Bad Email Marketing from Priceline

This is one of the worst marketing emails I’ve seen in a while:

Priceline.com wants me to fill out a survey for a recent car rental I made through their site. Simple and innocent enough at first glance.

What really bothers me with this email is their reason why I should fill out the survey.

Usually, I hesitate to fill out any survey unless I have had a bad experience. If I’ve had a positive or neutral experience, I usually ignore these unless there is some offer, reward, or benefit for me (i.e. improved customer service in the future).

Priceline.com, on the other hand, says I’ll get “good karma” for filling out their survey. This is a ridiculous marketing message. I’ll give you, a for-profit business, more information to improve and generate more revenue. In return, I get “karma”. Are you kidding me?

Don’t insult me. If they had left this wording off, I might have actually clicked on that brief survey and provided some information. After reading that statement, I was turned off by the approach.

The sad part is that I actually had a great experience renting a car through Priceline and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to save some money on a car rental.

I know many will read the email and wonder why I’m making an issue of this. It’s simple actually. Effective marketing is about providing benefit to the consumer and not the other way around. I don’t care about the business, I care about myself. Businesses need to remember to use this to their advantage.

There are numerous ways of doing this in Priceline’s case. Lower costs, more options going forward, better shopping experience, or improved customer service would all be relevant to their customers.

As a consumer why should I care whether I’m helping this business?

A more effective approach would have been to distill to a sentence or two why filling out this survey would benefit me and not the business.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

8 comments On Bad Email Marketing from Priceline

  • Maybe this is simplistic thinking but this idea seems like it would overall be very effective (for priceline). The majority of people aren't as knowledgeable or educated on marketing at all. Most average consumers see this and say, "hey maybe I'll get lucky, maybe something good just may happen to me." Same mindset as the majority of recreational poker players imo. Maybe this one time something good will happen (never does).

    Also, for the reasons stated no one ever fills out surveys because there is basically no value unless you're pissed off about something the business did.

    But I guess you're arguing for the "marketing benefit to consumers."

  • Good points. I guess my overall argument is to get people to fill out surveys it usually takes more that the promise of getting lucky!

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  • Hmmm… I wouldn't have even thought about that tag line. But now that you mention it, I agree with your points. The data provided by a survey can be of extreme use to a company … and they are trying to buy the consumer with hopes of kharma? Yeah, they should go back to the drawing boards.

  • Tom, it's really quite simple. A business only succeeds if it serves it's customers well. It surveys you to discover how it might serve you, and others like you, better. You answer the questions, it makes operational changes to improve its' service, and the consumer (you) get an even better experience next time. Consumer feedback is essential for a company to make product and service improvements. It's win-win. It's Karma!

  • Rolv E. Heggenhougen

    eMail marketing is VERY effective yet it is always mass emails and often come from “do-not-reply” addresses. These emails also arrive with a red x where there are pictures and then the recipient must right-click to download – this is where over 50% are lost as people hit the delete button.
    Seems like WrapMail is the only company that seamlessly focuses on the REGULAR external emails we all send every day:
    You have a website.
    You send emails.
    WrapMail, without installing anything on any desktop or cell phone facilitates:
    Every email becomes a showpiece for the organization.
    Every employee becomes a marketer.
    No other marketing or advertising medium is as targeted as an email between people that know each other (as opposed to mass emails). These emails are always read and typically kept.
    WrapMail turns your everyday email into a branding and research tool (yes, the system reports who is clicking on what and when) for your business at a cost of $5 per user per month. That includes the WrapMaker™ where clients make their own wraps.
    And……..WrapMail’s show up WITHOUT the red x and message to download images!

  • I think the word “karma” is a bad idea for a marketing message, it seems like they are scaring the readers to fill up their survey.

    Constant Contact Review

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