The jack of all trades is a master of none
The Real Cost Email Marketing

The Worst Email Campaign Ever

As a marketer, I realize how hard it is to get IT and IS to support your efforts and how customer information is likely to be a tangled mess of legacy systems and data silos.

Heads up!  Customers don’t care!

Internecine struggles over turf and a firm’s innate inability to know about its own business and customer base is no excuse to cause alienation.

Mercedes Benz USA should win the award for producing the worst email campaign ever.  It wasn’t just that the design was poorly done and the artwork came through horribly pixilated on IE 8 in Outlook.  It wasn’t that most of the content was not relevant to the model of car our family has in the garage and it wasn’t even that disclaimers outweighed content by two to one.

What makes this tragic marketing effort the worst email ever sent is that there was no call to action.  Despite the horrid construction of the offer, the pitch was still compelling.  But alas, there were no links, no phone numbers, and no way to make a purchase.  There was not even a note to contact your local dealer.

But wait, there’s more.  When you go to the company’s website ( there is no search bar and the product line being offered in the email does not appear in the site map or anywhere else on the web that I could find after extensive effort to do so.  My local dealer, when called about the offer, had no idea what it was!

Lessons learned:

  1. The first step in any marketing plan is to have good data before you do anything else. This is especially true if you have detailed records like a car company or bank. Your customers don’t care about data silos, turf wars, and legal tangles like HIPPA. They pay you and they expect you to know who they are. Period. There is no excuse to not know your customer. Big firms are the worst at this. It is paramount for marketers not to send content to customers that is not relevant – it just confirms the notion that you don’t care. Never offer your customers accessories for a car they don’t own or an invitation to apply for a credit card that they already have. The best course of action is to kill the campaign if you can’t get the data.
  2. Assure that your offer always has a clear call to action. Make sure that the ways to purchase the product or service offered are very clear. There is nothing more frustrating than it not being able to find out how to take the next step.
  3. Always include a customer service number or email for support – if you can not support your offer, why are you putting it out there? Companies routinely squander good will by providing bad customer experiences. Every customer touch is equally important and should be treated as such.
  4. Be certain your fulfillment channel knows that you are making an offer and what the offer is – before you hit send. There is no excuse not to coordinate efforts no matter how big the firm. Send less if necessary, but send right.

These sound like common sense things to do, but consumer firms as diverse as Mercedes Benz, Bank of America, and Sprint routinely send out marketing communications that have no relevance to the recipient or even worse, contain offers which the recipient doesn’t even qualify for. 

Your customers will remember the insults when it comes time to renew the relationship.


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