Learning from Personalized Marketing Fails

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

by Greg Cholmondeley, Workflow Practice Director, PODi and Caslon & Company


Airfare Personalization FailFace it, most generic direct marketing is so irrelevant we rarely even notice that it doesn’t apply to us before trashing it. Personalized direct marketing, however, can make a lasting impression – even when it doesn’t fit. For instance, I recently received this great offer from Allegiant to “get away from the cold this season” in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to visit Akron, Ohio. You can bet I forwarded this to a friend … and we laughed and laughed.

Here are some things to consider when designing your next relevant marketing campaign:

  • Think: Consider the impact personalization will have on your message, your offer, and your graphics. Think about how different combinations will impact the end result.
  • Test: Relevant marketing testing doesn’t just involve making sure everything “looks OK.” You really need to read the entire piece from a variety of data points and perspectives.
  • Reuse with care: Many personalized direct marketing campaigns simply apply variable elements to traditionally-designed static campaigns. Be very careful when you do this. For example, this piece would work as a static mailing with carefully selected example city fares but it has obvious problems when personalized data is used.

Always remember that there are three key components of relevant marketing: Data, Offer and Message. All three must be effectively used for a direct marketing piece to be relevant. Miss only one and the entire effect fails. This piece, for example, had two of the three elements spot on, but failed because they didn’t properly personalize one:

  • Data: The data is clean. My email was correct so I received it, and my local airport was correct so it was relevant to me. If either of these were wrong, I would either deleted it out of hand or I would have never even seen it.
  • Offer: They have a killer offer which captured my attention: $39 airfare personalized from my local airport. I might not have a reason to visit Akron, but it still gets my attention. It’s amazing how many personalized marketing pieces come through without a decent and actionable offer.
  • Message: This is where they failed. They did not personalize the message and, as a result, inspired me to write this blog. They put a personalized offer onto a static message. Let this be a lesson to everyone reading this: Don’t do that.

Now, this could’ve been an amazing success story rather than the butt of a joke if they had designed it using “relevant thinking” rather than “broadcast thinking.” The designers did not think about what the data they were using meant about the recipient beyond filling an art hole. If they had, they could’ve simply created two versions and had an amazing campaign.

  • Cold Version: Use exactly what they created for recipients with local airports in cooler climates.
  • Hot Version: For recipients in warmer climates, change the message to “Invite friends to visit this season,” make the deals “to” the local airport, and make “forward to a friend” the lead action rather than “book now.”

See how a little thinking beyond graphic design about how to link data, offer and message together can create powerful marketing communications for everyone?

If this topic interests you, Kim Gross is an expert at effectively using personalization in campaigns. She’s running a 4-class, online course right now (and which are recorded so you can catch up if you miss one). Visit the PODi Institute at www.podi.org/PODi-Institute/Courses/ to learn more.

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