Top 4 Biggest Email Marketing Fails

By Jacky Chou
8 Min Read
By Jacky Chou
8 Min Read

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Biggest Email Marketing Fails

Email marketing is a tried-and-true strategy for businesses to connect with their customers. However, even with the best intentions, email marketing can go wrong and result in unopened inboxes and frustrated subscribers if not done correctly. Perhaps a campaign’s message is misunderstood, the tone makes light of a critical social issue, or an honest mistake turns into one of the biggest email marketing fails.

The good thing is that you can learn from other people’s mistakes and build a successful email marketing campaign. In this post, we will look at the biggest email marketing failures and the reasons for failing and provide insights into how to avoid such mistakes.

Read on!

The 4 Biggest Email Marketing Fails

1. Adidas-Boston Marathon Email

On April 18, 2017, Adidas sent an email to 2017 Boston Marathon finishers with the subject line, “Congratulations, you survived the Boston Marathon!” to congratulate them on their achievement. However, this choice of wording was seen as insensitive because of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which resulted in deaths and dozens of injuries.

Adidas-Boston Marathon Email
Image Source: bostonmagazine.com

Many email recipients were upset and took to social media to express their disappointment about the email. Later, Adidas apologized, saying there was “no thought given to the insensitive email subject line” and that they “deeply apologize for our mistake.” The brand also promised to donate 100,000 USD to One Fund Boston to help the victims of the bombing.

The Adidas Boston Marathon email is a good example of how a seemingly harmless marketing message can be misunderstood and lead to outrage.

2. Airbnb: Floating World Email

In August 2017, Airbnb started an email marketing campaign entitled “Floating World,” which promoted different water-themed homes and attractions for travelers to book their trips. The email included terms like “live the aquatic life with these floating homes” and “stay above water.”

Airbnb: Floating World Email
Image Source: chamaileon.io

The email campaign was regrettably timed poorly since Hurricane Harvey was creating devastation in Houston, Texas, at the time. People expressed their disappointment on social media due to this coincidence, which they perceived as insensitive to the hurricane’s victims.

In response to the criticism, Airbnb quickly apologized, admitting that the email was “insensitive and poorly timed.” The company also promised to donate 100,000 USD to the Red Cross to help with the Houston relief operations.

This email campaign serves as a reminder of how important timing is when conducting marketing campaigns.

3. Amazon: Baby Registry Email

In 2017, Amazon received criticism for sending a promotional email to customers who had registered for their baby registry. The email subject line was, “A gift is on the way for baby [recipient’s name],” which caused concern and confusion among some customers since they hadn’t registered for an Amazon baby registry, but the subject line led them to feel that the online retailer had personal information about them.

Amazon: Baby Registry Email
Image Source: lacienciadelcafe.com

Customers who had experienced miscarriages, infertility, or had no plans to have children were most affected by this email campaign. They felt that email was insensitive and a breach of privacy.

Although this was more of a communication failure than a technological one, it shows how critical it is to carefully create email subject lines that are accurate and sensitive to the recipients’ circumstances.

4. LinkedIn’s Overzealous Reminder Emails

LinkedIn was criticized in 2015 for being too aggressive in its attempts to re-engage inactive users. The emails were frequently sent multiple times daily, and they were very persistent. This led to concerns and complaints from users who felt that LinkedIn was becoming overly aggressive.

LinkedIn's Overzealous Reminder Emails
Image Source: pcmag.com

LinkedIn eventually acknowledged the issue and sent apologies for the excessive email reminders. They adjusted their email frequency and made other adjustments to strike a better balance and take a respectful approach to encouraging connections.

The LinkedIn reminder email is a good example of the importance of being mindful of how often you contact your customers. If you send too many emails or are pushy, you can alienate your customers and damage your brand’s reputation.

Reasons Why Email Marketing Fails

1. Incorrect Segmentation

Email segmentation is quite effective in email marketing campaigns; however, demographic segmentation might lead to losing customers. For instance, receiving an email from a brand wishing you well as a new mother when you are not expecting any children in the near future.

Reasons Why Email Marketing Fails
Image Source: benchmarkemail.com

Although this mistake only causes confusion among customers and has no major repercussions, some email segmentation can go wrong, alienating recipients to a significant degree. For example, sending an email about infant registration to a client who has recently lost a child or is having difficulty getting pregnant would be insensitive.

2. Lack of Personalization

Marketing customization usually affects whether customers click and read email messages. When personalization is lacking, recipients are more likely to perceive emails as generic and irrelevant, leading to lower engagement, low subscription rates, and a negative perception of your brand.

3. Lack of Clear Call-To-Action (CTAs)

Lack or inappropriate use of a call to action (CTA) is a common mistake that can affect user satisfaction and the brand campaign’s click-through rate.

For instance, sending an email about a new product launch and including broken links

Potential customers won’t know what action to take next without a clear and compelling CTA.

4. Poorly Targeted Audience

Poorly targeted audiences are a common reason for the failure of email marketing campaigns. When your email campaigns are not reaching the right people, they will likely be marked as spam or ignored. Sending irrelevant content to recipients with no interest in it can result in high unsubscribe rates, low engagement, and a waste of resources.

For instance, a company that sells gardening tools and equipment sends promotional emails to residents who live in urban areas.

5. Inefficient Email Subject Lines

Why Email Marketing Fails
Image Source: frescodata.com

Another reason email marketing fails is inefficient subject lines. The email subject line often appears as the first item in the recipient’s inbox, which is a key factor in determining whether or not they will open the email. If your email subject lines are inefficient, your email may go unnoticed or be perceived as spammy or uninteresting.

6. Frequency and Timing

Frequency and timing are key factors in the success of email marketing campaigns. Sending emails too often or at inappropriate times can result in lower engagement and even unsubscription. Similarly, infrequent communication may make unengaged subscribers lose interest in your brand.

7. Overly Salesy Content

Creating overly salesy content also leads to email campaign failures, and you risk alienating your audience and damaging your brand’s reputation. If your emails constantly push promotions and sales pitches, recipients might see them as overly aggressive or spammy. Providing value beyond promoting products or services can help build trust.

8. Legal Compliance Issues

Email and digital marketing rely heavily on legal compliance. Ignoring email marketing regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the CAN-SPAM Act, can negatively impact your email deliverability, cause legal trouble, and damage your brand’s reputation.

Best Practices to Avoid Email Marketing Fails

Best Practices to Avoid Email Marketing Fails
Image Source: digitalalmighty.com

1. Ensure Proper Segmentation and Personalization.

Segmentation usually involves dividing your email list into segments based on purchase history, behavior, geographic location, demographic information, etc. It allows you to send relevant email content to your target audience.

On the other hand, personalization goes one step further than segmentation by making email content unique for each recipient. It involves sending emails with the recipient’s name.

Ensure your email list is properly segmented and the content is well-personalized to avoid the email marketing failures that other email marketers make.

2. Have a Clear Call-to-Action (CTA).

Have CTAs that are clear and prominent in your email marketing that guide your recipients toward the desired action and help you achieve your campaign goals.

3. Proofread Your Content Before Sending.

It’s wise to give email marketing a second thought and double-check the content before sending the emails. The best way to avoid email marketing failures is to take a responsible and thoughtful approach when creating content. Irrespective of how small your audience is or how seemingly innocuous your new post is, you should always review your work for errors.

4. Avoid Misleading Subject Lines.

We recommend creating honest and accurate subject lines to maintain trust with your subscribers. The subject lines should give the recipients insight into what to expect when they open your email. By being transparent, your audience will actively engage with your emails.

5. Keep Your Emails Short and Concise.

We recommend ensuring your emails are concise and to the point, as subscribers may not have time to read through lengthy emails. They want you to direct them and provide them with information that is straightforward to understand.

Keep Your Emails Short and Concise
Image Source: linkedin.com

If your emails are too long or cluttered with many copies, subscribers will lose interest and exit or even unsubscribe.

6. Use Email Automation.

A well-designed email marketing campaign is crucial to forming solid customer relationships rather than brief, random engagements and avoiding email marketing mistakes. With a clear schedule, plan, strategy, and objective, your email campaigns can be perfected to achieve the desired results. However, though you can do this manually, we recommend using email automation to save time and reach your targeted audience.

Frequently Asked Questions on Email Marketing Failures

1. Why does email marketing fail?

Email marketing can fail for various reasons, such as incorrect segmentation, a lack of personalization, a poorly targeted audience, inefficient email subject lines, frequency, and timing, and a lack of a clear call-to-action, to mention a few. Addressing these potential pitfalls can enhance your email campaigns’ effectiveness and build a solid relationship with your subscribers.

2. Why is email marketing dead?

Is email marketing dead with the rise of social media marketing? The answer is no. In fact, it continues to be widely used and a highly effective marketing channel for businesses of all sizes. While new technologies and communication techniques have emerged, email marketing remains valuable for engaging and reaching audiences.

3. What are the weaknesses of email marketing?

Some of the main weaknesses of email marketing include:

  • Deliverability issues: Emails can go to spam folders, affecting their visibility and reach among subscribers.
  • Unsubscribes and opt-outs: It is common for subscribers to unsubscribe if they are overwhelmed by emails.
  • Overwhelmed inboxes: Subscribers’ inboxes are sometimes flooded with emails, making it hard for your messages to stand out.
  • Email filters: Some users use filters that can prevent some elements of their emails from displaying properly.
  • Mobile responsiveness: If emails aren’t optimized for mobile devices, they can be challenging to read and navigate on smartphones, leading to a poor user experience.
  • Lack of personalization: Generic, one-size-fits-all emails can cause recipients to lose interest. It may make subscribers feel less valued, which will reduce the effectiveness of your campaigns.
  • Limited attention span: People often scroll through emails quickly, so you only have a limited time to grab their attention and successfully convey your message.

4. Why is email marketing annoying?

Email marketing can sometimes be annoying for various reasons, such as receiving too many emails in a short period, receiving emails irrelevant to your interests and preferences, and when the emails don’t provide valuable information, to mention a few. However, it is important to note that not all email marketing is annoying.

5. Does email marketing have a future?

Email marketing remains to be a powerful and effective tool for promoting businesses. Email marketers have seen increased email engagement over the last twelve months. Email marketing campaign revenue is expected to reach about $11 billion by the end of 2023. 99 percent of email users usually check their inbox daily; some check it 20 times a day on average. It’s worth noting that technology advancements and marketing trends can affect the future of email marketing.

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