First of all, no, this isn’t one of those weird ways of announcing online (before telling my family and friends) that I am ‘with child’. It is, however, a great example of a marketing fail… so I had to share it.

Yesterday I received an email from Mothercare, attached to this post, with the subject and image boldly proclaiming "you're invited to our expectant parent event!" 

Let me start by saying, I haven’t ever been an expectant parent and, as far as I know, I’m not currently. So, why would Mothercare’s targeted email campaign include me in the audience hit list?

As a marketer who, I like to think, understands data marketing I’m racking my brain to figure out how I have been tagged as ‘expectant’ and therefore relevant.  Here’s the facts;

  • I have a baby niece and LOTS of friends with babies (something my mum likes to continually remind me) so, yes, I have been known to shop at Mothercare.
  • I am a female in a certain age group where it might be expected to be expecting.
  • I have previously provided my email address to receive an online receipt
  • The only time I have been on the Mothercare website recently was to look for a giant ball pit.  Which, as far as I’m aware, is not the usual online activity for an expectant mother.
  • I have never browsed nor bought anything relating to pregnancy.

So, where are Mothercare going wrong in their data marketing strategy?

Advancements in data and analytics have meant we marketers are in a really privileged position, benefiting from the valuable data which is now available to us, our practices have changed. We can now target customers with such specific content that the increase in engagement with our brands is tenfold.  Gone are the days of ‘spray and pray’ and thank goodness for that!

As a customer I find myself unsubscribing less and less. Why? Because nowadays, due to my activity online, I am getting tailored email campaigns that are 9 times out of 10 relevant to my interests (if you ignore the fact Amazon are still suggesting garden hoses because I ordered one for my Dad last month).  With the power of remarketing, let’s face it, we’re only seeing adverts pop up that we actually might want or need. I can't deny that after performing a couple of Google searches on ‘what’s the best mattress to buy?’' I succumbed to EVE MATTRESS’s incessant advertising which found its way across all of my social media and, impressively, through my letterbox. 1-0 EVE you sneaky clever clogs!

So, it bamboozles me when things like this happen. I accept mistakes with data happen, if Mothercare had sent me an email addressing me by the wrong name or promoting products that weren’t relevant I could easily forgive it.  The problem I have with this campaign is the subject of it.

This email is intended for a VERY specific audience. In my opinion, it is also a sensitive subject.

What about if I were unable to have children? An email like this could potentially cause me real distress. Is that OK?

I don’t believe this was a mistake in my customer data, that I had been incorrectly tagged as someone relevant for this email communication. I believe this was a ‘spray and pray’ campaign which is really disappointing in this incredible age of marketing where data brings us so much more intelligence and insight.

Brands have a responsibility to their consumers and marketers have a responsibility to their brand. Neither party should let each other down.

At LHi we have invested heavily in to our email marketing function, onboarding a dedicated team member to solely focus on our CRM, segregate our customer data and build out the email strategy. In our first few campaigns, admittedly, we made some mistakes but that's all part of learning. However, our brands are important to us and we will never mailshot our entire database or 'spray and pray' because we believe those practices are a) dated b) ineffective and c) potentially detrimental to our brands.

Let me be clear, I’m not going to blacklist Mothercare. They are a really great company with quality products and mistakes do happen but, just to teach them a tiny lesson, I think I’ll buy my niece’s birthday present from somewhere else this time. Besides, Early Learning Center just sent me 50% off giant ball pits… what a coincidence!