Direct Marketers: Making a list, (not) checking it twice

I got a great offer the other day in the mail. Tailored to my lifestyle of constant travel, chock-a-block with a stellar value proposition, and a great call to action, it screamed “hey! Over here! Yeah, you! You ought to think about taking us up on this.”

The problem was I should never have received the offer in the first place!

It was a piece of direct mail from American Airlines and American Express extolling the virtue of AA’s Admiral’s Clubs. For those of you not familiar with the world of the road warrior, I first recommend to you “Up in the Air” which does a spot-on take of the Road Warrior’s solitary existence. Needless to say, that each major airline has a club that you pay a good amount of money to belong to (list price for AA’s is $500 USD/year) so you can have a semi-quiet place to cool your heels before your bus ride at 35,000 feet.  The offer included a nice, four-color glossy, as well as complimentary one-day pass pre-printed with my name and my AAdvantage number.

The thing is, I’m already a member of the Admiral’s Club, have been since 2000, and will be for the foreseeable future. So it’s not as if my name ended up on the list betwixt between my new membership and them pulling the list to mail to…it’s that there was bad list management, which created a channel conflict that caused heads to be scratched.

When I showed the piece to my wife, she laughed and pointed out that I’d been a club member for as long as we’ve known each other (ten years in May), and other coworkers, who had also been members in good standing for years, also received the offer. This type of clear confusion between channels and partners causes their customers to question exactly what it is the marketers are trying to do. As best as any can figure out, it appears that the offer was triggered by anyone having both an AAdvantage account and an American Express card. Easy enough, I’ve got both, but that last, extra step of getting the negative list (what AAdvantage members are on this list that already have a club membership?) and backing out those names would have caused a little less egg to be on some direct marketer’s face.

This reinforces the need to crisply execute any cross-channel initiative and to make sure that everyone involved is clear on what the objectives are, and how to best accomplish them by causing the least amount of channel conflict.

Oh, and AMEX and AA in case you’re wondering, yes, I’m planning on re-upping, but thanks for the one-day pass anyway!

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