By Megan Hamby, Editorial Director

In 2017, Adidas sent an email to Boston Marathon finishers, with the subject line, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”  
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Oh no.” Just four years after the Boston Marathon bombing killed three people and injured 280, the sportswear giant sent this tone-deaf and insensitive email. 

Even though the company issued a public apology on its social media accounts a few hours later, this blunder has become an object lesson to marketers, as one of the worst high-profile email mistakes we’ve ever seen.  

As a marketer, you might be thinking, “Our company would never send something as egregious as that.” But without the right checks and balances in place, even the most seasoned marketers can press send on an email that could be read as insensitive or offensive. 
So how can you avoid putting your foot in your mouth in your email marketing campaigns? 

  1. Ask for feedback. No email campaign should be delivered to clients or customers without getting feedback from an internal team of approvers. Every company is different, but determine who needs to sign off on the design, content, product information, legal requirements, etc. Ask at least two or three people, preferably with diverse backgrounds and perspectives, to read and reread the content to ensure it isn’t tone-deaf or insensitive. 

  2. Know your audience. The more you know about your audience, the more you’re able to segment your communication to them, making your email campaigns more targeted and effective. Using a combination of explicit data (information that is purposefully shared between the customer and company) and implicit data (information gathered from user behavior) can help you better segment your audience into specific groups for communications. 

  3. Always double-check your list. Adidas isn’t the only company that has made an email marketing mistake. In May 2014, photo-printing website Shutterfly apologized after sending a mass email to users congratulating them on the arrival of their baby. The intention was to target customers who had recently purchased birth announcements, but it was sent to a larger group in error. While some recipients were amused, others were genuinely upset—specifically individuals suffering from infertility or child loss. Email lists are handy tools to send targeted communications—but make sure you’re sending to the right list before hastily clicking “send.”
Image: Getty Images


About Hammock Healthcare Idea Email |
This post is part of Hammock’s award-winning Idea Email series. Idea Emails are sent every other week and share one insightful marketing idea. Idea Email comes in two flavors: Original and Healthcare. To subscribe to the original Idea Email (general marketing ideas), click here. To subscribe to the Healthcare Idea Email (healthcare marketing ideas), click here.