The other day I was trying to make heads or tails of a new Federal Trade Commission announcement when I heard the familiar sound indicating that a new email had arrived. Nothing out of the ordinary. The email was from a small company I had done business with, and the subject line said, “Your mom called.” It was a bit of a jarring message for me to receive, given that my mom had passed away just six short months ago and was not likely to be calling these days. I expressed my concerns to the company that had sent the email, and not long after, a deeply apologetic email was sent to me and the rest of the email distribution list.
It was – I have to admit – a really well-written apology that hit just the right tone of explaining what happened, with deep regret and a commitment to make sure that such a terrible mistake does not happen again. The original email had been intended to be sent to people who had visited the company’s website recently to view Mother’s Day gift options but was inadvertently sent to the company’s entire email list, including me. And I get it – these things do happen, and kudos to the company for the quick response and for handling it effectively and with the right degree of remorse. And the email, to its further credit, did not come with a marketing message at all. A+ to whoever wrote that email.
I have also been receiving those text messages that ask me whether I wish to be removed from future communications about Mother’s Day offerings. I of course had received those messages in years past and never really thought much about it, but this was the first year I thought, I think I will take them up on that opt-out offer. Hopefully those opt-outs will be respected.
Mother’s Day is of course not the only holiday that can create such challenges for marketers and those who receive their messages. Father’s Day is the easy parallel, but let’s not forget Valentine’s Day, which also has the potential to have some real impact on people who might not want to receive such messages. There have been countless other email campaigns that have gone horribly off the rails, most notably a campaign ten years ago that involved a photo company sending emails to new parents congratulating them on their new bundle of joy. The email was supposed to be sent to a limited number of recipients who had recently purchased birth announcements but was instead sent to a much wider audience, which included people who had not had children or may have had real personal issues related to having children.
Mistakes do happen, but avoiding them as much as possible is preferable. And the fact that certain holiday messages will land quite differently for different people is something worth remembering. Carpenters will say, “Measure twice and cut once”; perhaps email marketers can be mindful of the sentiment behind that adage before hitting send, particularly when it comes to holiday themes of other similar campaigns.
Of course, marketing failures are nothing new. And speaking of which, if you are in New York, you might want to take a look at the new and temporary Museum of Failure in Brooklyn, which focuses on a range of product and marketing failures in history. I haven’t visited it yet, but I’m hoping to get there the next time I’m in my hometown.