Stay at Hampton during the Holidays

I always look forward to the mail, not just because there’s going to be a check, but because there is ALWAYS a business lesson there somewhere.

Today, I received a letter from Judy Christa-Cathey, VP of Brand Marketing at Hampton Inns. Judy might be looking for work…here’s why.
On the outside front of the envelope:

Addressed to me through a glassine window envelope with a barcode.

No return address, but instead the Hampton logo.

Sometimes its smart not to leave off the return address. Given that they used a 17.3 cent presorted indicia rather than a live stamp, they probably werent interested in getting first class returned mail anyhow (ie: corrected addresses). Maybe they used the USPS address correction database to correct any recent moves. Hard to say.
Under the indicia: “You’ll want to peek inside before the holidays! (It’s a gift for you!)”

On the outside back of the envelope:

Inside the envelope

The coupon:
A coupon-sized piece promoting their end of the year “gift”, which is extra bonus points, an e-coupon from Target and 3 or 4 other items for “air” – ie: things they already do. Nothing special – and of course the back is plastered in terms and conditions in light gray ink (weasel alarm! weasel alarm!).
The “100% Hampton Guarantee” – doesnt bother to say what it is. Boring name. Why not “100% best sleep away from home Guarantee”, or something a little more interesting – and at least tell me what it means. NEVER assume.

The silly mistake on the coupon piece? At the bottom left it says “1-800-Hampton Offer not available by phone.”. Ok, so if the offer isnt available by phone (which is dumb in the first place) why in the world would you print that RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR TOLL FREE NUMBER????

The letter
“Dear Mark Riffey” – excuse me, but do ANY of you start a letter like that? If youre going to write a letter and attempt to personalize it, dont do this. Get your software figured out and collect your contact info properly so no matter what country your clients are from, you know which is their first name and which is their last so that you can use them properly.

Mistake: No use of my name or other personal info in the body of the letter.

The letter describes the “dreamy comfort of Cloud Nine. The new Hampton bed experience”, but fails go beyond that. Most Bencivenga or Kennedy-trained copywriters would have banged out 2 paragraphs about the bed so soft and comfortable that the manager would have to drag you out of it with a tow truck.
Scarcity: “Once news of our holiday promotion gets out, rooms may go quickly.” – MAY go quickly? Such confidence. Folks, that’s not even false scarcity.

The letter did have a P.S., so at least they are trying.

Nothing on the back of the letter except more exclusion language in light gray ink.

The letter included a printed rendition of Judy’s signature in blue ink – printed, of course, but at least they tried.

The letter has a headline off to the side next to the Hampton logo. It isnt awful, but clearly Judy could use a visit to Planet Dan.

Oh yeah, one last thing. The offer covers the dates of Nov 1 2006 through Dec 31 2006. The offer ARRIVED in my PO Box on Tuesday January 9, 2007.

Yep, you got it. I received the offer 10 days after I could actually use it. Now maybe, just maybe this isnt entirely Judy’s fault. Maybe the mail house messed up. Maybe someone chose junk mail postage for this letter, causing it to be delayed until after all the Christmas and Jan 1 mail. Who knows. The bottom line is that Hampton wasted their money mailing it and their partner (who probably paid as well) didnt see the sales they expected to reap because of the 10% discount e-coupon that the letter described.
Too many mistakes. Judy can afford (maybe) to blow a mailing. You probably cant. Think hard about how you could improve the mailings you get and use those lessons to improve your own.

2 replies on “Stay at Hampton during the Holidays”

  1. Hampton is trying to fix this, but they are taking the cheap way out, at least so far.

    I received this email today:


    Holiday offer extended to February 16, 2007.

    Dear Mark,

    Have you ever had an “oops” moment? Well it happened for Hampton with my
    last letter to you about our holiday offer, which arrived late.

    I’d like to make this right by extending the promotion deadline for you.
    That way, you can still take advantage of this incredible offer:

    * We’re giving away complimentary E-coupons that are good for 10% off
    nearly ALL purchases at!(1) Simply enter promotion/offer code
    EXTEND when you book online at and stay before the new
    deadline of February 16, 2007, to get your E-coupon. (You can find this
    field on in the section following room-type preferences.)

    * Also, Hilton HHonors® members will get an extra 250 HHonors bonus
    points(2) if your stay is booked online for a Friday and/or Saturday

    Sorry about the delay of the letter. We hope you get to take advantage
    of this one. If you have any questions, please email or call us at 1-901-374-6220.


    Judy Christa-Cathey
    Vice President
    Hampton Brand Marketing

  2. Another follow up on this story. Judy sent out another mailing, with rougly the same text as the email. Still bulk indicia, but at least they didnt try to take the cheap way out and skip the mail piece – smart move.


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