AOL (AIM) Understands Email Marketing (Not!)

As I rolled into work this morning, I logged into my Gmail account to see what random emails came in over the 6-hour window of time I was sleeping. Lo and behold….a message was sitting unread in my inbox.

The message was from “AIM Member Message” and had the subject line “What’s New with AIM?” If I wasn’t the type of person who opens every email (if only to critique them from a best practices standpoint), I would have “junked” this one immediately. Who is “AIM Member Message?” Why not “AIM” or “AOL Instant Messenger?” If you are going to have a terrible From name, at least wow me with the subject line, right? “What’s New with AIM?” Boooooooring.

Two strikes for AOL before I even open the message. But, again, I open everything. Maybe they were banking on that fact. Maybe they didn’t really spend any time thinking about the From name or subject line. Maybe they don’t have a dedicated team of email marketers who are thinking about email as a strategic tool. Maybe it’s a combination of all three or “none of the above.” Who knows? Either way, it’s not a great start.

Did I mention that I can’t remember ever receiving an email from AOL (not in my Gmail account anyway)? So my next question (zinger) is how did they get my email address? Followed by…why the random, seemingly out-of-the-blue email? Oh right, they wanted to tell me “What’s New with AIM.” Too bad I don’t care or more importantly, never asked to be emailed by AIM. Good thing they put the disclaimer in fine print in the footer.

Now…to the message. On first glance, a decent design for images off. Three text links—one “Find Out More!” followed by two “Start Now!” At least the valuable disclaimer/opt-out shows up with images off.

Moving onto the message with images on, I realize there are several key calls-to-action that are now viewable. So much for a nice design with images off. First off, apparently this is the AIM Newsletter. Who would’ve known? What *is* the AIM Newsletter anyway? A weekly message? Monthly communication? Whenever-they-feel-like-it email? Looks like they want me to download AIM. Funny thing is that I already have an AIM account. In fact, I’ve had one since AIM first launched sometime in the late 20th century. AOL collects a ton of data (I assume). Shouldn’t they have already known that little tidbit? How about segmenting the list…targeting emails?

Continuing down below the fold, it looks like they want me to “start using [my] free AIM Mail Account.” Again—been there, done that. My AOL username dates back to the dial-up days of 1995.

Finally, at the very bottom of the email—well below the fold—I get some neat new information: Mobile AIM! Yes. I can now access AIM on my mobile device. I guess it’s about time to purchase that smart phone. I’ve been told they are pretty cool.

Unfortunately, I’m no longer shocked or surprised when a multi-billion dollar company does not understand the basics of email marketing. In the email ecosystem, industry experts often get dinged for hammering “email marketing 101.” Marketers shout, “We get the fundamentals. Show us the new stuff!” But then…we get emails like the one from AOL/AIM/AIM Member Message.

Thanks AOL for keeping our jobs easy….

—DJ Waldow of Bronto Software