CapitalOne just sent me an email. It said:

Happy Birthday, Josh:

It’s your birthday—here’s a little something from all of us to help you celebrate.

The “something” was a generic video that made me work to click through and view it.

I’m sure there’s someone in marketing who thought this would increase brand awareness, prevent attrition, improve affinity. Maybe they simply thought, “Wouldn’t this be a nice thing to do?”

The problem for me is its inherent lack of authenticity. It says to me, “We have no idea who you are. We plugged your name into a pre-formatted email with a generic video link attached. We send these to all our customers. We don’t actually think you’re special. We think you’re a number in our system.”

I have no doubt that the intent was to create a pleasant, engaging experience, whether motivated by greed or by gratitude. But in the end, I feel like a cog in their money-making machine. The lack of sincerity, the lack of personalization, ring hollow.

How many of us, as we create marketing experiences, forget that they need to address us as individual human beings. They need to create something valuable. Otherwise, they do the opposite and make us feel used.

Note: I got a lot of emails that didn’t make me feel this way. And they ranged from discount offers (i.e. something of value) to simple graphics that were cheerful, friendly, and took up none of my time. Both approaches seemed fine. But CapitalOne’s implied there would be something special happening when I clicked through to the video. And there wasn’t. That disappointment is what makes it not work.