Marketing lessons: Why ‘unsubscribe’ needn’t mean a breakup

Marketers find it agonizing when a person seeks to unsubscribe from newsletters or other email communications. What I can do to bring you back, they often ask.

Here I want to share some creative ways for marketers to ensure that the “breakup” need not be final. Let me start by giving an example.

When a user tries to unsubscribe from the Groupon newsletter, a video pops up, showing a purported worker of the company. The person informs that his name is Derrick and that he is in charge of email marketing for Groupon.

Under the video, there’s a button “punish Derrick”. If the subscriber presses the button, the video starts playing.

It shows Derrick sitting at his office desk as usual. Then a boss-like figure approaches him. After learning that the company has lost a subscriber, the boss splashes water on Derrick’s face. The poor staffer then falls to the ground.

Then a line would appear on the Web page that says: “I hope you are happy. Want to make it up to Derrick?” Below the line, there’s a re-subscribe button. With the hilarious video and Derrick’s wonderful acting, who can resist clicking on the re-subscribe link?

In another case, sales software firm HubSpot features its marketing expert Dan Sally in a video, imploring subscribers not to leave. 

“Do you remember the online seminar we joined together?”, “I can change for you”… the entire video is like a confession by some lovers. Sally ends the video with “can we still be friends?”, expecting to save the relationship.

Now, will you accept Dan’s request?

Marketers tend to accept “unsubscribe” notices in a passive manner. But if they make the extra effort, they could find the results surprising.

Care should be taken on the design of the “unsubscribe” procedure so that subscribers get to know how much the brands care about them and how the firms really hate to miss out on the opportunity to serve the customers.

Providing humorous and diversified subscription options is a key to opening consumers’ hearts.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 12.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version 中文版]

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