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What are the Worst SMS Marketing Messages You’ve Received?

worst sms marketing messages

Just for fun, I asked people in a marketing focused Facebook group to share the worst SMS marketing messages they’ve ever received. I was expecting a deluge of responses, but actually only a few trickled in. But those horrible SMS marketing messages are out there…the comments on my post proved it even if no one wanted to share (I guess they’re all shy).

So I’ve got a couple of examples from Facebook, and a few others from different sources that I’ll share. After all, there’s a lot to be learned from seeing what not to do. In all the images that follow I’ve blurred any identifying information to protect privacy, and save embarrassment to the companies that wrote the messages.

English Please

The first message shared on the Facebook group was indeed a shocker!

Did you see that, there at the end? Not only was it a horribly written message, but they didn’t even get her name right (or they sent to the wrong person). You could argue too that this is a reminder message and not a marketing message – but when it’s this bad, it’s also bad marketing for the business.

Leave Me Alone!

Another example from the Facebook group provides messages that aren’t too bad actually – but I felt annoyed reading them. See if you figure out why.

If you look at the dates some come very close together, and this is actually the first of three screens with the same types of messages the person posted in response to my request on Facebook. I can’t imagine why he didn’t opt out after receiving the first five or six let alone the many he posted. Even the ones sent weeks apart read almost identically. No imagination in their SMS marketing department. None.

Festival Disaster

When I think of the worst SMS marketing messages I’ve seen, this one sticks out in my memory. It was the subject of an entire blog back in 2014. The message said:

Some of the Parklife after parties have already sold out. If your (sic) going, make sure your (sic) home for breakfast! Xxx www.afterlifemcr.com

Not so bad right? It violates good SMS marketing principles on so many different levels, but that isn’t what got it onto my worst messages list. The company, Parklife Weekender, sent the messages with a text label that said “Mum”.

That’s right. They made it look like the text came from your Mum. Funny right? They thought so, but many of the people who received it didn’t and the company was fined £70,000 based on the complaints the ICO received. You can read the whole story in the blog here.

Why Would I Do That?

A more recent example comes from the US presidential candidate Donald Trump. I also wrote about this message in a blog post dedicated to discussing how awful his SMS marketing is. Take a look at the message for yourself:

Reply YES to subscribe to Donald J. Trump for President. Your subscription will help Make America Great Again! Msg&data rates may apply.

Um, what? What are people supposed to subscribe to? And how does that help America? You can see the full dissection of the message in my blog dedicated to this one message.

You Aren't Clever. Really.

Among the bad SMS messages I receive are the ones from marketers that think they need to be clever because of the short word count. In particular are the SMS marketing messages from a major office supply store (I’ll refrain from mentioning their name). Here are two that stand out in my memory:

Get £30 off £100+ on any ink/toner purchase. Restock without a needing pot of gold. [Link] Ends 20/3

Ignore friend requests all you want, but don’t miss out on our Daily Deals. Get them by downloading our app [Link]

If you’re going to try and be clever, make sure you have your words in the proper order (reread the first message if you didn’t catch the typo). The message actually has a good deal on ink. Why even add that second half to the first message?

The second message can be taken so many ways. Am I insulted if I don’t even get friend requests? Does it make me sad because I don’t have any friends? Or am I annoyed because everyone wants to be my friend and I don’t want to think about it any more!

By trying to be clever, you increase the potential for making a big mistake – remember that music festival message from above?

I know there are worse messages out there. Why not share them and let us all share your pain – or the laughter? Post the text of the SMS message in our comment section and be sure to leave out any embarrassing, I mean identifying, personal information.

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