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When email goes off the rails

Sometimes the best intentions of a marketing team can cause more damage to a company’s reputation than good – and this has happened to me.

I commute to our Bristol office, which means I’m a daily rail user. Often I’ve used thetrainline.com to buy my tickets.

What do they know about me? My email, my address. So, they market to me via email. I received one such email marketing broadcast yesterday.

It was enticing. It offered a Christmas shopping experience in Manchester from £6. Brilliant. I was thinking about a weekend in Manchester, to do our Xmas shopping and see relatives. I clicked through. So, marketers – you’ll see me as a lead!

However, the email – not personally addressing me as it happens – was incredibly misleading. It took no account of my location at all. The £6 offer is from Leeds to Manchester – which is unsurprising as they’re so close to each other. My train fare from Tiverton Parkway to Manchester was a whopping three figures per person – and I had to visit the website and check it for myself. I’m not saying that’s not a good price, but it’s not what I’d hoped for.

You’d imagine that thetrainline.com would know which station I use. They have a database of prices, so they could have automated a cost calculation that was relevant for me. But they didn’t. It was lazy marketing. They wasted my time, and they got me excited for no reason when I clicked through.

Some say email is the worst offender in lazy marketing, but if you use it right at least it can overcome that by being relevant.

So – next time I get my tickets I’ll be using someone else. As for Manchester, I hear the M5 is lovely this time of year.

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.