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Ken Magill

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Stupid Marketer Watch: Hilton Pitch Says Too Much and Says it Wrong


By Ken Magill

Call it the case of a marketer being too clever by half. An email pitch from the Las Vegas Hilton recently attempted to take personalization up a notch and failed miserably.

“Hello Ken,” began the pitch.

“How about a relaxing vacation… you have earned it! As a thank you for staying with us this past year, the Las Vegas Hilton would like to invite you back this summer to take advantage of our exclusive ‘Summer Escape Package,’” said the message.

First, the average temperature in July in Las Vegas is 106 degrees. So rather than Summer Escape Package, the offer should be called the “Don’t go Outside; Your Face will Melt off” package.

But pitching stays during its off-season wasn’t where the Hilton went wrong. The problem was it used one data point too many and did so incorrectly.

Sure enough, I have stayed in the Las Vegas Hilton. But it wasn’t this past year as the pitch stated. The last time I was in Vegas was at the Direct Marketing Association’s fall conference in 2008.

An irreparably brand-damaging mistake? No. But it doesn’t make a good impression.

And what if I had a jealous wife or girlfriend who had access to my email and saw a message claiming I had been in Vegas within the past year?

Unlikely but still, the additional information is a needless possible point of failure.

We can all guess what probably happened. A marketing VP asked an underling to pull the names of all the people who had stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton in the last year, the resulting list was deemed too small so they decided to go back a few more years but neglected to change the copy.

We’ve all been there, or at least some place similar.

The failed Hilton pitch was reminiscent of a possibly apocryphal story a colleague once told me about a company selling travel packages to Germany to a list of people who had traveled there in the past.

According to my colleague, the outer envelope of one campaign said “If you travel to Germany” and another said “Because you travel to Germany.”

The “If” package did fine. The “Because” package drew backlash. Same offer. One different word. Two entirely different reactions.

The “Because” package needlessly displayed knowledge of recipients’ personal lives and made a bunch of them angry.

Everyone reading this newsletter knows personalized offers work.

But while marketers should strive to personalize offers as much as possible, with the possible exception of loyalty programs, telling recipients why they receive a particular offer probably more often than not adds an unnecessary element of risk.



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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Sravanthi
Date: 2011-06-13 07:52:48
Subject: Good One

Good observation and inputs Ken. An important point to be noted by all the email marketers.