Email marketing bloopers and how to recover from them

Mistakes creep in, it’s part of being human. Therefore at some point in your email marketing journey you might send out an email campaign that has an error in it. Whether it be a tiny typo on the fly or a huge blunder that can impact your brand, knowing what to do when these bloopers happen will help you calmly weather the storm.

We’ll look at common mistakes that occur, some real world email marketing bloopers from brands across the world and what you should do when you’ve made a mistake.

Common mistakes that occur


Typos are the most common errors that creep into an email campaign. Often when you look at a campaign for a long time you start getting typo blindness. Typo blindness is where your brain automatically fills in the gaps where errors are. When a reader who is unfamiliar with the copy sees the text, their brains don’t know where to automatically fill the gaps. One of the ways in which you can overcome typo blindness is to change up the formatting of your text so that you can trick your brain into seeing the text as something new.

Alternatively, you should also always have a proofreader look at your copy before you send out your campaign. If you don’t have access to a proofreader, have someone else read your campaign copy for you.

Personalisation errors

74% of marketers say targeted personalisation increases customer engagement rates (eConsultancy). If you’ve decided to include personalisation as part of your email marketing strategy, you need to make peace that your personalisation might not always go right. Personalisation errors occur due to data hygiene in your list. When you have empty form fields, or subscribers themselves have filled out their information incorrectly, personalisation fails are more likely to occur.

Random photos

It happens that you sometimes add placeholder images into your campaign with the intention to replace them at a later date. Sometimes however you hit send and oops, now you have some random images in your campaign. To avoid this happening, don’t use placeholder images!

Missing or broken links

You set up all your buttons and forget to add your links or you realize after you’ve sent your email that the link you use doesn’t exist on your website anymore. Missing or broken links sneak into campaigns often. The only defense against this email marketing error is to double and triple check your links in your campaign to ensure everything works as it should.

Missing attachments

It happens a lot...even when you send out professional emails. You craft the perfect email and then completely forget to add the attachment you meant to send. When you’re sending out a campaign or lead magnet freebie, adding your promised attachments are crucial to your campaign success.

Off the mark topics

Sometimes no matter how in the know you are, you could send out an email that will miss the mark. As you get to know your audience better, you will find out what they like and dislike and be able to navigate which topics you should steer clear of and which align with your goals.

Real-world email marketing bloopers from around the world


Even the big guys get it wrong sometimes- like the ecommerce giant Amazon. Amazon once sent out their email marketing template to their entire base. The template was sent out with no content and the instructions that their marketing team uses when crafting their emails.

Amazon template sent out by mistake


Airbnb received quite a bit of flack for this email marketing campaign. Although their intentions were good, unfortunately Airbnb sent out this email around the time when Hurricane Harvey was busy destroying Houston. When the email was created there was no thought given to the current state of events, which meant under usual circumstances the email would have been well received. Unfortunately this email was badly timed.

Airbnb's untimely email


Adidas sent out an innocuous email congratulating runners for “surviving” the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately due to what happened in 2013 at the Boston Marathon the email was not well received as several people were killed or injured and therefore the email was really inappropriate. If someone at Adidas had read the email before sending it out, this mistake could have been avoided. Adidas received quite a backlash for the email, but realized their mistake and sent out an apology. Most likely this email was sent out as an automated mailer using a previously made template. It’s important to review your templates to ensure that they are still appropriate.

Adidas Boston Marathon email blooper


Shutterfly once sent out an email with baby-related imagery to their base. Unfortunately, the wrong list was used so the email didn’t reach the right audience. The email was meant to be sent to new parents congratulating them on the birth of their kids but was sent to the wrong list. Shutterfly issued an apology, explaining that a blunder had occurred and dealt with their mistake in a sensitive and professional manner.

Shutterfly's email sent to the wrong list

Our own personal experience with email bloopers:

Recently we sent out a newsletter to our clients where all our links were directed to one article instead of a few. We realized our mistake and sent out the correct newsletter with the correct links to fix our mistake.

What should you do if you’ve made a mistake?

  • Make sure you personalise your apology. Direct it at your subscriber to ensure that you personally apologise.
  • Don’t tiptoe around the fact that you have made a mistake - own it. This means being clear about the fact that something went wrong.
  • Explain exactly what you did wrong. It may seem like you are highlighting your faults but transparency is key.
  • Empathize with your audience. This humanises your response and shows that you truly care.
  • If the situation calls for it, feel free to use some humour. If the error was severe or sensitive (like the Adidas or Airbnb example) steer clear. But if you mistakenly sent out a picture of a cat in your email, you could apologise in a humorous fashion. Before using humour, ask yourself:
  • Would my joke offend people further?
  • Did I cause serious offense with my campaign?
  • Will humour harm or help you in this situation?
  • Where you can, you can consider offering a sweetener as an apology, like a coupon code or special deal.
  • Put yourself in the subscriber’s shoes when crafting your apology. What would you have wanted a brand to say to you if you had received the - campaign?


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