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Personalization Fail: How One Bad CTA Discouraged Me from Becoming a Customer

In May, I ended my Hulu Plus subscription because I knew I wasn’t going to watch as much TV on my Xbox over the summer. Summer shows aren’t that interesting and I could watch The Daily Show on my PC without caring much about the experience.

With the new fall TV season is kicking off in the next few weeks, I figured it was time to go back and restart my Hulu Plus subscription. So the other day, I went to Hulu.com and here’s what I saw:

Hulu knew enough to display The Daily Show on a homepage call to action, and even enticed me further with “Try Hulu Plus for Free.” I was signed in (see my face at the top of that screen grab), so I figured, “Cool, they want me back, so I get a free week.”


Here’s the next screen, still promoting The Daily Show and now with the call to action “Start Your Free Week.”

Okay, now I was definitely getting a free week of Hulu Plus out of this. There’s no ambiguity in that call to action.


Then this:

The message under “Payment and Address Information” states, “Since you’ve already taken advantage of a Hulu Plus free trial, we’re unable to offer you another free trial at this time. You will be charged $7.99 per month, starting today.”

“Wait. I’m not getting a free week?” At that point, I walked away from the website.

Because I have written so much about personalized marketing over the past couple weeks, I’m hyper-aware of the ease at which a custom offer can be created with the right user information. A subscription company should know one thing, if nothing else, about me when I have an account: I was a subscriber at one point. After all they knew I was a Daily Show fan. (A similar call to action had NBC’s Grimm on it, another fave.)

Why didn’t Hulu Plus know that I was a previous subscriber when I hit the homepage? I don’t know. If a “Free Week” offer didn’t apply to me, the call to action could have simply said, “Watch your favorite shows on your TV. Subscribe again today.” But it didn’t.

Maybe it’s petty, but that’s the Internet for you. Decisions are made in an instant based on the credibility of the call to action in front of you. And when that call to action doesn’t come through on its promised offer, well, you’re telling customers to go away. That’s what Hulu did to me. And I don’t plan on re-subscribing anytime soon.