Fake 'Oops' Emails: Stop It Already
While sending correction or "oops" emails is often the right approach to fix a mistake, some marketers are turning these emails into a cheap tactic to entice recipients into opening their email.
It's understood among email marketers that correction emails generally have higher open rates than regular emails. Recipients act because they're either curious or genuinely interested in determining whether the sender's mistake affects them.
But using "oops" or similar terms just to get a higher open rate is simply deception. The practice is no better than the trickery of those direct marketers who print "Official Business" on their envelopes.
Humans aren't particularly good at long-term thinking, but I ask that you put aside any modest or short-term gains derived by this less than best practice and look at the bigger picture.
I once heard Mike Krukow, the San Francisco Giants broadcaster and former Major League player, repeat a tired old sports maxim on a pre-game radio show: "If you aren't cheating, then you aren't trying."
I cringed at that moment, as I thought about all of the young kids who were just told that cheating is not only OK, but a mandate.
Maybe I'm naive. The steroid era was the pinnacle of cheating in baseball. Sure, steroids led to the most exciting home run chase in the history of the sport, but history is also not being kind to the bodies and reputations of those players who chose to jab syringes regularly into their butts.
Do we want email to be the Willie Mays or the Barry Bonds of marketing?
I take my role seriously as a steward of this industry. So should you, no matter what your day-to-day role is.
Below are a few reasons why using cheating tactics to get people to open emails, like using "oops" in a subject line when there is no mistake, is simply wrong:
Email is rarely just about opens. If you have to trick your subscribers into opening your emails, then you have bigger problems with your email program. Besides clicks and conversions, emails are important branding vehicles. How does lying to your recipients help build your brand and instill trust?
It might be illegal. Deceptive "oops" subject lines might actually be illegal under the US CAN-SPAM Act. According to the DMA's Primary Purpose Fact Sheet: Thus, the Commission's Rule would treat as deceptive, under Section 5, a deceptive subject line used as a means to get the attention of the recipient or encourage the recipient of the message to open it even though the content in the body of the message is truthful. (p. 22)
A fake "oops" today... If a marketing team finds it OK to use trickery in subject lines, what other types of questionable tactics will it deem acceptable in the name of higher open rates or bigger lists?
Effectiveness will soon fade. In baseball, the initial waves of steroid cheaters had an advantage over their clean brethren. But when pitchers caught up with the hitters, the steroid advantage diminished. In email marketing, subject line cheating will go the same route. As more marketers resort to this lame approach, and consumers get wise and start ignoring these emails (as well as genuine apology emails), the benefit will diminish or disappear.
What happens when you make that real mistake? Believe me, you will. When the day comes that your company has some email-related screw-up, and your boss or even CEO gets involved in the correction/apology process, how will you explain to him or her why such a small percentage of your subscriber base opened such an important email?
I'd especially like to hear from those readers who proudly deploy these trickery methods. Why do you do it? What are the results? Why will you continue an approach that will ultimately bring shame on the industry?
Otherwise, I'd love to hear from folks whether I am making a mountain out of a molehill -- or my sentiments are right on target.
Until next time, take it up - -not down -- a notch.