Automation Gone Wrong – Instances During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Last updated: July 17, 2023

    In the past, we wrote about “automation gone wrong” instances across various settings and mediums. In every case, we noted that without the right team behind your automated efforts, it can go terribly wrong. Automation should not allow a company to fully drift into a “set it and forget it” mentality. We are finding this especially true during the time of COVID-19.

    Below are three automated pieces that Omeda’s team members have received over the last few weeks – that are some that you can see were automated and now read as being out of touch. While we recognize that this time has brought about drastic change and are empathetic to that, we also want to stress the importance of adjusting messaging as quickly as possible. In looking at the pieces below, we hope to remind everyone to check that your automated messaging is either turned off or still relevant so that your outreach remains positive and helpful for your audience.

    1. Targeted Facebook Ads for Products & Events that Aren’t Actionable

    While it was semi-normal at the beginning of the pandemic outbreak to be targeted by stores for the coveted item hand sanitizer, the offers continued for many weeks after they were out of supply. Many of us had ads pop up in our Facebook feed enticing us with images of hand sanitizer and then as we clicked on them, the “Out of Stock” message would appear.

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    Similarly, we are also still being targeted by events and memberships that are not taking place. Here is one for a famous Chicago venue that popped up recently and promised that if we sign up for more permanent membership, we could have great seats by May 1st!! After we click through, it takes us to their Covid-19 notice on the website. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to go to this venue for a while due to the current pandemic.

    2. Email: Offers from Stores that Aren’t Possible

    This email was by far a favorite during the pandemic. A team member’s son had a birthday, and being members of this store, they received a special birthday message about coming into the store during the first week of April to get a free cupcake. Of course, this particular store is closed for at least all of April here in Chicago, but we do hope he can redeem it and get that cupcake by December.  

    3. Direct Mail: Promotions that Aren’t Relevant

    While we were concepting for this piece and looking mainly at digital pieces, low and behold – the mail came with a well-designed and likely expensive pocket fold mailer for a local grocery store that held coupons for Clorox wipes. In reality, the store said there is no inventory stocked for the wipes and there hasn’t been for over six weeks.

    All of us will likely continue to receive messaging during this time that is off. We understand that in many cases, there are other priorities and teams may not be thinking about their automated messaging. However, one of your top priorities for your brands should be to double-check all messaging and have the right teams in place to ensure that relevant marketing is going out the door. Automation is helpful in so many ways to all of us. The downside to it is that if it’s not monitored closely, in the wrong environments it can create negative feelings toward the brand.

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