Useless Personalization: Would You Have Stepped In?

By | February 18, 2014

I saw something odd in my mailbox this morning. It was from a local auto dealership. It was personalized based on my use of their service center . . . once. I opened it, and two lines caught my eye.

The first line was in the opening of the letter. “Heidi, I noticed you haven’t visited [dealership] for service in over a year . . .”

The second was the headline for the call-out box next to it. It was in red, bold, and large font: “SPECIAL PRICING PROGRAM.” The pricing wasn’t on service. It was on purchasing a new vehicle.

I put down the letter and thought about what I’d just seen. The dealership is calling my attention to the fact that I haven’t been to the service center in more than a year — and they want to sell me a new car.

That’s an odd combination. Either I haven’t been there in a year because I’m dissatisfied, I’m taking my car somewhere else, or my 2005 Chevrolet Equinox is in amazing shape and hasn’t needed even a tune-up.

If the latter, then why do I need a new car? Now, I can understand if I weren’t a lapsed customer but a frequent customer. You know: “Heidi, we’ve noticed you’ve been into our shop 5 times in the past 7 months. How about a new ride? We’ve got great financing on NEW VEHICLES for valued customers like you!” But it didn’t.

I could spend a lot of time busting on this particular letter, but what I really want to know is this. If you had been producing this job, what role would you have played? Would you have asked to look at the copy before it went into production? Asked about targeting based on service history? Looked at the promotional offer in the call-out box to see if it matched (in any way, shape, or form) the content of the letter?

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5 thoughts on “Useless Personalization: Would You Have Stepped In?

  1. James Shand

    Clearly the objective of the promotional communication was very confused as you have pointed out. The answer to your three questions is a big YES! One of the big issues today with integrated marketing content is organisations wanting to ‘cram’ as much as they can on the page without thinking through the recipient’s perception/reaction.
    Only today I had a call from a garage I bought my car from 3-years ago wanting to invite me in for a sales promotion to replace my car. The deal was the cars were going at cost price and they will show invoices to support the price. Again they was no conversation about the fact they have NEVER serviced my car or had any other communication with me over 3-years.
    Integrated marketing (TransPromo) is all about a journey in the communication and finding the buttons to press to make the recipient take the necessary call to action. Simply sending a letter based on service history but trying to sell a car is very misguided. The service question should have been one channel of communication which should have been supported with earlier communication say at 6-months. The sales pitch should have been separate. However both should have been built around other data/information about the customer not a ‘shot-in-the-dark’.

  2. Gina Danner

    You might call Heidi’s example and James story — Anything for a Buck marketing. We see this in a variety of areas —
    — marketers fail to have a clear goal in the spend for a specific project
    — sales managers get their hands on the creative and add in one more idea
    — management is over involved in the marketing effort
    — marketers fail in really understanding their clients
    — marketers failing to spend enough time creating appropriate message strategy

  3. Gina Danner

    To continue… (hit submit too fast)
    As print service providers we get caught between trying to keep a client’s project on track to hit the timeline, the business need to keep a client happy, the very real issue of possibly not knowing much about marketing, and the reality that sometimes the client is going to do what the client is going to do.

    I often find myself having to call timeouts at the last minute because I finally see the client’s strategy and from my perspective it is flawed. I struggle with going back to the client and just getting the job out the door. Often times, the client just wants the project off their desk so they can move on to the next project. OR, I risk making a junior team member look inept.

    The key as PSPs, hoping to offer more value, is to get invited to the table as early as possible in the development stage of the creative.

    The opportunity for marketers, is to find a service provider who offers more than print.

  4. Scott Bannor

    To pile on in the name of CAA (Cynics Anonymous of America) I think this is indicative of some very troubling issues.

    First of course is the tendency of people (marketers for example) who have just “discovered” something “really cool” like transpromotional to go completely overboard. It’s much like the rabid overuse of fonts back in the day when it became possible to use more than 2 or 3 in production printing. All of a sudden they just can’t help but throw all sorts of stuff in the mix. Instead of building effective communications they build confusing non-communications.

    Next comes the whole family of problems caused by marketers not having access to the appropriate data. Or at least not having unimpeded access – almost all access being filtered thru IT in multiple formats from multiple sources. What’s a marketer to do?

    Last, I’m not sure any of this is the fault of service providers (well, OK maybe some of it is). They can only do what their technologies, the technologies their customer have, and the combined knowledge and creativity allow.

    As has been the case with all advancements in our industry it takes us a bit of time to catch up with technology & figure out how to actually use it in meaningful ways. As George Harrison so wisely put it “All Things Must Pass”.

  5. Tom Kenny

    It’s great when a printer, or service provider actually has input about making a project better. Too many times, we are told to just produce the project the way the agency designed it. We recently produced a job that contained a 2D code. As a QC measure, I scanned the code and it didn’t scan. I relayed this to the agency and was told not to worry about that and focus on the printing. OK then. In another instance, we were producing a large mailing with purl QR codes ink jetted on a self mailer. Same QC with the scan. The codes were very difficult to read because they were very busy. We had them converted to tiny purls and the results were much better. I think it is important to consider everyone’s opinion when producing a project. No one knows everything and everyone could potentially make the project better.

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