responsible for a marketing campaign for SpotHunter, I would first suggest not using direct mail. Consider perhaps a guerrilla marketing campaign such as placing flyers on cars parked in the neighborhood. Annoying, yes, but at least you are reaching people who have cars to park. A highly geotargeted online effort could also be a good use of limited spend. Some social media platforms allow you to target people who self-identify as having cars. Or consider targeting based on attributes likely to be associated with car use. Then segment down to the type of operating system being used. 

If I were required to utilize direct mail without targeting, I would:

  • Create a simple postcard that conveys the sales proposition. One side would include the headline benefit statement with a visual supporting message, while the address side would include supporting benefit statements and the call to action to Download the app for free.
  • Or, create a flat and geographically target homes with residents likely to benefit from the app using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool.
  • Drop mail as soon as the app is available for Android.

Lessons:

  1. Make sure your content is free of grammatical errors.
  2. If your app is available only on an iPhone, you are missing half the market.
  3. If your mail has a simple message, consider a postcard rather than a flyer in an envelope.
  4. If you are targeting geographically rather than individually, consider using the Every Door Direct Mail service from the US Postal Service.