It’s common practice, when using email marketing, that the subject line and body copy share similarities. Further, if a landing page is involved, the message should continue to ring true.

The subject line gets your attention, the email generates interest, and the landing page creates even further interest and contains a call to action. I mean, that’s how it should be done, right?

Unfortunately, that was not the case with a recent email I received from Cox Communications. The subject line (which you can see highlighted in the graphic below) says, “Enter to win a trip to Scotland from Cox!”

I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland and if I could do it on Cox’s dime, that’s fine with me.

Cox Media email

However, the email itself contained nothing about the trip, but focused instead on Cox OnDemand movies. When I clicked the link associated with the message, I was taken to a landing page that also said nothing about the trip.

Cox Media landing page

In the old days we called this a “chain yank.” Needless to say, it left me feeling somewhat aggravated and unfulfilled. Cox had piqued my interest with an offer to enter a content to win a trip, but delivered a message that only pitched its services. It added insult to injury by following suit on the landing page.

I don’t mean to bash Cox too badly – I’m really citing them as an example of a bad behavior I’ve seen repeated time and again, and most often in the case of PPC ads that appear based on keyword searches that, when the link is clicked, takes users to the home page of the website in question, not to a landing page associated with the contents of the ad.

Marketers, don’t do this! It’s not nice to jerk consumers around.

I’m reminded of something online marketer Bryan Eisenberg once taught. In a ClickZ article from December 2004, he cited a Xerox Palo Alto Research study indicated humans track information in a similar fashion to the way animals follow a scent.

What Cox did with its email subject line was start me on a scent trail, then immediately threw me off with the body of the email. Being the hound dog that I am, I continued to try and find the trail by visiting the landing page. When that proved futile, I went back to the email message thinking there must have been something I overlooked. I hadn’t.

Long story short, I’m still wondering how I go about winning a trip to Scotland as a guest of Cox. Shame on the company for failing to deliver on its promise.

(UPDATE: I tweeted a mention of the post and referenced Cox Communication’s Twitter handle – @CoxComm – in the tweet. The company quickly responded with this reply: “going to check on that. The trip to Scottland DOES exist in a campaign with Brave OnDEMAND though - cox.bravesweepstakes.com.” Though its email marketing may have had a faux pas, thanks both to the personal and fast response, its Twitter-based customer support scores well in my book.)