The Dangers of Personalization

I received a letter of congratulations from the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy. This organization is dedicated to turning old railroad beds into trails for such things as walking, biking and horseback riding. In its 25 years of existence, the group has managed to build nearly 20,000 mile of rail trails in communities from coast to coast, including Michigan.

I’ve walked and written a bike on a number of the Michigan trails and have belonged to the group since 1989. I believe in the group’s mission and each year, I  send in my dues to support their good work.

Yesterday, the group apparently wanted to show their appreciation and sent me a certificate of recognition and a letter of thanks recognizing me for my loyal support.

The certificate was made out to Ms. Marty Johnson. The letter began as follows:

Dear Ms. and Denise Johnson:
I’m writing to day to introduce you to a real champion for America’s rail-trails…Their names are Ms. Marty Johnson.

The letter then asked me for an additional donation.

They are not getting it. Not because they have my gender wrong or even the fact the letter was filled with errors (although they did get my wife’s name correct). I’m not sending money because I simply don’t have it. However, I wonder how many people who received a similar letter and certificate will choose not to contribute any longer because the group’s effort at personalization was all screwed up and the recipient was insulted? Or how many will not support an organization that spends member dues on such a lousy marketing campaign?

One of the marketing trends nowadays is personalization. It’s a way of connecting buyers with sellers, charities with donors. But, as this mailing shows, there is a danger if you use a poor vendor or the organization doesn’t have the correct information in its database–or pulls it improperly.

Maybe the organization will see a good return from this campaign for those who are flattered to receive a correctly worded certificate and properly constructed letter. However, they won’t get it from me. And if they waste my dues again with such a mailing, next time I won’t renew.

Categories: Economy | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: