AAA Marketing–Don’t Assume Your Customer is Stupid [unGPP Case Study]


At least once a week, and sometimes daily, I run across the undoubtedly well-intended efforts of marketing people who need an education in transparency, how their product is used and who their target market is. This is the first in a series of unGPP, where I will present and dissect these real-life examples. Many will be outside the highly regulated sphere of pharma and medical devices as these may be good, non-threatening examples for internal discussion.

unGPP Culprit: AAA, the American Automobile Association. A long-venerated establishment and one to which I belong.

Allegations: Lack of transparency, killing trees

Assumed Goal: Selling life insurance

A few weeks ago, I received this envelope from AAA. As a marketer myself, I recognized it for what it was and it went straight into the recycle bin. Last week, they sent me another one, and I thought it would make a great post.

  • unGPP move #1: Tricking customers into doing what you want. Why do marketers believe that they need to “trick” customers into doing what they want? It is offensive and insulting. First, this is not a certificate of coverage. Let’s look more closely at the tiny print above the “Certificate of Coverage” claim: “Use This To Hold Your.” Really? AAA now sends out free envelopes. I can think of more useful, compelling and less expensive giveaways.
  • unGPP move #2: Further perpetuating the trickery. “Keep with Important Papers” written on the top of the envelope; “Open Carefully Along Dashed Line” (which I ignored) on the back.
  •  unGPP move #3: Caring more about the brown envelope than the product. I opened the envelope to find 6 sheets of paper with 11 sheets of text. The very first text at the top was, in capital letters, “PLEASE KEEP YOUR BROWN ENVELOPE IN A SAFE PLACE.” This is not a black box warning, or a caution statement. So, why are you “yelling”? Why should I care so much about an envelope unless it is coated with gold or papered with money? It gets better. Through the address window, having removed the documents, it now reads, “Replace your documents inside this Holder [guess it is now longer a ‘brown envelope’] for safekeeping, together with your Certificate of Coverage.” Is that last one a promise?With the repeat of the Certificate of Coverage on the back of the envelope, my first six impressions is that AAA really, really, really wants me to keep this precious brown envelope.
  • unGPP move #4:  Not telling me what you are actually selling. Worse, degrading the AAA reputation. In fact, I am in the market for more term life insurance. I trust AAA and have been a customer for years. With the exception of one small incident, I have been very satisfied with their products and services. If you had told me what you were selling, I would have gladly opened this and read the pitch. If I was not writing this blog, I would never have opened this envelope.

So, what can you takeaway from these unGPP moves?

  1. Tell it to your customers straight. Presume some modicum of intelligence. Humor is fine; trickery is not.
  2. Know what you are selling. Tell your potential customers what you are selling in plain language. Do not be obtuse, ambiguous or misleading.
  3. Know why people want it. If you think folks won’t know, ask them three to five questions so they can decide.
  4. And, please tell us why it is better than anyone else’s–differentiation, positioning or value proposition in marketing lingo. In 30 seconds or less.

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I am not a lawyer and no statements here are meant to correspond with any legal allegations. This is just for fun and learning!

2 responses to “AAA Marketing–Don’t Assume Your Customer is Stupid [unGPP Case Study]

  1. I agree with you, I believe they are targeting the elderly trying to trick them. They have also become unsafe in their towing operations… They did have a leadership change as well, and obviously for the worse….They are actually in court right now for sending a tower that ran over and killed a 55 year old mom….and i have a video where they are still allowing members to stand in a place where they can be injured or killed while loading their vehicle…. they are out of control, in my opinion, they are cheating towers, etc.

  2. Not Happy With AAA

    Agreed. This is really horrible marketing.

    What happened to AAA? They used to be a model company. I’ve had their coverage for years. I think they must have had a leadership change. I’m going to change my policy because of this. I don’t like being treated like a child.

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