Why do brands abuse customer relationships with email marketing?

by Nigel Hollis | September 16, 2019

I recently bought a new Subaru Crosstrek. The Crosstrek is a good vehicle, far slower than my old R32 for sure, but I expected that. What I did not expect was the barrage of emails that followed the purchase and it is rapidly undermining my positive feelings toward the Subaru brand.

When I learnt that my beloved R32 needed repairs that cost more than it was worth in order to pass the State inspection I had to act quickly. Given that I knew that day was only a matter of time, I had vaguely been shopping around for its replacement and to that point the Crosstrek was an obvious candidate given Vermont winters. A test drive, a good trade-in offer and just maybe the Love campaign influenced my decision making but two hours later I was on the road in “The Silver Snail”.

Matching expectations with experience is important to developing the customer relationship and the experience of driving the car has lived up to my expectations: good and bad. The Subaru drives well, the steering is pretty tight for a vehicle of its type and fuel consumption is far better than the R32. As expected, the ‘intelligence’ built into various safety systems annoys the heck out of me (yes, I crossed that white line deliberately!) and I have turned off as much of it as possible.


So far, so good…except for the emails. OMG, how much mail can one brand generate!? Here is just a small cross-section of what I have received in the last couple of months ranked from important to trivial:

  • “Congrats on Your New Subaru.” (Now set up MySubaru so we can get even more data about you.)
  • “Welcome to Subaru Starlink.” (Download the MySubaru app which you will likely never use.)
  • “Your Insider News Is Here.” (Why is a video about genuine Subaru Accessories a “Cool Clip”?)
  • “25% Off Refillable Subaru Drinkware.” (You can NOT be serious!)
  • “We’re working on our communication skills.” (Yup, and it is annoying the heck out of me.)

Honestly, I am sure that I should have set up MySubaru but the emails just make me want to avoid any other form of contact. And then, of course, the dealer wants to get in on the act too: a thank you mail, an accessories mail and, of course, the inevitable “Happy Birthday” mail. Lovely. So personal. So sincere.

Subaru is far from the only brand to believe that they have the right to mail me every week and, to my mind, it reflects an old school broadcast mindset. Yes, I can unsubscribe from these mails, but should I have to do so? Would it not be a better to start the relationship by getting the dealer to ask me how and how often I want to hear from Subaru and them? Creating a better customer experience means empowering the customer not overwhelming them.

I cannot help wondering if it is just me that gets annoyed when brands decide to clog my inbox with their self-serving emails that give no thought to the customer’s likely reaction. Do you feel the same way? Please share your thoughts.


Leave a comment
  1. Nigel, September 30, 2019
    Hi Stephie, I propose my solution in this post: respect me as a person and just ask. 
  2. Stephie, September 17, 2019
    What solutions do you propose? What methods of marketing are more sincere to you?
  3. Ed C, September 16, 2019
    100% agree. The default with so much of this seems to be "we're going to bombard you unless you actively Unsubscribe". If they cared about us, why can't the default be nothing unless we actively choose to subscribe to certain messages? 

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