Email Sensitivity Training: Avoid Hurting Consumers' Feelings In Messages

Have a heart, folks: A British MP who lost his mother when he was 27 is offended by Mother’s Day promotional emails. 

Conservative Matt Warman said these emails act as a "trigger" for grief and "a reminder of what you have lost." And he is calling for the right to opt out of such messages, according to the BBC.

Somebody should inform the MP that British citizens already have that right. The UK’s Data Commissioner’s Office rigorously pursues firms that send emails without consent. 

EU citizens have that right under GDPR, as do U.S. citizens under CAN-SPAM.

But it raises the question: Are marketers responsible for shielding consumers from messaging that might hurt their feelings? In fairness, this is a rough period in general for someone who is suffering from grief. It is impossible to escape Mother’s Day ads and hoopla.  

Similarly, people who are sad or lonely at Christmas cannot avoid the barrage of commercial messages and piped-in music in stores. 



Email, of course, is a more personal medium. A woman recently wrote about how harmful promotional messages can be to a person who has suffered a miscarriage.

That’s a tough one. An email marketer who has been sending baby messages to an expectant mom, who may even have purchased, cannot be expected to know of this tragedy in real-time, although it clearly has the obligation to cease upon learning about it.

That said, it must be a sloppy emailer who sends messages to someone who obviously hasn’t made a Mother’s Day purchase in years. This sounds like a batch-and-blast prospecting email.

This has nothing to do with sensitivity — it’s about algorithms.

Warman praised an online florist that allows customers to opt out of Mother’s Day marketing. "If other companies were to follow suit, then the dread, and I do mean the dread, around this day might be mitigated for many people," he said. 

He also called for self-regulation by marketers. "It could be a part of something that an organization like the Advertising Standards Authority could make part of a voluntary code around data.”

This is unnecessary. As stated, the UK has tough rules regarding the ability to opt out. And the GDPR vouchsafes to consumers the right to be forgotten entirely.

Maybe you can’t turn off the sound of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas when you’re in Walgreens. But you can opt out of emails that you don’t want to receive.

Meanwhile, another MP, who does not appear to be bereaved, jumped in to demand tighter standards.

That comment may be just another cheap shot against email.


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