How a Grow Super email ruined Valentine’s Day

Content manager Annie Wylie tells a Valentine's Day-themed tale of eDMs, polyamory, and how clumsy language can have big implications for customer loyalty.

Holidays and big events are always an excuse for brands to come out with wacky ways to get you to spend money or engage with their service or product.

Whilst most are harmless there have been a few corkers that leave you wondering what the approvals process is like. Triple M’s Ozzest 100 was tone-deaf in its response to Triple J shifting the date of the Hottest 100 in recognition of the problematic nature of celebrating on Australia Day for indigenous folk.

Then there’s countless examples of Anzac Day ads gone wrong, the freshest in my memory being Woolworths badly received ‘Fresh in our memories’ campaign (see what I did there?!).

Valentines Day doesn’t really have any political connotations, however. It’s a largely commercial day anyway, so brands using it as an opportunity for a themed eDM or social post seems pretty appropriate and timely. I mean hell, my own team made a Valentine’s video for social and we’re a mental health service!

Unfortunately, this Valentine’s Day I received an eDM from Grow Super that took the Valentine’s message in a judgemental and exclusionary direction.

It’s probably worth noting that when they say ‘polygamy’ I suspect, given the subsequent copy, they’re really referring to ‘polyamory’. Polygamy being the practice of having multiple wives and polyamory being the practice of having multiple sexual and/or romantic partners.

So what we have here is a superannuation company that specifically markets itself as young and innovative telling me that monogamy is the only answer and that my relationships will fail if they aren’t that way. Quick, where do I sign up?

Now I may not be a marketing expert, but I’m pretty sure using exclusionary and invalidating language to market a product is a surefire way to, well, exclude people, also known as potential customers.

There aren’t many accurate stats on how big this potential customer base is but with estimates that 5% of Americans and research conducted by the Victorian Aids Council showing that over 30% of gay men in Melbourne are in non-monogamous/polyamorous relationships, it’s not an insignificant group of people to alienate.

I see what they’re *trying* to do here – make a joke about how most people have more than one super account and that ain’t good. But comparing it to non-monogamous relationships and making anybody in one, no matter how small that population is, feel like they don’t belong is not a clever or funny way of utilising the marketing opportunity of Valentine’s Day.

Grow Super posted a campaign image on both Facebook and Instagram. I commented on their Instagram post and they pretty swiftly removed the post and sent me a DM apologising. They said “there was absolutely no offence, judgement or even commentary intended” which I don’t doubt is true. It’s still a total strategic misstep though.

They’ve exploited what myself and many others would see as a problematic view to get people’s attention. Basically, the brainstorm went something like ‘people think this kind of relationship structure is weird and funny, let’s make fun of it too and get some attention’. As a content producer I know that whilst this is often an easy way forward it is never the best way forward.

I’m sure some readers are questioning the importance of this – ‘How many people are REALLY going to be upset by this?’ ‘I think non-monogamy IS wrong and flawed so why not comment on it?’

But the point is, making any potential customer (of which I was, given I’d subscribed to their eDMs) feel less than others is never a good strategy.

Valentine’s Day is a pretty decent opportunity to promote love and connection, helping guide those feelings in people towards purchases and sign-ups, and Grow Super has done the exact opposite.

Annie Wylie produces content for ReachOut Parents, swims long distances and likes getting her kit off doing burlesque.


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