We talk a lot on this blog about the fundamentals of effective email marketing campaigns:

  • Building relationships
  • Establishing trust
  • Solving problems

If you stick to those fundamentals, you’ll not only sell a lot of product, but you’ll also avoid the type of lawsuit that Toyota is now facing as a result of its “Maniacs” campaign to promote the Toyota Matrix.
An overly-creative advertising team at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles created a set of email autoresponder series for Toyota, each designed to make the recipient think that they were being stalked by a maniac. Then they used the video below to get pranksters to sign their friends up for these autoresponder email campaigns.

AdAge reported on one of the thousands of recipients of these bizarre messages, Amber Duick, who is now suing both Toyota and the Saatchi ad company.

Ms. Duick received a series of rambling messages appearing to be from a rabid soccer fan and riot participant named Sebastian Bowler. She received links to his Myspace page, copies of hotel bills that Sebastian Bowler was apparently holding her responsible for, and indications that he was on his way to her home to visit her in person.

According to her attorney, Ms. Duick “was terrified. She slept with a machete next to her bed and she slept with mace. She could barely sleep or eat normally.”

It was not until the ninth email message that Ms. Duick was informed that “she had been punked” and the whole ordeal had been part of a marketing campaign for the Toyota Matrix. Ms. Duick is probably not likely to purchase a Toyota vehicle in the near future.

This is a classic example of a poorly thought out marketing strategy backfiring. You don’t need to be a renegade artist to effectively sell your product, and in fact it is probably better if you’re not. All you need to do to effectively market yourself online is to follow the old tried and true principles of good business. The new media is an awful lot like the old, just a lot faster. You start with a high-quality email marketing software package, offer good reasons why your product solves your reader’s problems, and track your results.