There can be few who have been involved in designing an email marketing campaign who would not have a certain sympathy with Jawbone, the troubled technology hardware company, which has been the subject of Twitter-based criticism. However, the Subject Line of the email, which cause all the furore, was a risk which must have been apparent to the company.
There seems to be a consensus that, at the very least, it was in poor taste, and for a number of reasons.
The purpose of the campaign was to ride the publicity surrounding Fathers’ Day and in order to do so, they ran with the Subject Line of:
Re: Your Dad
It doesn’t take a lot of empathy to realise that criticism has come from both those who have lost a father, and not only recently, and from those whose fathers are alive. So well done Jawbone, it missed no one.
Twitter campaigns can be troublesome, although most peter out in short time. There always seems to be something new to be upset about after a few days. Those that do run and run are difficult to categorise, but the point with this one is that it was an event-generated email marketing campaign so a week or so will probably damage their returns.
The aphorism that ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ might well be applicable in this case, but I would assume it would be a close run thing. That said, many more people are aware of the company name, especially as it was a feature on the BBC’s website-based news, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36487393 . The number of hits it had has to be enormous, what, in normal circumstances, would have given joy to the campaign designers.
There could be considerable damage. This was permission-based so some of those offended might well tick the unsubscribe box. ‘Intrusive’ and ‘insensitive’ were just two of the criticisms highlighted by commentators, although as all recipients had signed up to the email marketing list, the first seems rather harsh.
A tech firm, in this case one selling smartwatches, which, certain clues predict, will be a gift to this father on Father’s Day, and probably many others, might well favour the close to the knuckle campaigns, with a shock or two. So did it go too far?
My major irritation with the Subject Line, despite being an orphan, is that it started with Re: The intent of the campaign designers in their use of the prefix is a little obscure. If a subscriber opened it expecting it to be a reply to an email of theirs, they would disappointed at the very least. Yet these are subscribers according to most commentators, so they are predisposed to open.
Regardless of that, it is dishonest. It is not playing fair with those for whom trust is probably of vital importance. Some people will feel cheated, even those without concerns for the second two words.
One cannot say whether the intent of the marketing email has been served by having the name of Jawbone emblazoned across Twitter. Whatever, it is a massive risk, and probably one too far.