Paint-By-Numbers Marketing

Marketing Technology is Not Enough

Advances in marketing technology allow us to learn so much about our customers. With the information customers share with us, it’s never been easier to develop customer relationships and loyalty. But when the technology is used to create paint-by-number experiences, customers will feel a dissonance and know you aren’t actually interacting with them. Customers are very clever and can tell when companies use marketing technology against them instead of for them.

Laura Poland, an Indianapolis wedding photographer and close friend, experienced this technology dissonance first-hand with She usually orders business cards and brochures using her professional email address. However, one time she placed an order using her personal email address. stored both of these addresses in their marketing database but didn’t record that the addresses belonged to the same person.’s records showed that Laura was a loyal customer when she used her professional email address. They sent her the following year-end coupon for 25% off any order:

But also had Laura’s personal email address on file. Clearly, the personal email address wasn’t loyal to them. It had only placed one order. In a bid to “activate”  this dormant customer, they sent a sweeter deal to the email address that had only ordered once:

We wanted to give a chance to respond to Laura’s disappointment at finding her loyalty was not rewarded. Here is the email from their customer service department:

Part of our marketing strategy to reactivate “inactive” customers is to send them different offers, which sometimes offer greater discounts.  We also have a Loyalty Program for our top customers, which provide excellent discounts as well. Should your purchases reach the level that qualifies you for the program, we would very much like to invite you to participate.

So it seems that Laura is neither loyal nor disloyal enough. uses their technology to categorize their customers, and it seems some categories are luckier than others.

What lesson should we all learn from this marketing faux pas? (Besides that ordering infrequently from is the best way to score deeper discounts). If a company tries to use technology to “cheat” some customers, the customers will find out. And that will erode their relationship with the company. No one stays loyal to a company (or friend) that doesn’t show loyalty to them. Carefully use your marketing technology to bring you closer to your customers, instead of further away from them.

1 thought on “Paint-By-Numbers Marketing

  1. I am just even more astonished about web marketing based on seeing the way the youger generation interact with the world with computers. My 10 year old grandson just took me a site they had created to manage popular topics for their online friends. They needed to know how to launch marketing on the system to generate income. I must tell you I am extremely proud of them.


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