Dragon Drop

The Great “Oops…we’re sorry” Email Conspiracy

Have they really made a mistake or was the mistake deliberately engineered?

One of the tried and tested techniques to boost the value of your email marketing efforts is to resend an email shortly after the first, without change, to the set of customers who didn’t open the first.

(see this nice article from Mailchimp giving some stats, and some of the possible risks).

There’s a variant to this technique that seems to trending upwards these days — the “Oops…we’re sorry” email. Some minor mistake in the original needs to be corrected so the organisation resends the email, with a bit of extra text to explain what went wrong and how they’re correcting it.

“What’s wrong with that?” you might ask.

Well, nothing really, although the cynic in me is wondering whether this isn’t all a big con. Have they really made a mistake or was the mistake deliberately engineered into the first email?

Maybe it is schadenfreude, maybe it is plain curiosity, but opening an organisation’s “sorry” email is so much better than opening the original. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this often unconscious reaction.

Marketers amongst you may argue that this is just daft — why would an organisation damage its reputation by deliberately sending out emails with mistakes in? Well, they might if the mistake was reputation-enhancing.

The hidden benefits

What are the subconscious messages we pick up when we open the apology email?

  • They make mistakes — they’re human
  • They’re transparent about their mistakes — not only are they human, but they have standards, ethics
  • They apologise for their mistakes — come on, it doesn’t get any better than this, these people should be running the country!

That’s the sort of reputation we can all do with now and again.

The power of the “Oops…we’re sorry” email is extending to one-off emails too. This example from Halfords uses the title that makes it a must open, but is, in fact, just an email to nudge me to read their newsletters from time to time.


Jonathan Bowen

Founder and Developer

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