There is such a thing as bad publicity – it’s when your marketing messages fail, and leave your audience feeling cold, annoyed or just plain confused…

I recently received an email from a well-known pizza delivery company. It’s the sort of thing that clogs up my inbox. I never actually read them. And it’s easier just to ignore them than unsubscribe.

But this email was different. I actually opened this one, because I was intrigued by the subject line. It read: “We weren’t as speedy as we’d hoped.”

I then scrolled through the email to read a strange message informing me that the company in question likes to deliver its goods as quickly as possible. So far, so good. Apparently, they even have a set time limit they aim to hit. But on this occasion, they were late. Well, this was news to me.

Presumably some marketing bright-spark thought it was a good idea to talk about their speedy service – that they aspire to be faster and hate to leave customers waiting. And that is a good message. It’s the sort of benefit customers would want to know about. But to wrap that message up in an uninvited admission of failure just seems… well, bizarre.

When I read the email, all I felt was a sense of disappointment. I’d had no idea they weren’t very quick to deliver. So, I didn’t see the positive message they were trying to convey about their speed – all I saw was that I apparently hadn’t received it. Well, thanks very much for letting me know how disappointed I should be!

And this is where their email fails. Because all it did was highlight their shortcomings.

Despite their good intentions, if we really boil down the contents of their message, what we’re left with is: Although you weren’t aware of it, we want to let you know that we failed you. Please be disappointed with us.

Is that really the kind of message any business wants to be sending out? Of course not.

Sadly, though, it’s not in isolation. How often have you received an email from a company, either consumer or B2B, that leaves you thinking: Why have you sent this to me? Why is this relevant to me? What are you actually trying to tell me?

It can be all too tempting to send out as many marketing messages as possible. The farther you cast your net, surely the more fish you’re likely to catch. And does it really matter what content you put in your emails? If you can write 10 tweets or Facebook posts on the same subject, why not? As long as it sounds reasonably interesting, and you send it to enough people, then surely someone’s likely to respond. Aren’t they?

Maybe. But what if that reaction is negative? Where does that leave your brand loyalty? Wouldn’t you rather guarantee that every reaction is a positive one?

Hard to do, perhaps. But if you want people to truly engage with your brand, quality is so much more important than quantity. A well-crafted, insightful message that genuinely intrigues and interests readers, and offers your customers real benefits, is worth a thousand of the poorly thought-out, re-packaged, cram-it-down-your-throat emails that so many companies still choose to send out. That’s why the good ones get opened, and the poor ones sit stranded in the inbox. Just look at your open rates to see which category you fall into.

So, before you create that next marketing message, ask yourself some important questions that will help you identify what you actually want to say to your audience:

  • Are we saying something new and relevant?
  • Is this message genuinely interesting?
  • How does this email support our bigger marketing strategy?
  • Will people genuinely feel better about our brand as a result?
  • Will people actually want to read this?

If you can genuinely answer all these questions positively, then you have nothing to worry about. And if you can’t – well, you’re probably sending spam. So, stop it. Stop it now.

Admittedly, I did open the email I received. The subject line got to me – but for all the wrong reasons. And then the email content just annoyed me and left me feeling bad about the brand. So, I did something I usually don’t do – I unsubscribed.