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Last week I wrote about a direct marketing experience I had that was a prime example of good target marketing. I received a catalogue from Oriental Trading about 1st birthday parties. It was targeted to me because my son is turning one. This week I want to discuss targeting gone awry.

The last name of my household is Chang. This happens to be a very popular Chinese last name, but could also be a Korean or other Asian ethnicity last name. A marketer might look at our last name and think, they speak and read Chinese, but that marketer is taking a gamble.

About once a month, our household receives a letter from Verizon with Chinese on the front and back of the envelope and on the actual letter. At first I thought, ok our last name could be a Chinese name, so it makes sense that they want to win our business by using both Chinese and English in their acquisition letter.

But, the reality is that my husband is Korean, and no one in our household can read or speak Chinese. And the other reality is that even if Verizon sent us a letter in Korean, my husband would probably need to look at the English portion to truly understand the meaning of the letter.

Let’s look at the possible scenarios:

o Best Case Scenario – We are a Chinese household that can and prefers to read and speak Chinese. And if we’re looking for new Internet & TV, score for Verizon!

o Likely Scenario – We are a Chinese family that does not speak or read Chinese. We may appreciate the targeting or we may not, but no harm or foul.

o Likely Scenario 2 – We are not Chinese, but an Asian family who does not read or speak Chinese. (Our family falls into this category). Eventually this type of targeting can get annoying.

o Possible Scenario – We are not an Asian family and we don’t speak Chinese. In this day and age, names don’t always determine ethnicity.

Verizon is using our last name to segment us, but they don’t have enough information to know whether they are actually targeting us correctly. Even if we were a Chinese household, there’s a chance we don’t speak or read Chinese. Ultimately, they are wasting money by continuously sending us letters in Chinese. The pricing and offers may vary, but I wouldn’t know that for certain because the letters now go directly from the mailbox into the recycle bin. Changing up those variables (pricing and offer) does nothing for their marketing strategy in this case.

I think it’s safe to say it’s probably time for Verizon to try something else. It might make sense to send us a letter in English. It’s best practice in marketing to test offer, messaging, and creative, but sometimes you need to change up the way you’re looking at your target audience by testing the actual segments you’re putting people in.

*Full disclosure: I worked for Comcast for 3.5 years