Funny, Foolish, or Effective? A Case Study of Groupons Unsubscribe Message

Picture of Groupon's Unsubscribe Page

Anyone who has run an email marketing campaign can testify to the ups and downs and difficulty of creating and maintaining engagement. From users not remembering that they even signed up to receive emails, to waning interest in continuing to receive regular updates unsubscribe rates are always a factor.

The best way to keep unsubscribe rates low is to provide the reader with engaging and targeted content. Much has been written on the topic, and for those looking to gain insight into what makes for a successful email campaign I would suggest that they check out the wealth of content on . Smashing Magazine also has a great article or creating an email newsletter.

But what do you do once someone has clicked that unsubscribe link in your work of art (A.K.A. your email newsletter)? Is there anything that you can do to encourage your reader to not click the unsubscribe button or to re-subscribe after clicking the unsubscribe button? While many will highlight incentives, such as discounts or a coupon to come back, Groupon has chosen humor to encourage de-subscribers to sign back up. Check out the message you receive after completing the unsubscribe process, watch the video and then read on.

As a slapstick video goes, many will find it funny, some might find it disturbing, but is it effective at garnering re-subscriptions? Obviously only Groupon itself knows whether it is effective or not. My guess would be that once a user gets to the point of unsubscribing from your email, a funny video is not going to make them come back. However, the video may have the tertiary benefit of parting ways on good terms. Humor has a way of defusing a tense situation and improving attitudes. When someone is finally annoyed enough to take the steps necessary to remove themselves from your mailing list, for whatever their reasoning, it is important for your brand and business as a whole, to not leave them with a bad taste in their mouth.

Groupon's unsubscribe process pretty effectively accomplishes this by providing an easy unsubscribe link at the top

Picture of Groupon's Unsubscribe Link

& bottom of every email

Picture of Groupon's Unsubscribe Link at the bottom of an email

Which is a good practice as it attempts to avoid users marking the email as spam by providing an easy removal option. It is also helpful in setting the tone for dissolution of the relationship. Making people hunt for an unsubscribe link only creates frustration, reinforcing the already bad vibes that are coming up in your relationship with your readers.

The other good thing that Groupon does is to allow you to unsubscribe without having to login to your account. Again, making their one click unsubscribe process a reality. There is some confusion introduced at this point as you are presented with a list of all of your subscriptions, which at first glance, is hard to tell what is going on

Picture of Groupon's Manage Subscriptions Page

At the same time, once you understand that this is your subscription page and that you have already been unsubscribed from the "daily deals" for that city, it is nice to be able to manage all of your subscriptions right from the same page. It is also upfront in what you have subscribed to, which is important as a reader might not realize that they had signed up for multiple mailings, which would then create a lot of frustration as they would keep getting mailings. This then avoid the problem of them thinking "I already unsubscribed, why are you still emailing me".

If you click save at this point, still having opted to continuing receiving some emails, the page will simply refresh. If you click on the "Unsubscribe from all Groupon emails" link you will get a popup window asking you to confirm your choice. If you then click confirm you are taken to the page which prompted this article.

One thing that is glaringly missing is any sort of attempt to solicit feedback on why someone is unsubscribing. As has already been seen, if someone unsubscribes from only one list, and still has other subscriptions they are just presented with a page that allows them to manage their other subscriptions. If I were Groupon I would be interested to know why someone unsubscribed from one list but but opted to continue to receive emails from the other lists. More egregious is the lack of any effort to gather feedback when someone takes the plunge and unsubscribes from all mailing lists. There should be at least an attempt to gather feedback, whether in the form of checkboxes, a comment field, or both. Instead, the last thing an unsubscriber is presented with is a video, which is a shame as that final page is the last opportunity that Groupon has to salvage a disintegrating relationship and to gather the information that is needed to inform future product offerings.

In the end, as a retention strategy goes I am skeptical that this would actually make people want to sign back up after they navigated their way through the unsubscribe process, and the lack of an attempt to gather feedback is a large oversight. However, when you consider that Groupon's business model is largely reliant on their effectiveness at maintaining an interested email subscriber list, the ease with which they let you unsubscribe from their bread and butter is telling as to the importance of parting on good terms. The added humor at the end assists in this. While it probably wont make someone re-subscribe it might send them away with a laugh and more positive thoughts towards the company (a comment form below the video might be useful in assessing this....hint hint). And that should get all email marketers thinking about how they can part ways nicely in hopes of re-connecting later and maintaining a positive attitude towards your brand in the mind of the reader.

So what are your thoughts? Besides making the unsubscribe process easy and dropping in some humor at the end, what can you do to make as amiable as possible? Have you found any good re-subscribe strategies that work?

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I think they were on the right track, but they could have at least been a bit more creative than going down the path of violence. I personally found it funny, but not everyone is a 25-year-old man who likes slapstick humour.  Perhaps a more in-kind response would have felt more satisfying, like being able to flood Derrick's email with offers for free cat food and 50% off a time share in Detroit.

You make an interesting point on leaving the consumer with a better taste in their mouth, even though they have chosen to unsubscribe.  I can see how humor could potentially help, though I think Groupon could have done that without the strong "guilt" message they used.  When I saw this, my initial thought was, "you are the one spamming the inbox of a 27 year old guy with salon deals every day, so don't blame Derrick's misfortune on me."  I can see your humor point and agree with you, but still feel that Groupon goes a little too far... but maybe I'm just being too sensitive ;)

"Punish" seems like a strange use of words, though Groupon seems to be notorious for this with their weird cat on a cloud or whatever. I think the video was a fun attempt at getting people back, and I appreciate the originality of it all. Most of the time I try to unsubscribe from a newsletter I feel heckled for even thinking of such a thing. So, I can enjoy the fact that Groupon makes light of this "heckling" and makes it incredibly easy to unsubscribe. 

Ironic thing about this though...once the word gets out that there is a funny video on Groupon's unsubscribe page, I would venture to say that many Grouponians will go and unsubscribe to watch the video, and then [hopefully] go back to resubscribe! 

I like it when you said, "The best way to keep unsubscribe rates low is to provide the reader with engaging and targeted content." That's a point that's applicable for many different types of websites. If you're having a large amount of unsubscribe rates, maybe you should think about doing something different to prevent unsubscribe rates. Originality goes a long way in many peoples' books. 

agreed, in other words, Groupon: "stop taking 50% of the profit so that you can give more offers from a wider variety of businesses who can actually afford to partner with you instead of just emailing us the same salon and online canvas picture deals." ...ok, ok, I'll get off my soapbox ;)

Yes, they are walking a fine line. Humor is often a double edged sword as some will think it is funny and others will probably be offended. Your quote reveals a sentiment that is a deeper issue. The reasons for reader to unsubscribe. Humor won't fix the failing to provide relevant content.

Exactly, which is why I think it is instructive for anyone who sends out emails as a form of marketing. 

Ya, if you just click the link you can watch the video without unsubscribing, at the very least they will get a lot more traffic to that page. I do think it is commendable that they make it so easy, especially since it is a huge part of their business model. Also instructive for marketers to learn from, don't be so scared of people unsubscribing that you tick them off as they try to unsubscribe. Really makes sense, if they don't want it anymore, make it easy on them and on yourself.

That might hit a little to close to home :), but your suggestion has merit and is funny. Slapstick just seems to be the default setting for humor. So, the concept is good, i.e. Humor, but the execution is lacking, seems to be the sentiment.