Your customers couldn’t care less about your new look, your new
design or whether your dog has just had kittens.

“Hi Gerry,” the Air New Zealand marketing email started off. I
remember many years ago when I was a young employee at a company
that had just bought its first computer. We got this word
processor with an amazing feature called mail merge. We could
now send lots of automated individual letters to people who owed
us money. The letters went something like this:

Dear (NAME),
You owe us (AMOUNT). Pay up by tomorrow or we’ll break your
Yours sincerely

We sat around and marvelled at the ability to produce so many
letters automatically and how people would feel that they were
receiving individually penned missives. Those letters worked so

I don’t think it works quite as well today. When I receive an
automated marketing email addressing me by my first name, I
don’t go weak at the knees: “Oh, the software knows my first
name! It knows my name!” Has anyone tested to see whether these
so-called personalization techniques are more likely to alienate
a customer than impress them?

Anyway, back to the Air New Zealand marketing email that I don’t
remember signing up to. (I’ve had pretty good experiences flying
with Air New Zealand by the way.) “Welcome to the second edition
of our new look monthly email.” Two fatal mistakes in the first
sentence. Welcome? Hello? What’s with the welcome? I don’t want
your welcome. If I want anything from you it’s your deals, and
hot deals at that. When you think of your customer, imagine Tony
Soprano. Nothing personal, just business. Cut the crap. Get
straight to the point.

So Air New Zealand has got a new look monthly email! Stop the
presses!!! Has anyone phoned CNN? This is big news. A new look
monthly email! Release the press releases! What a story. I can’t
wait to tell all my friends.
“Lads, lads, listen. Have I got news for you.”
“You won’t believe it.”
“Come on, tell us.”
“You won’t believe it.”
“Come on, come on.”
“Air New Zealand has a new look monthly email.”
“You’re not serious!”
“I am.”
“You’re joking.”
“Never been more serious in my life.”
“Nah, you’re joking.”

News like that makes our day. It really does. And you’d be
amazed at the amount of websites that want to give you this sort
of hard news. Why, I was at the Starwood Preferred Guest website
recently wanting to check what they offered in Athens when I was
confronted with content that told me that the site was
“redesigned and ready to help you plan your adventures. Take a
few minutes to customize your account profile to ensure you take
advantage of all that our new site has to offer.”

And you know what, I didn’t take those few minutes. That sounded
like a real pain to me. I just wanted to quickly check
availability and see if there were any good deals. I had zero
interest in designs, redesigns, bee-designs, knee-designs or
we-designs. (Which are what most redesigns really are; done more
because of internal egos than because of external needs.)

I just wanted the website to work. How thoughtless, cruel and
uncaring of me. But then I’m only a customer.

Gerry McGovern