Quick Case Study: When Life Hands You Lemons…


Like many of you, Travel Oregon publishes a monthly e-newsletter to keep Oregon “top-of-mind” and build a long term relationship with consumers. We were especially proud of our January issue which was chock full of fabulous getaway/fitness ideas and special events. The edition with the subject line of “Happy New Year from Oregon” was scheduled to go out the week of January 7th.

After the usual “pre-flight” preparations with the editorial team on spelling, punctuation, voice and all that good stuff the edition was ready to go. So imagine my horror when we noticed that the first batch of 40,000 e-newsletters went out the subject line “Step into Spring!”

Upon investigating, we discovered that a “snafu” in the send process resulted in the first batch of consumers getting our April 2007 edition! Yes, 40,000 people received a “spring” message in January when the snow was pilling high on our mountains! If there was ever a moment where I wished I was in one of those “wanna get away” Southwest commercials, this was most definitely it.

Thoughts// One of the core values of marketing that Troy and I have repeatedly talked/written about is “honesty” and “transparency”. In an age when brands can be elevated or torn down in an instant by the community, being authentic and true about yourself and your products is the only guaranteed recipe for long term success. So we embraced our mistake and made lemonade; we issued an immediate apology while poking fun at our woeful selves with an irreverent message that read:

“Happy New Year! It’s 2008, right? Yeah, we thought so…

While we were getting ready to send you the very latest from Oregon this January – 2008 – it seems “spring fever” hit us early and we mistakenly sent you April’s edition – 2007 – instead. Call us sentimental. We love April. Really. No slight to January, of course. We like January in Oregon too. And November. And, well, July is GREAT. But April… oh that April… we’re very fond of April.

But, we think you should really get to know Oregon in January… cool, snowy, fluffy, festive, … January rocks in Oregon! So watch your email box for our exciting adventures to be had in January… January 2008. Yes, 2008. With snow levels above normal and Oregon’s mountains covered with snowy adventure, it’s definitely not spring in Oregon. Is it? No. We’re pretty sure it’s not.

Anyway, sorry for the mix up… you can come back in April if you like. Did we mention we like April? Have a wonderful 2008… get out and enjoy the snow!

The Editors”

The price of transparency? LOVE (or sweet lemonade). We actually got more positive feedback on the apology than response to the original “April” email or the typical monthly e-newsletter! Here is a sampling….

  • That was, by far, the most entertaining e-mail slip-up apology ever. Well, maybe not as bad as the time I tried to weasel out of insulting my father-in-law by way of the “reply” button instead of “forward”, but… bravo. :) – Cara S.
  • Too cute. Loved the email! – Bonnie & Dan H.
  • Very cute! I LOVE everything you do no matter what the month or year. Even the mistakes. Did you know you’re even more lovable when you can admit your mistakes and laugh at them? I love a great sense of humor! You made me smile. I’ll be with you every month and year in Oregon. – Lori P-H.
  • I love an organization where people have a sense of humor and don’t take themselves too seriously. We are all human! And don’t worry, I won’t cancel my (free) email subscription! :)- aerosmithchik

To be fair, we did have one really negative comment and had a few folks who unsubscribed. But the overall responses was so positive and supportive that we were absolutely blown away.

Lessons learned? 1) Embrace mistakes faster; 2) Keep sending wrong e-mail editions to keep ‘em guessing (just kidding!)

Happy Friday!

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.