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by stacy

To make a mistake is human. If you are one of the lucky ones who has never made a mistake, raise your hand.


Many HBO Max users received a suspicious-looking email last week, which was not a phishing scam. The message, which would go down in history as “Integration Test Email #1,” was clearly a clerical error. It was an accident. There was a brief gap in concentration.

It was a blunder.

A sense of solidarity spread among email marketers all over the world as a result of this incident. We’ve all done it: sent an email that wasn’t quite ready. After that, though, something even more incredible occurred. After HBO Max blamed the error on an unidentified, faceless intern, non-marketers began posting their own missteps on social media.

Thousands of people took to social media to apologise for everything from message-altering typos to expensive discounts. They used the “Dear Intern” message to own up to their own shortcomings. What began out as a harmless—or, at the very least, harmless for us—mistake turned into a broad moment of human connection.

The Reality of Integration Test Email #1

A number of people have interpreted this slip-up as confirmation that the HBO Max customer experience is bad. The app and the misunderstanding that accompanied the service’s first debut can be discussed in greater depth elsewhere.

Here, we are mostly concerned with marketing. Moreover, while on the surface, Integration Test Email #1 appears to be an unavoidable blunder, the reality is not quite so straightforward.

The Connection is Real

So, with reduced stakes, what is the point of marketing in the first place? You most likely have a definition in your head, but there is an argument to be made that it is all about building a connection in your thoughts.

Consumers are fallible beings. Marketers are customers in their own right. Marketers are just like everyone else. This is something we must never forget. Expectations from consumers in terms of a positive brand experience have reached an all-time high. They want to know that the businesses they adore are run by people who share their values and are committed to their success.

In today’s society, the term “authenticity” is bandied about a lot. Un the past, brands were reluctant to share behind-the-scenes information because it had the ring of something that may be…well…inauthentic, but there has been development in the past year, particularly during the pandemic.

Is there anything more authentic than making a blundered decision? You’ve already seen the responses. People are fascinated by blunders. This isn’t a sneering endorsement of schadenfreude, either. It’s one of the reasons why Batman has a stronger emotional connection than Superman. A highly flawed character is depicted as such in one storey, whilst the other is frequently depicted as almost faultless in another.

Integration Test Email #1, for example, serves as a reminder to users that even a big business like HBO Max is prone to making mistakes. It gives a human face to a company that would otherwise be faceless. It generates a sense of belonging even though we, as members of the general public, do not know who or what is being talked about.

The Stakes Are (Often) Low

Integrity Test Email #1 is trivial in the larger scheme of things when it comes to HBO Max’s reputation. The saying “content is king” is commonly heard, and for a brand like HBO Max, content is critical to its success. A well-crafted marketing email will not compensate for poor streaming material.

For the vast majority of marketers, the negative feedback they receive as a result of an Integration Test Email #1 is minimal and temporary. We’ve only been in the country for a week, and the buzz has already faded down somewhat.

The majority of marketers are marketing things that provide joy as a result of a problem being solved. A ride at a reduced rate. It’s the world premiere of a movie. “We’re not curing cancer,” is a phrase that you may hear from time to time.

HBO Max is not curing cancer with their most recent email, as they claim. Their marketing activities are centred toward offering entertainment to a wide range of audiences.

The Actual Experience Integration Test Email #1 arrived at an intriguing time in terms of timing. If you’ve been following Iterable’s material for a while, you’re probably aware that we enjoy conducting research. We are obsessive about the consumer experience.

As a result, we’re interested in seeing what kinds of messages firms are sending to new and active customers. We sign up for new accounts, browse and favourite goods, abandon carts, opt in to all available channels of communication, and other activities for a period of 2-3 weeks at a time. We are as active as we possibly can be at this period of time. As you can see, we’ve done this for clients in the cosmetics sector, mobile marketing, and the news media industry in previous years.

We just so happened to end a three-week HBO Max study phase right before the first Integration Test Email was sent out. And do you want to know what we discovered? Overall, this is a very interesting collection of emails and messages—albeit one that might have used some personalisation.

An overview of the Customer Experience Analysis of HBO Max can be seen at the link below, which includes a summary of the many steps we did during our research, as well as some samples of particularly noteworthy messages we received during that period.

The Actual Experience

HBO Max sends out emails that are attractively designed and contain helpful tips. It is their mission to authentically reflect underrepresented voices, such as LGBTQ+ and Latinx material. In addition, they give a cross-channel experience through the use of push alerts and in-app messages.

There is no mention of user behaviour, which is a critical omission. We marked a number of shows as favourites and watched a few others, but our actions were not reflected in the show’s suggestion.

On a macro level, the human connection we discussed above is extremely beneficial for everyone involved. Integration Test Email #1 demonstrates that people are ecstatic about the prospect of having a group to unite around. However, while marketing to customers, you want to establish a one-on-one relationship with them.

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