OOPS! Messed Up… What Would YOU Do?

Oops! Thrifty Car Rental, whose case studies of great, personalized marketing have shown up around the industry (and even in my posts on Digital Nirvana, most likely) has made a boo-boo.

According to an AP report, Thrifty sent out an email offer for “rent 16 days, get 1 day rental free” not to the select list of customers it intended, but to the entire list. This included non-customers who had simply signed up to receive emails from the company.  Now because the story has gone out on AP, its mistake has been magnified even more.

The company rescinded its offer, and from what I can gather, it didn’t offer any kind of mea culpa discount coupon or anything else. Just the apology for the mistake.

Great companies often turn marketing disasters into profit wins if they handle it right. It’s not unusual to hear of companies who end up earning more from a blown campaign through a well-handled apology than they would have from the original campaign itself.  So what might Thrifty do?

First, I am curious why it didn’t simply honor the offer. I would be surprised if a 16-1 offer created an actual loss, so why not let it stand? Avoiding potential inventory issues? I don’t know.

Another option would be to craft a great, personalized direct mailer both to the originally intended list and to another, broader selection of existing customers. Apologize again for the mistake, but indicate that they  — specifically, using their name — were part of a select group for which the offer would be honored. “Not everyone is getting this offer!” This creates that sense of privilege and exclusivity. Obviously, print is costs more than email, but it also carries more weight in terms of sincerity, trust, and relationship (which the company could probably use right now).

If you were Thrifty’s MSP, what would you suggest?

About the author: Heidi Tolliver-Walker is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, available through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”

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