Bad News…. Or Bait and Switch?

A month or so ago I ranted about a certain marketer that sent out an email with a negative, misleading subject line. Apparently there were a fair number of other people out there who felt like I did, as I saw this topic discussed elsewhere as well.

Yesterday I received not one, but two emails (from big name guru’s) with the subject “Bad News…”

Immediately they both started off with “well, this isn’t really bad news” or: “the bad news is that I’m taking my offer down”

How bad is that?

One of them kindly went on to explain that he’d recently heard from some other guru that the most opened subject line was “bad news” so he was going to try it out.

Of course his email had absolutely NOTHING to do with bad news, of any sort. Even if you’re taking your offer down, does that really qualify as bad news?

The underlying issue in question here is what really ticks me off. The guy who explained why he was using the bad news gimmick said that people respond to negatives. That’s why the news is always negative.

There’s a sensationalism that is hard to beat, that’s for sure.

But is putting “bad news” in your subject line really going to make more sales? Sure, it might get your email opened, but will it sell? There’s a thing called framing your customer – putting them in a frame of mind to buy.

Personally, yeah, I’ll probably open an email that says “bad news” but I’m also probably going to be ticked off once I realize I’ve been mislead and that they’re trying a cheap trick on me to increase their open rate, of all things.

The same holds true for all those PPC ads you see “Product XYZ Sucks!” then you go through and they’re trying to sell Product XYZ. Huh? Anyone think that through?

So take it a step further – now you know what your absolute best performing (for open rate, anyways) subject line is. Are you going to use that on every email? That’s gonna get old REALLY fast. Are you going to put a negative spin on every email subject line, then flip flop to roses and daisies and buy now inside?

On a deeper, moral level, should we be buying into the “negativity works” mindset? Seems rather Machiavellian to me. I know it works, but so do positive messages. That’s been proven over and over.

Let me ask you this – long term, who do you want to be known as to your customers, or “herd” as Dan Kennedy likes to call them. A negative manipulator, or a positive, uplifting bringer of good things?

Can bait and switch be a long term strategy? I doubt it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you feel strongly about this, or is it just me? Is it ethical to market like this? Is it not even a question of ethics for you, and it’s totally fine, or perhaps something else?

Leave a comment and let us know.


EDIT: Apparently since I wrote this, the owner of nearly every list I’m on has come across this same information, and this morning alone I received 3 more “Bad news” subject lines… on top of another half dozen in the previous week. Seriously – is this stuff working? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

2 Responses to Bad News…. Or Bait and Switch?
  1. Deniel - cheap web hosting
    June 7, 2009 | 9:30 pm

    This might be a good effort to let your emails be opened but I’ll not do that. I think it is not the right way of someone is selling products or services. I’ll not bother to open an email with bad news title from unknown person and it is not good to put your known people in confusion but these are purely my own thoughts.

  2. Jonathan
    June 9, 2009 | 1:06 pm

    Hi Deniel – thanks for the comment. I agree – by doing this you’re sending a conflicting message…