Are You Blowing Your Marketing Dollars on Bad Lists?

Posted on by in Business, Marketing, Small Business

This past week I received two pieces of mail on the same day from two different companies wishing me a happy birthday (Note: I turn 47 on March 29th). Though the gesture was nice, both wasted their marketing dollars on me because they both got the year wrong.

AarpThe first was from the infamous AARP letting me know I now qualify for membership (Note again, I’m turning 47–not 50 or 52 or some number higher).
Now, while there may be some forty-somethings who can’t wait to become AARP members, I feel pretty safe in predicting that the vast majority of us don’t :-).

The second was from Gillette wishing me a "HAPPY 18th BIRTHDAY!" (Off once again, this time by a mere 29 years). But even more amazing is that they sent a free Gillette Fusion razor (the one with five blades). The reason I say amazing is that the replacement blades for this razor require a bank loan (okay, maybe I’m overstating the cost, but at $27.99 for eight blades, I’m guessing a lot of 18 year olds would probably pass and go with the older Mach 3 to save some money for some other activities that 18 year olds prefer over shaving :-)

So, here we have two big companies who wasted their money, when they didn’t have to–for different reasons.  I don’t think AARP has to worry about brand recognition.  Once they get the right year (that would be 1961 in my case), all they need to do is send my wife a notice on my 52nd birthday and she would gladly purchase a membership in my name just for the fun of it. They don’t need to mail 5 or 10 or more years early. They already own the brand.

But Gillette’s the one that really blew it. In reality, I’m in their demographic. I’m a 47 year old male business owner who makes more than enough to afford $27.99 for a pack of eight blades. If they had simply left out the number "18", which was totally unnecessary, they would have had me (Note, if anyone from Gillette is monitoring the blog world, all you need to say is, "Gillette wishes you a happy birthday!" You didn’t need to waste your money).

However, all of that is irrelevant to you and me. What we need to do is evaluate, "Where am I wasting my marketing dollars?" Am I sending my marketing materials to the wrong people? Or am I  sending the wrong message to the right people? This is a classic marketing problem for an awful lot of small business owners and senior executives.

I think Dan Kennedy is correct when he states that the selection of a list is the single greatest determiner of a direct marketing campaign. If my memory serves me correctly, he says something to the effect of, "One of the dirty little secrets of copywriting is, that a poorly written direct mail piece sent to the right list will always out pull a perfectly written direct mail piece to the wrong list."). If you didn’t catch that, go back and read it again and again. Most of us are wasting a lot of money sending materials to the wrong people (ala AARP) or sending the wrong message to the right people (ala Gillette).

So if you’d like to stop wasting your marketing dollars, take the time (and spend the money) to make sure you’re sending the right message to the right market for the right mission at the right moment using the right media for the right amount of money.

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2 Responses to “Are You Blowing Your Marketing Dollars on Bad Lists?”

  1. fijiwater 19 March 2008 at 8:25 am #

    Maybe Gillette meant Happy 18th in the sense that the shave will make you feel like a first time shaver at 18 rather then feel 47?

  2. Bruce Johnson 19 March 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Good try! However, in marketing a confused mind is an indecisive mind–which means a non-buyer. If that’s what Gillette wanted to say, they should have made it clearer. First, the age is unnecessary (Happy Birthday works all by itself). And second, using age 18 is a dicey choice. My lineage is Italian so I started shaving at 13, which means that using the age of 18 as a “rite of passage” just seems ridiculous to me (by that point, I had probably already used 100+ track II replacement blades).
    My rec would be that they just say, “Happy Birthday” on the front and if they wanted to say, “Using a Gillette Fusion will make you feel like you’re 18 all over again,” they should put that in the copy (not, Happy 18th Birthday on the front cover, when it’s not my 18th).

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