We’ve all witnessed some pretty bad social media marketing fails. From a lack of fact-checking to cringeworthy spelling mistakes, there’s no shortage of social media mishaps by brands that are key examples of what not to do.

“Always do what’s best for your readers and your subscribers, and delight them with every email.”- BuzzFeed email policy

However, it’s not only on social media where things can go wrong. When it comes to email marketing campaigns, messages can fall flat and dilute your campaign’s effectiveness. So before you hit “send” on your next email newsletter, check out some of these email marketing fails so you can avoid frustrating your customers and any unpleasant backlash.

1. Not Mobile-Friendly

45% of emails are opened on a mobile device. When putting together your email newsletter or deciding which email marketing platform to use, it’s crucial to have a mobile preview of your content. Consider how your images will look on a smaller screen, if the amount of text is easy to read, or if your subscribers will have to zoom in to see your message.

Another factor to keep in mind is the size of the media attached to your emails. Emails should always be less than 102 KB, or they will be clipped by service providers such as Yahoo and Google. In this example, we can see the message was truncated, and therefore, valuable information or a call to action was not revealed.

2. No Call to Action

So your team has designed some beautiful images and a catchy headline for your email newsletter, but in your message, did you actually ask your readers to do something? Without clearly pointing your readers to the next step or including an easy-to-find call to action, they may simply absorb your message and move on with their day.  Instead, make sure you are directing your message towards a single action you’d like your audience to take.

Here’s a great example from Macy’s that shows us what not to do. Based on the subject line, this email is supposed to be advertising Father’s Day gift ideas, but it instead confuses readers with additional calls to actions and links to promotions for women’s products, handbags, etc. Having too many calls to action in your email may end up confusing or overwhelming your customers.


On the other hand, too little information about the purpose of your message can be just as damaging to your click-through rates.

It’s important that your audience understands the benefit they are receiving by interacting with your brand. In this example, Tripadvisor’s automated emails are supposed to be promoting its users to submit reviews of destinations they have recently visited. The problem with this email is that there is no reminder of why the Trip Collective program is important, or what the benefit of reviewing places is for the user. A user might wonder, “What happens if I get a new badge?” or “What does it mean to move to the “next level?”


Make sure your emails show or remind your audience why completing a particular call to action is important — or what their reward is if they do.

3. Spamming Inboxes

Your email marketing efforts should be useful and provide your customers with unique benefits they can’t get from your other marketing efforts. Therefore, it’s important to create an email marketing schedule and explain at the point of sign up what users can expect to receive from your brand, and how often. This is a good way to manage expectations and know for sure that your subscribers are interested in what you have to say.

Additionally, you don’t want to clutter your subscribers’ inboxes. Take the time to segment your list to ensure you’re getting your message to your customers at the right point in the buying cycle. You can want to make sure you have complete contact information. This will make your email marketing feel more personalized, useful, and will help reduce unsubscribes.


4. Bad Timing

Just as newsjacking can go horribly wrong on social media if the message isn’t well-researched or thought out, newsjacking in your email marketing, or sending out scheduled emails at the wrong time, can also be damaging to your brand. Take extra steps to stay on top of current events and ensure your emails won’t be interpreted in the wrong way. Unlike social media, you are delivering a message directly to someone’s inbox, so being mindful of how the different demographics you’re targeting may evaluate your emails.


American Apparel was blasted for sending out this email newsletter during Hurricane Sandy and for forgetting that death and loss make a poor springboard for promotional messaging.

There are so many reasons why brands have turned to email to boost their marketing efforts. Here are just a few:

  • 91% of consumers check their email at least once a day.
  • Email is the most popular activity on smartphones among users ages 18-44.
  • 64% of decision-makers read their email via mobile devices.
  • 66% of US online consumers, ages 15 and up made a purchase as a result of email marketing messages.
  • Over 70% of mobile purchasing decisions are influenced by promotional emails.
  • Nearly one-third of email recipients open email based on subject line alone.


So if your brand is running an email marketing campaign, always be testing and monitoring the responses from your subscribers. Testing new copy, new subject lines, and segmenting your messaging are crucial for figuring out what works best and how you can continuously improve your efforts. Another great way to avoid email marketing mistakes is to create a simple approval process for your content using GAIN.

GAIN will automatically notify each team member, client, or stakeholder when it’s their turn to review your email newsletter so you can be sure your message is well-suited and well-timed for your audience.