From my mailbox – personal touch fail

It’s my wife’s birthday in a couple of weeks and our physical mailbox has been flooded with discounts and coupons masquerading as well wishes. These are pretty smart attempts by brands to stoke or rekindle a relationship with her – using a milestone as an excuse to reach out, and offers to prompt a response. Even without a response though, there’s a chance that a recipient’s impression of the brand would improve based on the gesture.

With that said, when every brand is doing the same thing, it kinda loses some of its meaning. There’s really nothing differentiating about the concept, and it could even create some cynicism when everyone does it, especially if it comes across as simply an attempt to get you to spend. And, did any of these brands think about sending something similar to other members of the household? They might have more success targeting a spouse looking for gift ideas, rather than the birthday girl herself.

But, then there was a “right idea; wrong execution” issue. Luxury retailer, Henri Bendel, sent a hand-written card. It had the potential to stand out from the pack of printed, almost generic mailings with coupons and “gift” cards (that require a certain spending level to be redeemable). Unfortunately, the execution was awful. They used three different pens to write the card – not in a fancy, ‘let me take time and make this ornate’ kind of way. But, in a ‘my pen ran out and I’ll go over some words with the new one but not all of them’ kind of way. There’s no punctuation – no comma after the “Hello Domenica”; No period or exclamation mark after birthday! It’s inconceivable that the person filling in the card didn’t rip this one up and start again.

When you can charge hundreds of dollars for a handbag, you can afford to use a second card when you mess up the first one. I have no idea how the Henri Bendel team assesses the impact of a gesture like sending a hand-written card, but however they measure it, I would be willing to bet a lot of money that they are getting it wrong – at least in this case. Instead of strengthening a connection or making someone feel special, they showed that they don’t care – they just want to look like they do.

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