Ask An Expert: Dumbest. Moves. Ever.

This week’s Ask-an-Expert question is: What is the dumbest thing you’ve ever seen a client/email marketer do?

I sent the question out via my Twitter feed and received three responses. I find it extremely hard to believe that out of more than 650 people, only three have witnessed acts of extreme email marketing idiocy. That said, the three that did come through are pretty stupid:

Chris Broshears, director of product development, Delivra:

A while ago, a call came into the office from a person looking for a list of 500 million email addresses. The salesperson promptly responded by explaining we do not provide those services. However, the salesperson was curious as to why it was that particular number ,so he asked.

The caller went on to explain that he had heard that less than one-tenth of the world’s population had an email address. So he figured if he could find 500 million addresses that would cover just about everybody with an email inbox.

We get a number of calls from people looking to buy lists and we try to instruct the importance of reaching people who are genuinely interested in engaging with your company and not just sending the “blast” email.


In my role as a deliverability consultant, big brands regularly ask me to “reach out” to ISPs to “prevent blocking” that they know is coming due to reputational issues. Somebody is hitting spamtraps, and we have long, detailed discussions on how we might fix that, but instead, the client is fixated on having me call “the hotline” and telling the ISPs to “ignore spamtrap hits,” instead of actually fixing the problem, which is that they’re mailing to old email addresses of unknown provenance.

Andrew Penchuk, director of account management, iContact Corp.

The single dumbest act that my team and I have seen was a customer that named his list “Retarded Customers.” The name was visible to his subscribers when they managed their subscription. That made some jaws drop around here.

Editor’s note: The dumbest—and most obnoxious—commercial email shenanigan I’ve ever received was a pitch in 2008 for delivery of Bing energy drinks to Denver, CO-area offices. My office was in New York City at the time. And if that wasn’t bad enough, clicking on the unsubscribe button spawned a talking pop-up window.

“Hey, this is Jeremy from the Dom and Jane morning show and I want to tell you about a product I’ve been using for a little while,” said my computer out of the blue in what was normally a very quiet office cubical. “It’s called Bing. It’s a brand-new energy drink that’s out there, and it’s made from black bing cherries, hence the name.”

A talking friggin’ pop-up. After hitting the unsubscribe. Can you say “marketing idiocy?”

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