How to Ruin a Multichannel Campaign in Five Easy Steps

  |  April 3, 2003   |  Comments

Follow along as Jack goes through the steps making a well-intentioned multichannel marketing campaign fail.

I'm an amateur videographer and love reading about the latest technologies. Sony just came out with a new camera that records 16:9 video (movie screen aspect ratio). It mailed a flyer about the camera, promoting a free accessory (a "hood" for the screen) if you buy the camera now. The mailer's call to action is to go to a Web site.

Follow along as we go through the steps making a well-intentioned multichannel marketing campaign fail. Heed these simple rules, and you, too, can waste thousands of dollars and ensure your campaign infuriates and confounds your customers.

Step 1: Forget What You're Selling

Sony mails a flyer promoting a new camera. The incentive to buy is a free hood accessory. What should the call to action on the flyer be? Learn more about the camera, perhaps? See how expensive it is? See if the camera fits my needs? The folks at Sony seem to think the flyer's call to action is to find out more about the hood accessory. Visit the URL printed on the flyer, and you'll get more information about the hood incentive but nothing about the camera.

Step 2: Create a Microsite With No Links

Once I, the poor, unsuspecting user, type the (long) URL into my browser and arrive at the landing page, I see... the same flyer I got in the mail (now online, of course). It's the "Special Hood Offer" page. There are no answers to the questions I have about the camera. A quick skim of the page leaves me wondering what I'm supposed to do next. The only links are at the bottom, so I click. Oops. The links direct to "Track Claim" and "Submit Claim." What claim? Oh.... Once I've already bought the camera, I suppose this is where I go to claim the hood? Receiving this incentive isn't automatic? The claim process looks really complicated, making me wonder if I'd ever get that free hood.

I'm still wondering about the camera. What are its benefits? The picture of the camera isn't clickable. I have no idea how to find out about it. Not until I begin writing this column and look more carefully at the Web page, do I see a small "more" hyperlink somewhere in the middle of that page. I missed it the first time I saw the promotion. So did everyone else, I'll bet.

Step 3: Don't Let Customers Actually Buy Your Product

After finally discovering the tiny "more" link, I realize I can't actually buy the camera from this page. The call to action is a "find a reseller" link, which I also don't notice until I search around for what to do next.

Step 4: Confuse Your Customer With Multiple Points of Sale and Offer Fulfillment

Now I realize I can't buy this product through Sony (it does have an online store, after all). I'm really confused. If I have to go to a store and buy the camera, will I get the hood accessory then, or must I mail the receipt to Sony and go through that complicated "Track Claim" process? How long do I have to wait for the accessory to arrive (and my "claim" to be processed)?

Step 5: Don't Think Things Through. Customers Will Probably Figure It Out, Eventually

What should Sony have done? The marketing messages should have been:

  1. We have a great new camera.

  2. You can buy it at a reseller near you.

  3. Let us tell you more about it.

  4. We'll even throw in a free hood, because we like you!

The flyer mailed to my postal address should have included messaging that said, "Go to the Web site for more information and find a reseller near you." Better, the mailer could have been personalized with the names of a few local stores. More effort should have been spent trying to sell me on the camera, not trying to sell me on the hood. Don't sell the incentive instead of the product.

The microsite page should have provided much more detail about the camera, presented in a needs-based format. There should have been a box on that page in which I could enter my Zip Code to find a nearby retailer. There should have been a very large, obvious way for me to find detailed product information.

Finally, there are no instructions on how to get the hood accessory. This left me wondering how real the promotion is. The landing page should be very clear about the ordering process. "Buy the camera at a local store, bring in the flyer you received in the mail, and get your free hood right there," would have been enough (if that's actually the process, which I'll never know).

How much money was spent on this campaign? I don't even want to know. When the numbers come back, whoever was in charge of this effort will have to face telling management that conversion was really, really low.

Your Turn

Follow the simple rules above and ensure your tenure with your current employer (or client) won't last. Miss the point, forget what you're selling, and confound the user -- you're at least emulating a large corporation like Sony.

Until next time...


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Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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