Publishers Clearing House: Lessons in Audience Neglect

— April 18, 2017

We all know of Publishers Clearing House (PCH). Their annual sweepstakes draws a lot of attention. Started by a direct marketing firm to help drive subscriptions for publishers, it grew steadily from the 1950’s and expanded into selling merchandise as well. In 2006, they purchased several online companies to develop a way to engage the younger audience and be more efficient.


Just as PCH did away with the door-to-door magazine salesperson, their online channel has grown to do away with the complex direct mail pieces sent to potential subscribers. The problem they face is in how often (daily) they engage, the poor explanation of how to enter, and the very scam-looking email that is sent each time (all resulting in audience neglect).


Publishers Clearing House: Lessons in Audience Neglect


The lure of winning $ 5,000 per week is a great response-generating offer, but it falls apart once you see the email. Beyond the $ 5,000 per week offer, there are daily prizes and weekly prizes that are presented with blinking buttons and due dates to create action. While all are typical direct marketing techniques, the plethora of attention getting objects and font sizes is enough to cause you to go cross-eyed.


Ultimately, the data they are collecting, which they will use to improve their understanding of each participant, will be filled with invalidated interests because most people don’t know what to do and are only clicking through to improve their chances of winning (in their minds). But the long-term impact, in my opinion, is that their participants will not continue to enter year over year, If they do, the data on them is going to get worse, resulting in incorrect future offers.


The prize offer is too great and the “cost” of entry (in time) is next to nothing. While providing accurate information or engaging in a “search” is supposed to open the door to merchandise and subscription sales, the consumers on the forums I found were confused about the whole process which is another indication of audience neglect by PCH.


Publishers Clearing House: Lessons in Audience Neglect - PCH Example of More Confusion


After clicking on the email, I land on a page that is asking me to do a search, any search; they don’t care. And if I can’t think of something, I can click on the buttons before so I chose something stupid like “pet monkey.”


This would appear to be an important part of the entry process, but it really isn’t. By just clicking on the entry, I’m entered. But after the first effort you continue to receive daily emails which just become annoying and even more confusing.


Everyone in the forums was confused and complaining about the program. The time will come when this program, with its audience neglect, will become ineffective as consumers become inoculated to the grind of sanctioned spam. Yes spam. Even though each entrant signed up for it, it’s still spam because it’s not wanted, and it’s sent to create the premise that maybe you didn’t enter.


As marketers, be aware that even when someone signs up for your communications and wants to engage, you still have to learn to what degree and how to present it in order to gain the lifetime value of that consumer.


You break that trust of engagement when you “throw-up” your offer on a daily basis. It may be effective now but it won’t last.

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