Please don’t be this marketer

September 30, 2022

I’m writing this blog post the week after Queen Elizabeth passed away because one marketer (now a sales person or trainer, I believe) sent the most appalling email one the day of her death.

Here’s how it started:


While there was deference made to “a sad day for the world and especially the UK,” the goodwill of it was quickly erased by the next paragraph, asking if “your marketing campaign (is) old-fashioned like the monarchy?” Let me explain why sending out this email was a terrible idea.

1. Your marketing shouldn’t obviously offend anyone

If you’re trying to influence people positively, the first rule-of-thumb is not to offend them. With this one sentence, anyone who likes the idea of having a monarchy (which many European countries still do, in addition to the U.K.) will be offended. Do you want to write off that many people in one sentence? I think not.

Having said this, there’s often a chance that someone will be offended by something. We go through life with blinders and often don’t see how others might react to something we take for granted. This can happen – as a matter of fact, you can be sure it will happen. But learning your cultural prejudices and expanding your vision is quite different from using a phrase that denigrates an entire generation or country, calling it “old fashioned like the monarchy.”

2. While “seizing the moment” is a good marketing tactic, it should be thought through and vetted internally

Newsjacking is a great practice in marketing and I’m all for it. But I suspect that this person didn’t share the idea for the email with a wide range of people.

Anyone who remembers that 23 million Americans watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton back in 2011 would know that many people in the U.S. find the idea of a monarchy charming, romantic, or just interesting. For that reason alone, bashing the royals to kick-off an email probably isn’t the best marketing idea. Someone else who read this might have been able to stop it before it got sent out.

3. It’s typically bad taste to jump on death as an opportunity to sell

Death and mortality are difficult subjects for anyone to handle; seizing upon someone’s misfortune to use it as a selling opportunity is just not nice. And being nice – or at least not being perceived as callous, calculating, or exploiting someone’s death – should be every marketer’s goal.

Finally, ask yourself: would you want to be remembered for this?

I noticed some very interesting posts on LinkedIn that voiced their opposition to British colonialization. These were political statements, using the Queen’s death as a springboard for discussion about a “new era,” using the occasion to open a conversation about the history of colonial rule and oppression.

This blog post is not referring to these types of posts, which are about broader social issues and political opinions. Please note the difference: I’m talking about exploiting someone’s death for selling purposes, not opening up a broader societal or philosophical conversation about.

When you use this type of “poke in the eye” technique to get people’s attention, it’s important to think about this: do you want to be remembered for this email? If it were to be in your bio, or legacy, is it how you’d like others to think of you?

If you’re doing something for the sake of being different, it’s a good idea to be careful. Ask others. Think carefully about possible consequences. Would you want to be remembered for this? And if you can’t honestly answer yes, it’s best to find a different hook and a new idea.

There are so many brilliant ideas happening all the time – look to what’s been done well as your North Star. Here are some examples to get you started.

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