Imagine you start receiving a series of emails from a criminal. He asks you for help running from the police. You don't know him, but for some reason he's emailing you, sending you texts, and even calling your phone. A hotel owner also emails you. The hotel owner says that he knows you've been in contact with the criminal, and he wants you to pay for the damages done to his hotel.
Apparently, Toyota thought that would make you run out to buy the Toyota Matrix. In 2009, Toyota launched a targeted email marketing campaign about a fictional outlaw, Sebastian Bowler. During the campaign, "Sebastian" harassed the customers over email, text, and phone calls.
One customer, Amber Duick, believed that a real criminal named Sebastian was stalking her. When she found out it was merely Toyota's marketing campaign, she sued them for undue distress... and the courts ruled in her favor.
We hate email marketers. While not everyone gets harassed by a fictional criminal, we get over 80 emails a day--and email marketers are known for doing ridiculous, irritating, and even disrespectful things to stand out in the crowd.
Here are the 5 most aggravating mistakes email marketers make on a daily basis:
Last year, salad chain Sweetgreen sent an email that said, in all caps: YOU'VE BEEN BAD THIS PAST WEEK. Sweetgreen made a moral judgment about its customers' eating habits, and people took to Twitter to express their anger. They posted photos of the email using the hashtag, "#FatShame."
Marketers think that subject lines like this will get them clicks, and it's true. But Linda Brennan and Wayne Binney's survey shows that these clicks don't mean conversions--in fact, shame-marketing usually backfires.
Their research states that shame makes people feel defensive. Defensive people want to justify their actions, not to change them. For example, if an email mentions how bad bacon is for me, I might think, "It's okay, because I only eat bacon on weekends," and ignore the campaign.
2. False hope
Amazon's July 15th sale, Prime Day, was advertised as "a bigger event than Black Friday." The marketing campaign, which included many emails, even had its own hashtag (#PrimeDay), which went very wrong when the deals were only so-so.
One customer, @cherryyyyybomb, pointed out on Twitter that the Play Station 4 was only marked down ten cents. Another, @ChiefSakeef, wrote, "The best deal I've seen on Prime Day is 15% off a box of Pop Tarts."
Prime Day's "lightning deals" were such a disappointment that Walmart and many other businesses experienced a surge in online sales, with users clicking away to get what they needed elsewhere.
3. Too much familiarity
Nothing is more cringeworthy than when a company tries to act all buddy-buddy without ever having met you. Psychologically, we hate it because it's a form of blatant dishonesty.
When someone is obviously trying to pander to you, it feels like they aren't authentic. In other words, it feels like they're hiding something.
No example of this is better than Hillary Clinton's excessively friendly fundraising emails. "Have dinner with me, Walter?" Even though the product they're selling is a candidate, it's really unnatural.
Glossier, a trendy skincare company, just sent me an email that said, "By EOD, please," in the subject line. Just looking at the subject, I didn't realize the email was from Glossier at first--I thought it was work-related. Then I opened it and saw it was just about a skincare product.
This unwarranted self-importance seems like a frustrating by-product of the "narcissism epidemic"--the data that shows 30% more millennials than Generation X-ers are above average on the Narcissistic Personality Index. It feels ridiculous for Glossier to demand my immediate attention for a skincare product.
5. "To Whom It May Concern"
We spend enough time typing our names, emails, and sometimes even credit card information into companies' "subscribe" box... only to get back a form letter? If a company cares about keeping a customer, they can spend the minimum amount of effort to use their name in marketing emails.
Self-improvement writer Dale Carnegie once said, "Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language." And it's true--it's scientifically proven that people experience "unique brain activity" when they hear their own name. It validates our individuality. Plus, Econsultancy and Adobe report that personalization causes a 14% uptick in sales.
The simple fixes
Connecting with a customer is about personalization, whether that's addressing them by name or understanding the way they feel about certain marketing techniques. There are so many easy-to-use tools that can help marketers better understand their audience.
Clearbit Connect is a useful tool that works inside your Gmail inbox to provide context about the people who email you. It's useful for businesses and individuals to target emails to their specific audience--when someone emails you, Clearbit Connect does the personalization research for you and pulls up their social media accounts, job title, company size, and other workplace information.
Appcues tracks the way customers use their apps, so companies know what to market--whether it's information about new features or assistance with ones they're already using. It also sees the consumer relationship as an ongoing process, and uses customer feedback forms.
ReadabilityScore.com and other websites help marketers keep their sentences clear, so that nothing is lost in translation. ReadabilityScore also has unique features that analyze the balance between clarity and intelligence in the text.
Have a little empathy...
Good marketers remember that there's a person behind every inbox.All of these tools help marketers empathize with their customers and cater to their needs. With these easy fixes, we wouldn't have to be irritated every time we opened our inboxes, and email marketers would actually increase the chances of us buying their product.