As an old time direct marketer, I like promotions that a/tie in neatly to the core value proposition being advertised and b/have a clear call to action. So I was bemused earlier this year when I started receiving a free publication called “Deliver” from the marketing department at the United States Postal Service, obviously designed by an unsupervised creative cadre, filled with tips like use email, not the post office, to save money!
Then came a highly personalized mailer with an invitation to send away for a free t-shirt so I can advertise that I am an “environ-mail-ist” because of my commitment to “greener direct mail”. The ironic possibilities here are endless, so I immediately requested my t-shirt and it was at my door a couple of days later. I will add that everything was impeccably produced, down to my name in the appropriate places and a unique code to enter on the website.
So today I open the package and… they shipped the t-shirt in the wrong size! Yes funny, everything right except the product itself. But I really wanted to be able to wear that t-shirt! So I start going through the fulfillment package looking for contact information and there isn’t any. No person to call, no email, just a loose invitation to go online to delivermagazine.com to find more about greener marketing.
Which I do, and I choose the contact me tab, and I am able write a message to them but there are only smirking choices for “Why are you contacting Deliver” like “not sure” or “bored I guess”. I go ahead and state my problem and click “send” and we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, I’m reminded of David Ogilvy’s observation that “Every copywriter should start his career by spending two years in direct response. One glance at any campaign tells me whether this author has ever had that experience.” Indeed.
So a chef brought a great tasting chardonnay blend to a party, and I wanted to have more of it. Fortunately I’d saved the bottle (Novella Synergy 2007) and started checking with the usual Bay Area sources where a chef might buy his wine including Ferry Plaza Wines, K&L, Wine Warehouse and Jug Shop. No luck with any of these so I stopped by the eclectic and wonderful Bi-Rite Market on 18th St and spoke to Joshua the wine buyer who expressed interest because it is a Paso Robles wine (one we don’t see as often as others) and offered to see if he could get it.
The next day he called me at home and said he had telephoned the winery and learned that the entire vintage had been sold to… Trader Joe! Which of course is the Walmart of crunchy gourmet stores, threatening to put the independent Bi-Rites of the world out of business, so it was even more remarkable that he passed this info along. Of course I am going to go over to TJ and buy a case, but I am also going to make a far greater attempt to give Bi-Rite my business including their 10% off a case sale next month.
This is another example (the first was from Timbuk2) of a company giving extraordinary, old-fashioned personal service which is all the more distinctive, and consequently more valuable for both the customer and the vender, because others are dumbing down their service. Compare, for example, to this experience with Electronic Arts, when I found my 11 year old has discarded the paper with our CD key for an electronic game and asked EA if I could have a new one if I sent them the receipt and a photo of the original disks to prove we own them. They responded with an email that told me to go to a web page to read the response there, always a bad sign, where I found:
If you have not register the game and if the Registration code/Serial
Number/CD Key for the game has been lost or misplaced then you will need to
purchase another Registration code/Serial Number/CD Key from our warranty
department, please mail our Warranty department the following information:
-The [Proof of Purchase] page from the manual, or if that is not available
the game disk.
Note: If you send the game disk, please send it using a traceable method as
Electronic Arts is not responsible for products lost in transit.
-A letter explaining that you need a replacement serial number.
-A money order for $10.00 USD.
-Note: We do NOT accept cash, checks, or credit cards.
So EA is going to make me spend basically the original price of the game to get satisfaction, while Bi-Rite is sending me to a competitive store. The cost of the EA response was minimal, the cost of Bi-Rite’s probably $5 when you consider Joshua’s time and his phone calls. But in terms of future buying behavior from me that might result in profits to the vendor, Joshua’s approach makes far better sense. Bi-Rite is at 3639 18th St (parking difficult). If you need wine suggestions, call (415) 241-9760 and ask for Joshua.