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Picture this scenario: A marketing executive sits at his desk scrolling through his email inbox.

He opens an American Airlines (AA) mileage summary for the previous year. After scanning it, a big grin crawls across his face and he leaps to his feet.

“Eureka! This is brilliant! This email shows me everything I did with this airline last year and breaks it down into meaningful comparisons!” Admittedly, that might have been my reaction when I received the awesome AA year-end recap email last month.

And then there was the other scenario. The one where the marketing executive (and his dog) shakes his head in disappointment when he gets a very similar email from This email showed how a really good idea can go horribly wrong when it isn’t executed properly.

Great service; good idea; bad execution

I love emails that recap their customers’ data in clever and relevant ways. That’s why I got excited about the one from AA. It was all about me – how far I’d flown, how much I saved on baggage fees, even how high I rank in AA’s Executive Premiere frequent-flyer tier.

TripIt sent me a year-end recap, too. It would also have been a great email if the data had been accurate.

But the culmination of data gone wrong (or provider being limiting) is the recap email from, an online service for dog-sitters, dog walkers and other home services.

How Rover went off the leash

  1. The email didn’t pull the right data.

First, let me say I love Rover’s service. I travel extensively and got turned on to it for canine care when I’m out of town. I signed up in 2017 and used it a lot with Joey, my 14-year-old Maltese pictured above. Pippin, a Yorkie (also pictured above), joined our family just before Thanksgiving. I also used Rover once for my sister’s puppy, Ollie (see pic of him below).

Dog's can get personalized emails too

Then comes the data recap email. There’s Pippin’s data. There’s Ollie’s data, too! But Joey? Not a word. He shrugged it off, but I could tell he felt hurt.

If this email truly wanted to be about me and my dogs, it would have used the right data. Without it, the email wasted my time.

Maybe the company didn’t have the time to pull together enough information about me. Or, it didn’t have access to the right data. So, it filled in the email with a backstory about itself. Big deal.

  1. It was all about Rover, not me.

The subject line was “Wow! You & Pippin had quite a year.” So far, so good. But, the problem soon surfaced. Most of the data was about the company, not my dogs, and the dogs they did include left out poor Joey.

Except for a few details I don’t care about (like dog-name popularity), most of the email covered Rover’s own year in review. That’s not what the subject line promised me.

Here’s one missed opportunity: Rover told me Rover’s dog-walkers took five photos of Pippin. You would think they have that data because it’s still accessible in the app. So, why not pull one of those photos into the email?

Make subscribers say ‘good dog!’

There’s nothing wrong in borrowing a great creative concept. Personalized messages like these are the backbone and promise of First-Person Marketing. But you need the data and integrations to make them work.

The worst thing you can do with a year-end recap is not have enough good, solid, accessible customer data to make it relevant to your users.

Articulate your goal for each email you send

There’s a saying: “Just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you have to say it.” For email marketers, this means “Just because you have an idea for an email doesn’t mean you have to send it.”

What’s your goal in sending this email? To get your customers so excited about your brand and their use of it that they share it on social media or forward it to their friends? That didn’t happen with this email because there wasn’t enough data in it to indicate that Rover thought I was a brand loyalist or advocate.

The next time you come up with a great email idea, think about the data you have, how you’ll use it and whether it’s relevant to your customers. (BTW – I love you and still use you and we could really help you with this)