I had to share with you this particularly appalling piece of email marketing that hit my inbox the other day. The back story is that somehow I had come across a £25 voucher to use at VirginWines – I went and had a look at the site to see if it was something I was interested in – after all, £25 worth of wine for free is usually something I was interested in. Before I realised that I would have to spend well in excess of my £25 voucher to be able to buy any wine on this site, I registered to ‘redeem my voucher’ and gave them my email address.
Several weeks later, this arrives:
I am not a sensitive person by nature, but I have to say that I am feeling a little hurt. We’ve invited you into our Club, but you’ve clearly decided not to.
So, as a one-off attempt at sheer bribery, I‘m offering you your first, trial Club case HALF PRICE at just £47.88 (that‘s a ridiculously low £3.99 a bottle!). Plus, two FREE gifts, worth £30. That‘s an overall saving of nearly £80.
Sound good? Then click here to claim your HALF PRICE case and FREE GIFTS.
But you‘re probably not ready to join yet. You‘re probably thinking…
I can buy the wines anywhere.
Well you can‘t actually. The boutique wines we reserve for our Club Members never appear in the supermarket. And they are always offered to members at a lower price than non-members get them for.
It‘s just like one of those ghastly book clubs.
Er…sorry, not correct on this one either. Quite simply, you have no obligation to take any wine you don‘t want. You don‘t even have to pay us for any wines that don‘t blow your socks right off.
I‘m not the joining type.
If we explained that the reason we have a Club in the first place is because 40,000 people can buy better than 1, perhaps you‘d change your mind? If you join us, 40,001 people will buy better than 40,000.
Or maybe you‘ve just not got around to it. Which is fine. People who buy wine by the case tend to be busy.
So what would be a good reason?
Here‘s one good reason to test us out right now. We‘re keen to recruit new Members. So, for one last time I‘m offering you your first, trial Club case HALF PRICE at just £47.88
Take our HALF PRICE case NOW, and you‘ll receive a complimentary pair of beautiful Dartington Wine Glasses, completely FREE. Plus, a FREE professional lever corkscrew, worth £20.
Still not sure?
What is the worst thing that can happen? If you don‘t like the wines, I promise to refund you instantly, without any fuss whatsoever. If you agree that these wines are a big step better than you can get in the supermarket, you can look forward to a lifetime of feeling superior to non-members.
So why don‘t you join us now and find out what it‘s all about for yourself? Not next week, but right now.
The insight that the tone taken in this email gives me to this brand is profound, and frankly, I don’t want anything to do with a company who has this kind of attitude in their customer communications.
We’ve spoken before about positive ways to handle ‘abandonment’ – well, here is the flipside, a combination of guilt-tripping (‘I am not a sensitive person by nature, but I have to say that I am feeling a little hurt. We’ve invited you into our Club, but you’ve clearly decided not to’), cynicism (‘So, as a one-off attempt at sheer bribery…’) and smart talk (‘Er…sorry, not correct on this one either…’). Yes, consumers today are media literate and this level of ‘openness’ could potentially work well, but be nice about it. I’m supposed to enjoy buying wine, with this email VirginWine have put me right off my drink!
Take care with your tone – and of course, this applies to any kind of copy that you’re writing. And know that only *very* few brands can be anything but nice to their customer.
My name is Leisa Reichelt. I am the Head of User Research at the Government Digital Service in the Cabinet Office.
I lead a team of great researchers who work in agile, multidisciplinary digital teams to help continuously connect the people who design products with the people who will use them and support experimentation and ongoing learning in product design.
If you're interested in working with me or would like to talk more please email me