Dissection of a Campaign Gone Wrong

6846884859_9003cf3543_mOften times we talk here about the value of integrated marketing and communication across all departments of your company. Maybe you’re not 100% convinced that we’re right, however. You don’t want to just take our word for it. Well, in case that’s true, we thought we’d unwind for you a campaign that clearly did not benefit from very good planning or communication. The story of all that went wrong will probably do a better job of making a case for integrated marketing and efficient communication better than anything we could write theoretically.

A good idea

The whole campaign started with a really good idea. PBS was getting ready to air the premiere of season three of Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 6. American fans of the show had been waiting with baited breath for season three, which had already aired to completion in the UK. Before the episode started PBS aired a program that went behind the scenes of the show, and there were also a fair number of fundraising breaks. The idea, which I thought about praising in a post because it made such good sense, was to motivate people to contribute money by promising them a DVD set of season 3. For salivating fans who couldn’t stand the idea of waiting weeks and weeks to get to the finale, this was a perfect give-away. In fact, as one of those salivating fans, I can tell you that offer was enough, along with the ongoing attacks on PBS, for me to become a first-time contributor.

What could be better, right? A win for me, the “customer,” and a win for PBS.

Problem One: Shaky Customer Service

The phone number to call was more dominantly presented than any website to contribute, so I grabbed my phone and my credit card and prepared to make my contribution. After being on hold for a few minutes, I was connected to a person whom I could barely hear. It seemed like they could not hear me, either, because everything I said had to be repeated and clarified several times. Since I was going to be giving important information like my a) shipping address and b) my credit card number I was nervous about what appeared to be a pretty good chance for mistakes. I told the person (nicely) that I couldn’t really hear them and that I would go ahead and make my contribution online.

Problem Two: The Offer is Not on the Website

Having received the wrong URL from the person I had spoken with, I glared at my television until the next fundraising break, where the correct website was shown. I once again grabbed my credit card. Did I want to contribute? Yes. Did I want a thank-you gift? Yes. I wanted season three of Downton Abbey. Guess what was NOT included in the list of possible thank-you gifts. That’s right, season three of Downton Abbey. Even though the television fundraising effort was being targeted specifically to people like me, there was no special page for that particular deal, no mention of it, absolutely nothing.

Problem Three: You Aren’t Listening Online

The website did feature a link to my local affiliate’s Twitter feed, so I decided to alert them that the offer they were so heavily promoting was not on the website to which they were driving traffic. I have yet to get a response, and since it’s been over a week, I’m fairly certain I’m not going to get one. If you hint that you are accessible via social media, you should definitely have someone there to respond in case major problems arise (even if you dont’ want to hear about any problems).

Problem Four: Your Messaging Doesn’t Match

Time was ticking and I was close to giving up on the whole ordeal at this point. I decided to try to call one more time. This time I reached a person whom I could hear clearly and we went through the entire data collection process. Just before we hung up, the person mentioned that I would be receiving my DVDs in 2-8 weeks. This was a far cry from what was being promoted on the television channel. The language there was very much along the lines of, “You’ll get this quickly,” which was part of what made the deal so attractive (and so brilliant). The deed was done, however. There was no going back.

Problem Five: Your Product Does Not Match What You Promised

Believe it or not, the 2-8 weeks translated into less than a week before delivery. I received my package last Friday. Excitedly, I ripped open the envelope and found three DVD cases. At first I figured season three somehow was taking up that many DVDs, but then I noticed that I had been sent the entire series, a gift that was supposed to be tied to donations twice as much as what I had given. I looked at other paperwork I had received and they recorded correctly the amount I had agreed to contribute. They simply sent me the wrong gift. Either that or the people promoting the campaign on television had the entire program incorrect as they were speaking about it. If the station made this mistake several times, they lost themselves most of the good that any of the contributions would have done as they gave away far more products as they should have.

All of these mistakes are easy to make if your campaign is not carefully planned or if it is not clearly communicated to ALL parties involved. With planning, integrated efforts, and good communication, all of these mistakes are easy to avoid. If you want to make sure your campaign is in good shape before you launch it, let us know. We can help make sure nothing snuck past you in your planning efforts!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66163349@N05/6846884859/ via Creative Commons


8 comments on “Dissection of a Campaign Gone Wrong

  1. Great article.. All goes to show that a campaign is truly so much more than just the initial offer! If any piece of the process is not executed well, it can leave a bad taste in the customer’s mouth – or worse, leave them with a less than satisfactory feeling about your brand! Every person, every process, everything is a brand touch point.

    • Thanks Brian!

      Yes, it was interesting to go through this experience both as a marketer and as a customer. As a marketer, I could see where they needed to improve their process. As a customer I experienced first-hand the ramifications of not planning and executing well. It was a good learning experience, at least for me. Hopefully for them, too.

  2. Oh jeez. This hurts my little head. Such an easy promotion to pull off made so difficult. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have just done this at the national level rather than relying on their affiliates (i.e. the Twitter account). I’m surprised you stuck with it. I would have given up and they wouldn’t have gotten my money.

  3. As someone who once worked at a small PBS station, I can certainly understand exactly how this happens! Certainly not excusable by any means, but it does happen. I know when we watched the season premiere here in Iowa, along with the BTS show before the premiere, there were no fundraising breaks. I could easily see my old PBS station (in Minnesota) doing the fundraising breaks, but that’s besides the point.

    I do believe your overall point of customer service, having a plan, and following through are very important to customer satisfaction. I think a lot of PBS members are sometimes in the same position as you were placed — very dedicated and loyal, but frustrated with customer service. It’s an industry, especially at the low end, that has a lot of opportunity for customer service improvement.

    • I think the lessons are universal – the same mistakes can happen with a Fortune 500 Company. Often marketers react negatively against words like “plan” or “research,”but this particular case illustrates what can happen if you do not plan things out in advance. Carefully.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Excellent play-by-play! It’s hard not to feel bummed about your experience. But at least you did eventually complete the transaction — and they managed to under-promise/over-perform on the delivery time! And at least your post stands as a signpost to help marketers plan better in the future.

    One other thing that lurks in the back of my mind when I think about the planning of promotions is to have a plan for managing *too much* success. It’s so vital to have the infrastructure in place to handle exceptional demand — site traffic, phone calls, product… I’m reminded of the early Groupon fiascoes wherein small businesses simply couldn’t meet the demand the promotions created.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: