Email Marketing Campaign Blunders

in eCommerce Email Marketing

3 Email Marketing Campaign Blunders That Will Give You Nightmares

As an email-marketing manager you often have more power than the CEO. You are well aware, with great power comes great responsibility.

Controlling relationships with hundreds of thousands of customers. At the push of a button you can generate a multitude of web visitors. But a single mistake can cost the company millions of dollars in revenue, or even your job.

That’s a ton of pressure. At larger organizations rules are put in play so the blame typically can’t fall onto one person but an entire team will be responsible for a well executed campaign or one that goes horribly wrong.

Campaigns gone array aren’t just bad for your brand they often have legal consequences.

Sometimes these mistakes still slip through the cracks. If you are an email geek like myself these 3 email campaigns gone horribly wrong will give you nightmares.

1. Shutterfly emails subscribers congratulating them on their newborn child.

The problem was that majority of subscribers did not just have a child. Well in addition to making some women very upset it did generate a few funny tweets.

ecommerce shutterfly email

Image Source: Huffington Post

ecommerce shutterfly email

Image Source: Huffington Post

Shutterfly told The Huffington Post. “We deeply apologize for this intrusion and any offense this may have caused. Our intention was to email customers who have recently purchased birth announcements with us, and it was sent to a larger distribution in error.”

The only thing you can do when you mess up is admit your wrong and do it quickly. I am sure they will be a lot more careful with all email campaigns moving forward.

2. The New York Times emails 8 million people instead of the 300 intended, telling them their subscription was canceled.

Customers who were never subscribers received the email, along with customers who were current subscribers. Obviously this caused a ton of confusion.
New York Times Email Spam

Digging into the DKIM records the New York Times database was managed by Epsilon Data Management whose servers were breached affecting a number of eCommerce companies and banks a few months prior to this incident, so naturally people jumped the gun to blame them until a spokesperson from The Times confirmed it was an employee.

New York Times Email Spam

3. Saatchi & Saatchi an international AD Agency working with Toyota sets up auto responders intended to make the subscriber think that they were being stalked by a maniac.

Give them some credit, coming up with constant award winning campaigns is a tedious job. Going a bit over the creative edge their “Punkd” strategy did not work so well.

One of the subscribers Amber Duick sued both Toyota and the Saatchi ad company. She slept with a machete and mace next to her bed, not being able to work or sleep normally for over a week.

sebastian bowler

Sebastian Bowler the fictitious character known to be a drunk, crazy stalker. Image Source: Ad Week

The overly creative ad company Saatchi & Saatchi created the fictitious character, Sebastian Bowler who appeared to have a ton of information about Amber Duick and was on the way to her house. He even had a Myspace page with his shenanigans.

After a week of terror emails Amber Duick receives the final email says she’s been punk’d. Though there was nothing fictitious about the $10 million lawsuit.

toyota punk'd emails


Hopefully these examples don’t give you the sweats and nightmares like it did for me. Use their blunders as examples and avoid making the same mistakes.

  1. Set up routine segmentation checks prior to an email campaign to ensure the recipients are the intended demographic.
  2. Never give 1 person complete control of over 8 million emails, these should be sent in intervals so mistakes can get caught early. Also it helps with deliverability.
  3. Don’t try too hard.

Have any interesting email stories to share? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

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Luiz Centenaro is the Founder & President of eCommerce Cosmos, an eTail consulting firm that has worked with hundreds of eCommerce companies to mitigate shopping cart abandonment and increase customer lifetime value.



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