A couple of days ago, I received an expensive direct mail piece form Origins, a top shelf skin care company.  (Trust me, I’ve been around direct mail for a ton of years so I know what “expensive” looks like.)

Origins Mailer Front coverI’m sharing this story with you because a good chunk of the cost to produce this mailing has been essentially wasted – thrown into the dumpster.  It illustrates a perfect example of how ill-thought marketing campaigns can cost companies thousands (maybe millions) of dollars.  Worse yet, how they’ve unwittingly tarnished their brand and disenchanted (or lost) customers for years to come.  Or maybe forever.

 Lack of Channel Integration meant I couldn’t take advantage of their “tree-mendous” offer

To put things into perspective, I’m like a gazillion other women who have an emotional attachment with specific skin care products.   When we find what we like and what works, we stick it with it.  That’s why initially I was excited about getting this mailer with a decent deal offer.  However…..

Origins Discount CardFront and center in this glamorous direct mail piece is a $10 gift card glued on the front inside cover.  A catchy headline shouts “Thanks for being a tree-mendous customer.”  Yet the fine print on the gift card says I can only redeem the card at an Origins Retail Store. Here’s the catch, the problem, and where the waste plus brand distaste made my blood boil.

Effectively last year, there are no Origins retail stores here in good old Indiana where I live.  Zip, nada, zero.  The only place Origins products are sold in the entire state of Indiana is at Macy’s and Sephora, which aren’t technically an Origins Retail Store.  So darn, I really wanted to use that discount offer, but I can’t.

I kept thinking about that fine print:  “Redeem this card now through 12/13/2013 at an Origins Retail Store.” That left me feeling that I’m not that “tree-mendous” customer after all.   And I wonder, why would they spend all that money on a 14 page mail piece with 7 offers just to end up with offending me.

Who’s watching the ship there anyway?  Wouldn’t it have been pretty easy (Direct Marketing 101) to simply not send this mailing to people who live where in an area where Origins retail stores don’t exist?

How much did this faux pas cost Origins overall? (In cold, hard cash and agitating customers  like me)

First off, let’s look at the wasted investment that put a dent in the marketing budget.  Based on my experience as the previous owner of an Advertising agency, that mailer easily cost around $5 per piece to create, produce and mail.  Don’t have a clue how many were mailed to people without a local Origins retail store, but I’ll guess there are bunch.  I personally know of more than 20 of my friends in the area who received the same mailer.  I’m guessing more than 100K times $5 each-ouch!

But what about the ill will it created with me and the other Origins customers who got this non-offer?  Just with my word of mouth mentioning this Origins misstep has already negatively influenced my female family members and friends – who were equally miffed how this slipped through the cracks.  And who knows the lasting negative brand impression they’ll retain and how many others they may tell should Origins enter a conversation.

And then there’s the hit on their bottom line.  Even though I liked their products, I’ll turn my back on buying their stuff in the future through any sales channel they offer; be it on-line or at department store kiosks.  Maybe losing me as a customer only results in losing $150-$250 per year in sales – but multiply that by the thousands of others that received this mailing’s offer and couldn’t take advantage of the discount.  That’s a significant, needless hit.

There was an easy fix that could have saved Origins big bucks (and made me happy)

All Origins had to do to avoid this train wreck was to make the offer valid through a sales channel I could take advantage of, even if that was on-line.  At least cut a deal with Macy’s to honor the coupon. It would get me in the store and hopefully purchasing other things like a new purse.

I get why they Origins wants me to redeem the offer in at their retail stores – it creates a huge opportunity of impulse and up- and cross-selling opportunities, but when that isn’t feasible for the Indiana customers targeted with this mailing, either pitch a viable alternative or just don’t mail to us.

Don’t make the same mistake!  Connect the dots in your sales channels

Origins made me think about how many other companies aren’t considering the downstream consequences when flawed channel integration disconnects the customer from a fluid buying process.  I see it all the time.  Make sure all your marketing campaigns (direct mail, web site, social media, etc.) are aligning the customer and offer with a well thought out plan that assures that your customers will have a satisfying and lasting impression when they want to take buying action.

For example, launching a new product?  Why not link interested prospective customers with sales channel partners that actually have the new product in stock.  If you don’t, you are creating the same costly mistake as Origins.

See video of my experience trying to redeem the offer at Macy’s


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