Email automated content fails

Automated emails are a marketer’s dream. I remember in the not so distant past being blown away by the concept of pre-scheduling a send, and then being blown away even more by the even better concept of having daily automated sends. Now, there are even more ways to automate emails so they pretty much write themselves.

Awesome, right? Or not.

Over the weekend, I went to BookCon in NYC. It was a day attached to the end of BEA (a large publishing industry convention) where book lovers could see panels, meet authors, and get a lot of free books. The organizers of the event had an app that participants could download to see schedules, updates, and most interestingly, a newsfeed with comments and photos from other BookCon attendees. It was a cool way for attendees to find people with similar interests, and I’m sure on the marketing side, it was a great way to get real-time feedback about the event and data about the attendees. (Hmm, the 17-22 year old group seemed overwhelmingly interested in all things John Green. Go figure.)

BookCon also sent a few automated emails throughout the day. At other conventions/conferences I’ve been to, that’s a pretty routine thing. Usually there are updates about events and speakers, or perhaps links to recordings from presentations. BookCon decided to pull user-generated content from the app. These are the two emails I received during the day, while I was still at the event. I heard there were about 30,000 attendees. Granted, they probably didn’t all opt in to email, and they probably didn’t all download the app. But of all the comments people were leaving about how cool it was to meet their favorite authors, this is what BookCon sent out to attendees.

1. Subject line: Today at BookCon
Sent at 1:17 PM


2. Subject line: Today at Bookcon
Sent at 6:10 PM



(For the record, Evie R. and June H. were pretty accurate. I left with a pile of free books; several of which were autographed. I had a great time, but I also chose not to wait in crazy lines for the really good panels. It got pretty nuts.)

The lesson: If you’re going to send emails with user-generated content, um, read it first.

The next automated email I recently received was from the social media platform everyone loves to hate and hates to love: Google Plus. Poor Google Plus. They tried, but they never really caught on. Maybe it’s because they send me emails like this. (This email went to my old Gmail account under my maiden name):



(Sorry for the hacky photoshop job. Just wanted to illustrate that they put me in there twice).

Granted, I think I have Google plus accounts through several email addresses, including my work one. So I could see how they might have pulled it in twice. But this isn’t the first email like this I’ve ever received. I don’t even use Google Plus, and this isn’t going to make me start.

The lesson:  Find ways to de-dupe people’s accounts so they don’t get ridiculous emails like this.

Then today, I got this email from the Barack Obama campaign. I think. Well, it was from the Democratic Party, but the from name said “Barack Obama.” I’m sure we all read the article a while back about all the amazing A/B testing the Obama email team did during the elections. (If you didn’t, go read it. It’s more interesting than this post.) They’re pretty impressive with their  subject lines. And today was no exception.

From Name: Barack Obama
Subject line: I need you in [neighborhood I live in. Small part of an outer borough of NYC]

obama email

Now, it’s not even necessarily a bad email. And $3 really isn’t a lot to ask. It’s the “P.S.” that gets me. They already know I live in New York. A flight and hotel in New York City is not really an incentive for me (I live closer to an NYC airport than Manhattan…). Surely they could have pulled in different content for subscribers who lived in New York (I don’t know, maybe a trip to Washington DC or something?).

The lesson: If you’re offering a free trip, make sure it’s relevant to the people you’re offering it to.


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