Watch the selection logic – not everyone’s a ‘great’ customer

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct response marketing. This column continues on the theme of my previous one - notably the benefits that businesses may achieve from actively building relationships with...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct response marketing.

This column continues on the theme of my previous one – notably the benefits that businesses may achieve from actively building relationships with their customers.

This particular mailing was not sent to me, although I have absolute proof of its existence since I have the originals. The letters are ‘relationship-building’ although there is a mistake in the selection logic, in my opinion at least – a mistake that could have been fixed easily and quickly.

The first letter comes from the CIBC Dividend Card, and prominently features the following text block in the upper right-hand corner: ‘We want to thank you for being a great customer in 1999, so here’s a way to jump start your Dividend Dollars(tm) in 2000.’

The text begins: ‘You made the right choice when you became a CIBC Dividend Card(tm) holder. The $125.82 in Dividend Dollars you received in December as a credit on your statement is just one of your rewards for that decision. This special thank you, just for being a great customer last year, is another. It’s your chance to earn 1% Bonus Dividend Dollars right now, and get a head start on your earnings for this year.’

As is apparent, this copy is all about reinforcement and exclusivity. The recipient is led to believe that only ‘great customers’ received this mailing. The offer provides that such great customers will receive 1% Dividend Dollars to a maximum of $50 Dividend Dollars when they use special cheques enclosed with the mailing ‘to pay bills…to conveniently transfer balances from gasoline, higher-interest retail or other non-CIBC credit cards.’ More on the offer later.

However, another card holder received a virtually identical letter from the CIBC Dividend Card, which begins: ‘You made the right choice when you became a CIBC Divided Card(tm) holder. The $0.43 in Dividend Dollars you received…’ (Emphasis added is mine.)

Here’s the colossal mistake. A CIBC Dividend Card holder who uses the card frequently and, as a consequence, received $125.82 in Divided Dollars might be considered a ‘great customer’, but one who uses the card infrequently (and earned a paltry reward of 43 cents) could not. Or, should not!

In my view, to have credibility, this ‘great customer’ offer should have been mailed only to card holders who had earned a meaningful reward, say, $20 or more in 1999. Or, CIBC could have muted its ‘great customer’ theme and focused on its offer, namely that for a limited time, card holders could use the special cheques enclosed with the mailing to earn dividend dollars.

Any Dividend Card customer who transferred a balance from a higher-rate card (such as a gasoline or retail card) would benefit by saving some interest and earn Divided Dollars payable in December 2000. Of course, transferring the same higher-rate balance to a low-interest card would produce greater savings immediately.

The daily interest rates on a retail card, CIBC Dividend Card and 10.9% rate card (which is at the high end of the ‘low-rate’ card spectrum) are 0.07890%, 0.05054% and 0.02986% respectively. Thus, the 30-day interest cost on $5,000 would be $118.35, $75.81 and $44.79 respectively.

Since these cheques are considered cash advances, they incur interest from the date posted to the account, so by using a cheque, the cardholder would incur some interest expense.

With this offer, a CIBC Dividend Card holder could earn 50 Dividend Dollars (payable later) by incurring $75.81 in interest cost (payable now), which is the bank’s intended outcome. In fact, the only way Dividend Card holders really ‘win’ with this offer is to use a cheque as specified and then immediately deposit the equivalent amount to their Dividend Card account to minimize the interest charge.

This campaign merely provides more evidence to the conclusion that financial services marketing is a highly competitive business… one where building relationships is important to one’s long-term success. But, to build relationships, one must begin with credible messages.

David Foley is a marketing consultant and an instructor in database marketing at York University in Toronto. He may be reached at (416) 253-1224; by fax at (416) 253-4637 or via e-mail at

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.