Epic Email Marketing Fail

17 Rebecca D'Cunha

Yesterday I was the recipient of an interesting piece of email marketing – the agency involved shall remain nameless (I’m not *that* mean… well, some days I am, but I’m being nice today!) – the email they sent is below:


We spoke last year regarding data acquisition for your marketing campaigns and I have you listed for further contact during the 2nd Quarter this year.  As you may be aware, <company name removed> has a great reputation for supplying the freshest most responsive  data and are used by approximately 1 in 4 UK agencies and numerous leading brands.  Our reputation has been founded on being ethical, professional, knowledgeable, helpful and pretty good at direct marketing!

<company name removed> are owners of business databases consisting of over 1.4 million business contacts and nearly 500,000 email addresses. With up-to-date records and our targeting consultancy, we will help you reach the  important contacts and make your campaign a success.  In conjunction with the launch of our new telephone-verified business file we are offering the following Spring promotions:

<Promotion details removed>

We can select the data according to industry, turnover, employee numbers, site type and many more selections.

We are also specialists in the consumer data arena and have access to the freshest, most accurate consumer data a file consisting of over 20 million records with approximately 2000 selections available. In addition,  <company name removed> offers the best available international business and consumer data. We pride ourselves on the professionalism of our solutions and always strive for service excellence.  We are ISO 9001 & 14001 accredited and members of the DMA and I believe we are well placed to assist you.

For further details or a free bespoke count, quote & analysis  please do not hesitate to contact me with your full criteria, we are here to help your business grow!

Kind regards

<Name Removed>

Business Development Executive
<company name removed>
<contact details removed>



Nothing particularly untoward, huh? Perhaps it’s a little bit boring?

Well, what you can’t see is that rather than using BCC to copy everyone in; the Business Development Exec had added us all in on the TO – line.

So we could all see each other’s details.

He also managed to forward us all the correspondence prior to the final version of the email; which included some debate over whether the subject line sounded spammy and various versions of the email which seemingly had bounced around various people in the company. The boy was having a nightmare.

Cue righteous indignation from one recipient (no it wasn’t me):

Hmmmm, let me think – do I really want to do business with you?

Reasons for the answer NO:

  • First rule of email marketing – do not disclose the recipients address!
    You have copied in everyone’s email address in to the TO: section rather than BCC us all in therefore disclosing client details to third parties, any of us can now use this list for our own marketing! Think there is also some kind of data protection issue there too.
  • You have forwarded the email and forgotten to remove any previous content so, as much as it is lovely to read what your colleagues think about the email and to know that <name removed> is trying to push this out the door for  you, am not interested!
  • By copying everyone in, I can now respond to all and let them also know what an EPIC FAIL this was!

Please DO NOT send me any more correspondence about your company.

A few others chimed in a similar vein.

Bad times…

Later on in the afternoon we all received this:

An apology.

Earlier today one of our members of staff decided to take it upon their selves to broadcast an email campaign via Outlook.  This individual did so without any authorisation and with no practical knowledge of email marketing. This has resulted in confidential conversations and contacts being made available to the 86 recipients.  I understand this was felt to be the quickest and easiest method to contact a former employee’s contacts.

This is not a reflection of our standards or practices, merely that of an over keen sales executive. This individual will now face disciplinary action.

As per our email footer terms, we kindly ask you to delete the email as it contains confidential information.

All recipients will now be removed from our database.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me directly.

Your sincerely,

<Name removed>


Now, this was interesting.

From time to time these mistakes do happen, but it’s how you deal with it that counts (in my book at least). So, they get a thumbs up for sending out the apology, although for my money it should have gone out earlier – there was quite some lag between the original email being sent out; and this apology.

But the contents of the apology don’t quite stack up.

Remember we’d seen all the original correspondence – which would seem to indicate that several people in the company knew about the email. Which would infer at the very least that some sort of authorisation was given.


I’m also slightly worried about an ‘over keen’ sales exec selling email marketing solutions – when said individual has (and I quote) ‘no practical knowledge of email marketing’. It doesn’t say anything good about the company, does it?

I think in this instance, that the apology email has probably done more damage than the original mistake. Seemingly it highlights far larger flaws in terms of the processes and policies of this company. The lesson? Well, in the event that you have an epic email fail like the one above; give a little thought to your apology. Make sure you’re not making a bad situation worse.

Oh, and honesty really is the best policy 😉