Email Marketers React to Hurricane Harvey (Part 1)

Many email marketers who were spared Hurricane Harvey’s wrath still found themselves scrambling to adjust their email marketing programs recently to reflect changing conditions, reach out to victims or moderate campaigns.

Houston-area or Texas-based companies were among the first to react to Harvey’s devastation along the Gulf of Mexico coastline, emails from Oregon to Michigan to Massachusetts expressed support or offered donations.

What are Marketers Doing about Hurricane Harvey?

Some marketers added messages of hope and support for hurricane victims to their regular campaign emails. A quick search of the FreshAddress Email Creative Archive shows many brands switched out or added campaigns to promote donations, either to a program the companies had set up or to established charities.

Marketers are also doing what FreshAddress did last week: suppressing promotional messages to people living in the areas where Hurricane Harvey hit hardest.

“We began by pulling a list of all records in a 100-mile radius of Houston to suppress from non-essential emails for the foreseeable future,” said Brooke McDaniel, a sports marketer in New York City. “We’ve now updated to records in a 150-mile radius of Victoria and Houston, Texas, as well as Lake Charles and New Orleans, Louisiana.”

The messages we viewed stayed well within the bounds of good taste and sensitivity. But there was one eyebrow-raising email from a high-profile brand that provoked social-media pushback.

About that ‘Floating Vacations’ Airbnb email

On Friday, Aug. 25, Airbnb sent a broadcast email campaign touting exotic stays aboard houseboats, yachts and other water-borne locations. But many people didn’t see it until Monday, Aug. 28, while rain was still falling, rivers were rising, homes were flooded and people were being evacuated in anything that could float.

Days before the email went out, Airbnb announced that it waived service fees on host homes in central Texas that agreed to house hurricane evacuees for free ahead of the storm. Then Hurricane Harvey hit. When people saw the “Floating Waters” campaign on Monday, many slammed it as insensitive.

Click the image below to view the full version the Archive. While you’re there, create your own free account so you can research thousands of live emails by company, date, subject line and message copy.

Sender: Airbnb

Subject line: Floating homes, waterfall slides, & more reasons to travel

Airbnb Hurricane Harvey Email

What do you think? Unfortunate coincidence, bad taste/timing or no big deal? Let us know in the comments. In hindsight, it could be the reminder we need that a “set it and forget it” mindset can lead to marketing-automation disaster.

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