Lands’ End’s Big Warm Up: The best viral video I’ve ever missed

Posted: December 9, 2009 in Business, direct marketing, Marketing, Misleadership, Relationship Marketing, Social Media
Tags: , , , , ,

Lands’ End’s Big Warm Up: The best viral video I’ve ever missed

I saw a video the other day that was so good it brought tears to my eyes, which was, after all, its intention. It was so good that it powered Lands’ End customers to bring 33,267 “gently used coats” to Lands’ End shops at Sears to donate to the homeless. (If you haven’t seen it, you can see it here.)

It’s a good video. It’s powerful. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and makes you want to do something good for someone.

All of which is going to make me look even more curmudgeonly than normal, because I am not here to praise Lands’ End.

I think they screwed up.

I didn’t see the video until  Dec. 1, which was one day too late to actually join the Big Warm Up and donate a coat.

And that really bothered me. Because I have a gently used coat I would have gladly donated. And because I was actually in a mall with a Sears the last weekend of the promotion. And because I love good cause related marketing. I love it so much I actually co-wrote a book about it.

I wondered, how could I have missed out on this? I’m a good Lands’ End customer. I have 3-4 pairs of their pants and half a dozen of their shirts. More than that, I’m a fan. I blogged about them back in July and how they helped build direct response retail with their “Guaranteed. Period.” (R) guaranty.

So I went to my inbox (luckily, I try and keep my inbox at a lean, mean 300-400 emails) and sure enough, there it was. And it had company. Lots of company. The Lands’ End email barrage had started on Nov. 9th, and by the time it let up on November 20th I’d gotten 16 emails in 12 days.

But only 3 of those 16 emails were about the Big Warm Up. The rest were about clothes… and canvas.

The first email in the campaign, on Nov. 11, was actually the second Lands’ End email I received that day. It had the subject line, “Save 25% on a new coat & warm a heart!” Being that I’m not currently in the market for a coat, I didn’t notice that this was actually the announcement of a cause related marketing campaign at www.BigWarmUp.com.

In fact, that grand announcement was considerably quieter than the “Introducing Land’s End Canvas” email I’d gotten earlier the same day with a link to a video titled “What Will You Make of It” about the exciting, Ken Burns-ish history of Lands’ End Canvas.

The Lands’ End email tsunami continued. 4 days (and 5 emails) later I got an email with the subject line “What will you make of it?”

This was intriguing, so I opened it. It lead to an interactive site where I could “explore a unique interactive experience — then make and share my own canvas.” Wow. Canvas again.

So when I got the 15th email in 12 days, this one with the subject line, “Join us in making a difference,” I just assumed it was another email about the glories of canvas and ignored it. After all, it had the word “make” in subject line. What else could it have been?

This is a classic case that highlights the dangers of mailing too frequently. Your customers get so overwhelmed they tune out.

30,000 coats donated to the needy is a good thing by any standard, right? So do you think Lands’ End was happy with the results?

I’m not sure I would have been. Here’s why:

Way back in 2002 when Sears bought them, the NY Times reported that Lands’ End had a customer file of 30 million households. Now, not all of those households has email, and that number could be considerably smaller — or larger — by now.

30,000 coats is certainly a lot of warmth, but in terms of results, 30,000 is only 1/10th of a percent of 30 million.

On a more granular level, the email campaign was ignored by at least one ideal target: me,  a repeat customer, who makes buying decisions based on cause-related marketing and corporate philanthropy, who had a coat to donate, and who is clearly on their email list. And if they missed an easy target like me, how many others did they miss, too?

Maybe if the subject line of the first email in the campaign had led with the cause rather than a discount, I might have noticed it.

Maybe if they’d used some of their fancy personalization in the subject line instead of just in their video I might have noticed.

Maybe if they hadn’t bored me to death with their celebration of canvas and trained me to ignore their messages, I might have noticed their worthy campaign to spread the warmth.

But one thing is definite: if they hadn’t sent me 16 emails in 12 days I would have actually read the really important one.  (I’ve asked around, and I’m not the only one who missed this needle in the haystack of Lands’ End emails… or who regretted missing the opportunity to join the Big Warm Up.)

Good cause related marketing is a win-win for everyone. In this case, more coats donated to help the homeless would most likely equate to more coats sold.

This was an important campaign. So can someone please explain to me why Lands’ End quietly buried it under a pile of canvas instead of shouting it from the highest mountaintops?

And while you’re at it, can you direct me to the nearest Goodwill Donation Center? I have a coat I want to donate.

Comments
  1. Josef Katz says:

    So how did you find out about the video on 12/1 if you missed all the emails prior to the event…
    Maybe they were pushing the canvas via all those emails to show you how “green” they were as a company (no catalogs and everyone is all about the canvas reusable bag…)

    • jlsimons says:

      Ah, interesting you should ask, Josef, since it was one of your retweets about the video that finally caught my attention. Of course, it didn’t catch my attention until Dec. 1st… one of the problems with Twitter is keeping up with everything in real time. If I don’t catch it as it happens, it may take me a few days until I review my favorite tweeters to make sure I don’t miss something.
      As for green, I get Lands’ End print catalogs too. And, not to be a stickler, but it’s not canvas bags they’re selling, but canvas pants. Although if I tie up the legs, I guess I could use the pants as a bag…

  2. Marrus says:

    Wow – I didn’t see this one, either, but what a great concept!

    I’ve been told that the one or two emails I send out a year aren’t enough to keep my fan base happy, but I think that with my blog & FaceBook, that amount is plenty.

    Then again, I’m an artist, not a marketer, Jim! Do you disagree with me? (Not on me being an artist, but on the frequency of my email updates…)

    • jlsimons says:

      Marrus, your community is totally wired up to you with your LiveJournal blog and your Facebook pages, so you don’t need to send out emails to them.

      In fact, marketers are pursuing social media because it allows them to do exactly what you do: stay in touch with your community without needing to send out emails, which while cheaper than direct mail still have a cost associated with them. They’ll even spend big time just to push people into that less expensive channel: TGI Fridays used TV to get people to Friend Woody on Facebook and got over a million fans that they can now advertise to for free on Facebook.

      So I agree with you… two emails a year in your case is plenty. For a retailer like Lands’ End, I’d say 16 emails in 12 days is too many. Something in the middle is just right, and that something is different for everyone, changes over time, and needs to constantly be tested.

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s