Some Restrictions May Apply

Happy Birthday Joann!

That’s what the outside of the card decorated with balloons, a cake and candles had printed on it when I got it from the mailbox yesterday. At first I ignored it but then I did a double take. Joann is my wife so I assumed the card was sent to the right address. But, her birthday isn’t until December and this is still July.

I gave her the card and said Happy Birthday! She looked at me like I had started cocktail hour a little too soon but then she looked at the card and started laughing. Upon opening it she said, “It’s from Marriott.”

Now the fact is after really looking at this bulk direct mail piece it wasn’t from Marriott Corporation. But, most people getting it might have thought so. Marriott was on the top of the mailing and Red Lobster and Olive Garden logos were on the bottom. The mailing said that in honor of Joann’s birthday, (I guess the one she would have in FIVE months) we would like to offer you a complimentary Marriott Weekended Vacation. (There is that Marriott name again.)

It goes on to offer free this and that from Red Lobster and The Olive Garden. And, “Our records indicate if you respond within 72 hours you will also receive $100 in Gas Vouchers (Whatever those are – maybe something left over from WWII).

Inside is a tear off ticket that looks like a boarding pass complete with bar code, room type (pool view king, of course) and even the room number – 1068. Wow! Pretty amazing ticket since upon further examination we discover that this offer is good at over 200 Marriott Hotels. How do they manage to get the same room number at over 200 hotels? This is quite an offer!

In small type on the back of the “boarding pass” are the “rules” to collect on this fantastic birthday gift. The one that catches my eye states, “When you visit you WILL attend a vacation timeshare seminar lasting approximately 90 minutes.” That was WILL ATTEND. Not may. Not be invited. Not PLEASE! I felt like I was suddenly transported to an old Hogan’s Hero’s episode and Colonel Klink was passing out orders.

Then I notice that in tiny print at the bottom of the birthday gift is a note that says *This promotion is not sponsored by or affiliated with Marriott but is a major supplier of VIP.”

Personally, I don’t have a clue who or what VIP is supposed to be. I guess I should know based on the language in this gift. But, I’m going to hazard a guess that nobody else who gets this has a clue who VIP is either.

This is an example of the absolute worst kind of marketing. I don’t think I need to make a list of why that is the case for you. My readers are very intelligent and would be appalled at this kind of direct mail piece.

What are Marriott, Red Lobster and The Olive Garden thinking by allowing their brands to be associated with something this slimy? You can put all the disclaimers in the world on it but it is still so slimy I want to go take a shower after reading it.

Please don’t ever think of using these kinds of tactics and interruption marketing. Spend your marketing dollars establishing a relationship with your prospects. Spend you money getting permission from the people you really want to talk with instead of insulting people with this kind of promotion.

I don’t know much about Red Lobster or The Olive Garden but I do know that about 10 years ago I stopped using Marriott brand hotels because their service had gone from about an eight to a two at every hotel I stayed at over six months. I guess I’m not really surprised at this kind of sleazy marketing.

Oh, and before I forget, the back of the mailing also mentions that a deposit is required to collect your gift. And, finally, it ends with one of the all time great weasel phrases –

Some Restrictions May Apply

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