Harvey Water Softeners - marketing through fear

23 May 2011

Try and put yourself in the frame of mind of the average human. Not pleasant is it? Now try and imagine how you, an average human would feel if this was pushed through your letterbox one morning…


Hmm… it’s not exactly what you want to see flopping on to your doormat is it? Avid HotUKDeals member csiman was an unlucky recipient of it, adding that ‘the yellow bits were the front and back as delivered’. Thankfully, he was wise and savvy enough to realise that it was a load of old bollocks, and no harm was done. But what if he was a less savvy and more vulnerable member of society? Not nice.

The senders of the mailshot were Harvey Water Softeners of Surrey, who were in trouble with the ASA 18 months or so ago for sending out a leaflet that was ‘misleading because it did not make sufficiently clear that it was a marketing communication.’ Lessons clearly weren’t learned from that particular episode.

casey_bowdenEnter Casey Bowden (pictured right). He’s the sales director at Harvey Water Softeners, and he popped up on the HUKD forum, trying to squirm his way out of the whole sorry mess. He said:

“This was a new idea that we were testing - the trial has been stopped with immediate effect and no more leaflets are going out. I authorised this and take personal responsibility, I'm getting it in the neck from our staff, customers and potential customers and feel terrible. I honestly believed that it was a good way of getting people's attention and am so sorry that it has caused so much offence.”

A couple of hours after Casey’s appearance on the forums, along came a brand new HUKD member called ‘moppit’, who had this to say:

"I can understand peoples anger over this leaflet as I too got one but I am and have been a customer of Harvey Water Softeners for a number of years and they have always provided a professional and friendly service.
OK a mistake was made and an apology was given, they are only human. I am more than happy with my soft water and would still recommend the company to my family and friends."

Moppit was immediately called out as being an alter ego of Casey Bowden, but no, seemingly not. Casey popped up again later in the day, saying:

“Unfortunately someone who answers the telephones in our office received a complaint via the telephone from an existing customer. She knew what was going on and thought she could help us by posting the complaint on the forum. However, we use a shared company internet connection, so it looked like I had made the post myself.”

Which doesn’t make complete sense to us, but there you go. So in summary, Harvey Water Softeners and in particular Casey Bowden need to be re-educated about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to marketing communications. They also need to stop assuming that people on forums like HotUKDeals are idiots.

We’ve fed this information into Gizmoid, the Bitterwallet robot and he spewed out the following.

“Bitterwallet does not recommend the services of Harvey Water Softeners.”

A more damning indictment you are less likely to see anywhere.

TOPICS:   Advertising


  • The B.
    What Bill Hicks said^^^^ (because he's in heaven obviously). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVZo1Jjfshw
  • Marketing W.
    Trading standards could close this company if they had a mind to. There are specific rules preventing marketing communications which "may spread fear or distress" particularly to vulnerable groups. Got him bang to rights.
  • Alexis
    Blimey. A triple whammy of offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Adminstration of Justice Act 1970 methinks.
  • Brad
    To be fair some HotUkDeals forum users can be massive idiots, some of the things people put make me laugh and worry about the future of the human race at times. But yes to all the rest of the story.
  • Dank
    This happened at least two weeks ago. Slow news day, eh?
  • rick f.
    OOps, just read the comment by "marketing wanker". Certainly an apt user name! Hello, Earth calling. Have you SEEN some of the crap that drops through letterboxes daily? None of it illegal, but most of it annoying and unasked for. "wanker" you obviously have NO legal training or you would not spout such utter rubbish.

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