Poor targeting and a missed opportunity (bad). But perfect pitch (good).

Three things caught my eye this week. But first, a digression… Years ago, I was in a restaurant with my boss and a group of colleagues. My boss was pretty fearsome, and took no prisoners when it came to service. Her opening line to the waitress was chillingly direct. “I usually tip 20%,” she said. “In fact, the tip is already 20%. But here’s the catch – from now on, I’m going to deduct points for bad service. OK? Now I’d like to order.” The poor girl stared with rapt attention, and the service never wavered for the whole of the time we were there. It was impeccable. My boss’s secret was simple. She knew what she wanted. She asked for it. She got it. On another occasion, at another restaurant, she requested a sauce that wasn’t on the menu. The waitress, who this time hadn’t had the 20% routine (my boss varied her tactics) said she was sorry, but that it wouldn’t be possible. “Why not?” barked my boss. “Because we’d have to make the sauce up,” said the girl, faltering slightly in the glare of the blue-eyed headlights. “Oh right,” said my boss with exaggerated emphasis. “I see. I mean, it’s not as if this is a restaurant or anything, with ingredients all over the place. You’d have to make up the sauce.” The dripping irony had its effect. And before long, that special sauce was dripping too.

1. Close (but no cigar)

I was reminded of the second restaurant episode recently. If anywhere knows about sauces, it’s a restaurant. And if anybody knows about technology, and how to use it, it’s a technology company. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Just last week, I got a letter from Google with a little surprise in it (well more than one, but we’ll get to that bit). Here’s what it contained: The word ‘discover’ should have set alarm bells ringing. But it didn’t. Inside was a credit-card-sized voucher with a unique code. I logged into my AdWords account and entered the code, relishing the thought of 75 smackers off my next bill. Not so fast. Because here’s what it said when I entered the code: Too old? Well, yes, it’s years and years old. I’ve been using Google AdWords for longer than I can remember. I’m very, very happy with it. Or at least I was. Until they dangled £75 in front of me and took it away again. Is it really that difficult to de-duplicate a mailing campaign when you’re targeting prospects, so you exclude existing clients? Sauce. Technology. Different consistency, same taste (bitter-sweet).

2. Don’t bank on it (the feature, that is)

Just as I’ve been using AdWords since the dawn of time, so too have I been a customer of the Royal Bank of Scotland since the good old days when banks were privately owned and collateralised debt obligations and credit-default swaps were a twinkle in the eye of a Wall St banker. In fact, I was one of their online-banking beta customers, way back in the mid-90s. And recently, they sent me a leaflet extolling the virtues of their online service: Can you spot the problem? Yes, they got the headline the wrong way round. Make the most of digital banking isn’t the best thing about digital banking. It’s the time you save. So that should be in a big, bold, brash font that shouts Benefit! followed by the more sober feature. And somebody close that gap, please. It’s Marketing 101. Feature (banking) and benefit (time). Which would you pick? (Thought so.)

3. U and non-U

And lastly, a company that gets it exactly right. HTC, who make those super-sexy smartphones, realise that a phone is just a phone. What makes it special is you, as this advert shows. Their closing line sums it up exactly: You don’t need to get a phone. You need a phone that gets you. It’s simple, direct and hits the mark. And I want one. [If you’re reading this in an email, click here to see the advert on Youtube]