Haunting tales of scary email marketing mishaps

ed note: Please welcome guest poster: Sherry Chiger of Email Essentials!

Haunting Tales of Scary Email Marketing Mishaps

“Make pregnancy & labor easier with Pilates! Here’s how…” So read the subject line of an email from Gaiam Life, which sells healthy-lifestyle products. Given that I’m about as likely to be pregnant as I am to compete in the 2012 Olympics, it was scary just how off-target this email was.

Seeing as Halloween is a celebration of all things scary, this is as good a time as any to take a look at a few frightening marketing-email errors and celebrate, if not the errors themselves, the fact that we weren’t responsible for any of them.

Phantom Images
We know that a significant portion of email clients block images by default. We also know that there are some simple ways to compensate for image blocking—including descriptive alt tags beneath the images, using nonimage copy for display type, opting for colored backgrounds where the images should appear as a clue to the recipient that pictures are indeed not rendering, and at the very least, including a note in the preheader with a link to the online, fully rendered version of the email. Yet I still receive emails that are 100% image and therefore do not render in my office’s version of Outlook and don’t even feature a link to the Web version. (I’m talking to you, Calico Corners). Perhaps the spookiest was from Promo World Express, in which the image boxes didn’t even include the tiny red or blue dingbat in the center that typically indicates a blocked image. All that appeared were the outlines of two large rectangles, an inbox version of the chalk outlines that police draw around a dead body. Shudder…

Zombie Stalkers
Too much is never enough… until it is. When I opted in to receive emails from Spiegel, I figured the fashion cataloger would send one or two a week. I did not count on three and sometimes even four a day. On Sept. 27, for instance, I received emails from Spiegel with the following subject lines:

1) 20% OFF Two-Way Stretch + DOUBLE POINTS!

2) INSTANT ROOM MAKEOVER! Exclusive New Collections From Croscill!

3) EXTRA 20% OFF Our Biggest Fashion Issue Yet!

4) DON’T FORGET! Extra 20% OFF Our NEW Fall Fashion Magazine!

Combine the frequency with the continual SHOUTING in the form of CAPITAL LETTERS and the near-psychotic! use! of! exc!amation! marks!, and I felt that Spiegel was becoming a bit obsessive about our relationship.

Thankfully, after six months of my ignoring almost every missive from the retailer, Spiegel seems to have dropped me from its list. This story didn’t have to come to such a gloomy conclusion, however. For starters, Spiegel should have let me know from the get-go how frequently it planned to email me and/or given me some options as to the frequency. And after several months of being ignored by me, rather than dropping me from its mailings altogether, it could have sent an email asking why I wasn’t clicking through and, again, offered me alternatives as to frequency and type of content.

Let me in!
Serena & Lily, the direct seller of upscale home decor, sent an email promoting a giveaway: Click the link to its Facebook page, tag one of photos of a shortlist of favorite items, and be eligible to win said item. Except it wasn’t clear how to tag items, and apparently Facebook doesn’t allow more than 50 tags per photo anyway. Judging by the comments on the Serena & Lily Facebook wall, I wasn’t the only recipient of that email who felt like the ghost of Cathy in the beginning of Wuthering Heights, banging my fists against the windowpane and shouting in vain to be let in to the house. Other variations on the theme include emails in which the main image is of a model wearing a particularly fabulous sweater or pair of earrings, but when you click the link, you’re taken to the product category page—or worse, the home page—and you have to wander about the site until you finally stumble upon the item shown in the email. Unless, of course, you give up the ghost altogether and log off.
Takeaway: Maybe these aren’t truly scary mistakes. But when you consider how easily they could be avoided, and how much they could depress response, you may reconsider just how frightening they are.

About the Author
Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger is editor of Email Essentials, a weekly enewsletter from Chief Marketer magazine, and editor at large for Chief Marketer and Multichannel Merchant.

ed note: Watch for more scary stuff  here on Friday when a creative (if you can call it that) collective of email marketing pros take on one of the all time great Halloween poems and kill it.

Meet the author:

Jeff Ginsberg

Jeff Ginsberg

20+ year email marketing veteran who wants to help NewBees BEEcome eMail Marketing Ninjas. Want to contribute to our blog? We are always looking for eMail Marketing Ninjas to come share their knowledge and help NewBees create and send better eMail messages.

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