Call Me Rhonda, Mark or Kyra–Data Driven Direct Mail Done Wrong.

This past weekend, I decided to sort through the pile of mail that had accumulated on my dining room table. Most of my financial statements and bills (important stuff) are sent to me electronically but the other stuff is not. I know I should sort through my postal mail more frequently than I do, but I must admit, I’m a busy woman. As I started sorting through it, I quickly noticed it was taking every bit of a good half-hour to separate the useless mailings from the ones that I thought were going to be valuable.

Much to my surprise, I was amazed to see so many AAA communications. I have a membership and it was just the other day that I received an email informing me that it was about time for me to be auto-billed for my renewal, which at that point I didn’t think much about.

The sight of mail from AAA, though, triggered my mind about the email and reminded me that my renewal was quickly approaching. I assumed that the main objective of the mailings they had sent me were to get me to renew. So, being the money-savvy woman that I am, I threw their mailings in the ‘valuable’ pile with the hope of looking through them to find any special discounts they would give me for renewing my membership. Unfortunately, what I discovered was quite disappointing.

Letter No. 1

The first piece of mailing that I opened from AAA was a nice newsletter with persuasive testimonials and references from other customAAA_MailingNo1ers that had already renewed their memberships. They clearly outlined the benefits they were gaining from taking advantage of renewing their memberships.

But wait! “A Special Message for Rhonda…”? Who in the world is Rhonda? That’s not my name! For a minute I thought I had opened someone else’s mail. I quickly checked the address on the front of the mailing envelope only to find that it had in fact been mailed to me. It quickly occurred to me that the data they had used to send me correspondence was not right. They had in fact used the wrong name in the special message variable data field.

What a wasted opportunity to provide me with a personalized message! Needless to say, the actual message was so plain vanilla that it didn’t capture my attention.

Not only did they fail to address me by the right name, but they also failed to use any geo-location details. Since I’m located in Florida, I would love to receive special offers for Florida residents, or perhaps a listing of AAA certified vendors in my area. After all, when I take a road trip and find myself in trouble, I would like to know who to call. But they obviously missed a prime opportunity to appeal to my needs and interests.

Letter No. 2

Moving on to letter No. 2, it was clear to me that this was yet again another attempt to get me to renew my AAA membership. My eyes gravitateAAA_Mailingno2d to the two coupons on the right, and I was almost hooked until I read, “Dear Mark.” What? Who in the heck is Mark?

Since when is my name Mark, and since when am I a male? Not only does AAA not know my name, but they have also mistaken my gender! How disrespectful! I pay them good money and they can’t even get my name nor my gender right! Name and gender are two basic data fields that are essential for carrying out a highly-targeted data driven campaign.

And then it struck me. Not only was this piece of correspondence trying to convince me to renew my policy, as well as Letter No. 1, but wasn’t it just a few days ago that they sent me an email stating they were going to auto-bill me? Why were they even trying to persuade me when they had me on auto-bill? Things simply weren’t making sense.

I started to think about all the money that AAA had spent so far on me; the email communication, the newsletter, and now this renewal/offer letter. I find it quite ravishing that AAA thought so highly of me to spend so much money, but that’s not the point.

Being that they had already emailed me, wouldn’t it make sense that they would have suppressed the member files of those receiving email communications? And being that I had opted in to receive emails, doesn’t it make sense that I would rather receive emails instead of direct mail pieces of correspondence? What in the world was AAA thinking, and why were they wasting so much money on me for personalized pieces of mails that didn’t even get my name or gender right?

Letter No. 3

In the last appeal that AAA made to me, I noticed the renewal form right on the top. Very smart! The message “Your membership has expired” caught my immediate attention. So yes, I had to AAA_MailingNo3read the rest of the letter.

But, oh my goodness, once again, they had baffled me by calling me by the wrong name. It said “Dear Kyra.” Hey, I like the name Kyra, but it’s not mine.

At this point, I was like seriously AAA, again?! Out of the three mailings that they had spent money on, they missed the point entirely. They had poor execution and they were clearly not leveraging the endless amount of customer data that they have in their database. Their variable data efforts might as well have been flushed down the drain, along with all the money they had spent.

The Takeaway

It’s time for you to start thinking about the opportunities lost by not addressing your renewal members by their actual names (and genders). Variable data printing allows you to leverage your own data to craft compelling mailings and email communications, but only if you do it the right way.

It was very disappointing to see a large organization like AAA with such a strong brand and following to not take the necessary time that it takes to effectively communicate with their members. With the amount of data that they collect, they could be addressing everyone differently, offering them relevant deals and fostering a personal connection like no other. Clearly, this campaign had a major boo boo– bad data, or a lazy variable data specialist. I hope they notice and change their ways in the near future.

Not knowing your members or clients says a lot about you as an organization, especially with the power of today’s data collection.

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