There are a lot of moving pieces in email marketing: getting folks to subscribe, keeping them engaged, segmenting and personalizing your emails, optimizing for various devices… It’s tough to juggle it all, even for large companies! Take a look at these goofs I’ve noticed.


Someone got a little too literal with the requested subject line! Even the model looks distraught over the error!


Check out my Gmail preview pane view of all these emails from Houzz. This isn’t a place you want code to appear! This shows that:

  1. Houzz isn’t optimizing preview text, and
  2. Either no one is properly testing emails, or they just don’t care.

For the rest, the preview pane reads “This email can only be viewed in HTML,” which is a waste of real estate that could be a warmer invitation to open the email.

Crate & Barrel

Here’s a first world problem/pet peeve of mine – clicking in an email to unsubscribe, but then you have to put in your own email address. Many companies (and/or email platforms, like MailChimp) have customized unsubscribe links that already “know” your email address, which saves a step and just feels more personal.

So I’m surprised that Crate & Barrel’s unsubscribe process includes this extra hoop to jump through. Overall, you want your unsubscribe process to be as breezy as possible, which helps prevent subscribers’ frustration and thus the likelihood of them marking your email as spam.


Babbel is a language learning platform, which I signed up for a few months ago to further improve my Spanish. I recently got an email asking me to give them a review, but… um… I haven’t used it.

There’s no one to blame for that but myself, of course, but it made me realize… since signing up, I have never received a single reminder email from Babbel prodding me to log in and practicar. Reminder emails like this are common; in fact, I know I got them from Babbel’s competitor, Duolingo, when I hadn’t logged in for a few days. Sure, emails like this can be annoying if too frequent, but in this case, I do think they would have made me more likely to use the service I paid for.

I’ve seen Babbel ads on Facebook and heard them on NPR, so it seems like the company has some money behind it, in which case, I would assume they have pretty robust user tracking capabilities (e.g. “hmm, looks like that Kara Gladish hasn’t logged in at all“). So ideally, rather than sending me an email asking me for a review – which frankly makes me feel a bit guilty and like I’ve wasted my money – they could have emailed me to say, “Hi! We’ve noticed you haven’t logged in for a while. Is there anything we can help with?” Or better yet, after I signed up, they would have sent me a series of welcome/onboarding emails to get me in the habit of using the platform, and then some friendly reminder emails when I hadn’t logged in for a while. My Spanish would have been better by now, and I’d be more likely to renew when my annual membership. And, since Babbel would be top-of-mind for me more often, I’d be more likely to recommend it to friends.

Even Big Companies Commit Email Mistakes
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