E-fails: When email marketing goes bad

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Cast your mind back just a few weeks and you’ll remember our post that discussed the benefits of the humble email. When properly carried out, an effective email marketing campaign can remind customers of your brand’s existence, tempting them to buy your products.

However, it’s not always that simple. What can be a good idea in the boardroom doesn’t always translate well when put into practice. The following brands know this feeling all too well…

JD Sports

On the morning of November 21st 2014, those on JD Sports’ distribution list received an email with the subject ‘Thanks for your order, [name]’. For customers who hadn’t recently ordered from the brand, panic quickly ensued.

JD Sports email marketing fail

Upon opening the email, users were greeted with a message reading “Thank you for your recent order” and numerous graphics showing the brand’s latest offers. With many confused about why they had received this email, comments and tweets flooded the JD Sports social media pages.

Reactions ranged from the perplexed to the downright outraged, with some even demanding monetary compensation for the confusion. The general opinion was that JD Sports had used an order confirmation ruse to scaremonger people into opening the email, so they could push their offers onto them.

Responding to the claims, JD Sports edited the original email to feature the following message:

You have received this email about an order you haven’t placed, don’t worry, this was sent in error. Please ignore it. If you wish to make an order we’re offering free delivery on all orders until 5pm tonight. Please use the code ‘FREE’ at the checkout. You can also get an extra 10% off clearance.

While the brand insists the email was sent as a result of human error, customers still remain dubious over their intentions. Occurring just before Black Friday, a key selling period, this email fail could have lost JD Sports both customers and those all-important sales.


If you thought JD Sports’ blooper was bad, spare a thought for poor old Currys. They tantalised subscribers with promises of must-have Black Friday deals in an email campaign, encouraging them to click through and place an order.

But instead of being taken to an emporium of too-good-to-be-true discounts, users were placed in a queue, which showed them their expected wait time. For many, this was “more than an hour”.

Currys Black Friday queue

It’s no secret that speed is of the essence in the digital world: make users wait for your site and they’ll leave faster than they arrived. Currys provided temptation but couldn’t deliver, causing many lost sales as users ditched the queue and headed straight to a brand that could.


Planning ahead is always advised for email campaigns but luxury furniture store Made.com took this to new heights earlier in the year.

On September 19th — the day when Scotland said no to independence — Made.com sent this rather embarrassing email to their customers:

Made Scottish independence email marketing

Featuring a discount code, the email celebrated Scotland breaking ties with the United Kingdom. As you can imagine, this fail generated quite a buzz on social media, with many of the brand’s customers seeing the funny side of the error.

Made.com quickly sent out the following retraction:

Made Scottish independence email apology

This marketing gaff was definitely embarrassing for Made.com, but did it completely fail? The light-hearted mistake gained much coverage in the media and was a talking point for many — is all publicity good publicity after all?


As a special treat, Matalan send birthday emails to their loyal customers containing a £5 discount voucher — a nice touch by anyone’s standards. However, what happens when this goes wrong? The below email was mistakenly sent to a man named Mark when it wasn’t his birthday — oops!

Matalan birthday email error

Alongside birthday bloopers, Matalan has also been known to get its timings mixed up. As you can see, the below email was sent to one customer at 9.08pm, but featured an offer that expired hours before.

Matalan late discount email marketing

The brand has also been known to send incorrect discount codes, issuing apologetic, corrective emails once the error is realised.

Now you’ve seen what to avoid, here’s what you should do with every email marketing campaign:

  • Check, check and double-check: Before you hit send on your email, make sure the copy is clear, links are working and discount codes are correct. Errors will make you look unprofessional.
  • Time it right: Always send your emails in good time, especially if you’re promoting a limited-time offer.
  • Have a backup plan: In case anything does go wrong, make sure you’ve got a decent unsubscribe strategy as backup. If you’ve caused inconvenience, apologise to those affected.

Have you witnessed any email marketing bloopers? Let us know in the comments below!


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