How Phish Failed To Use Email Marketing Effectively

by Robert Burko
3 mins read

One of the great benefits of email marketing is that it’s fast. There’s no long lead time like with traditional print media. And, while it might not be as fast as composing a 140 character tweet, if you have a properly setup database and email marketing platform you can get news out in a hurry. For many organizations this is critically important because over the past 10 years there has been countless times where we’ve had a client send out an urgent email to their mailing list in order to distribute proper information, control the news (often in response to some bad press) or send a time sensitive promotion.Today I’m going to give you an example of how one of my favorite bands, Phish, failed to capitalize on this big benefit and as a result had lots of misinformed and angry fans….I was going to title this post “Phish Phailed“, but thought that was too cheeky even for me!Last night (July 9), Phish was scheduled to perform at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. It was their first show in Toronto in nearly 13 years and I, along with a ton of other fans, were very excited.To set the scene correctly, it’s important we flash back to the day before (Monday, July 8) when Toronto was hit by a record setting storm that dumped more than 90 millimeters of rainfall in just two hours. To put this in perspective, Toronto usually gets 75 millimeters of rain during the entire month of July. [More on the storm from the Toronto Star]There were major power outages and even on Monday it was clear there would be some concerns about a big concert happening Tuesday.But, Phish was quick to take to social media to put those concerns to rest. At this point they could have sent an email to everyone who had bought tickets (at least from them directly because they had all the email addresses), but I’m OK with them only using social media since at this point the news is really just that nothing has changed. And, their comments to give extra time to get to the venue is helpful.With the concert scheduled for 7:00pm, at 1:04pm they sent out this tweet:

At about the same time (1:05pm) they even encouraged people to budget for extra time due to TTC and Go Train slowdowns… but everything was running.

With Phish giving the green light, people headed to the venue with the expectation that everything was normal…. and the show would go on!Once again, the show was scheduled to start at 7:00pm.At 6:27pm (which for those scoring at home is 33 minutes before show time), Phish sent out this tweet:

This is where we start to begin to see an epic failure on the part of Phish’s marketing team.The second they knew the show was cancelled (which in my own opinion should have been before 6:30pm) they should have sent out an email to everyone with the news.This would have distributed the information faster, better and to a broader audience than just the single tweet. I’m not saying they should not have posted to Twitter, but rather they should have done both.As a perfect example, a friend of mine was still driving to the venue when the show was cancelled. If he received an email, it would have popped up on his iPhone and just seeing the subject “Phish Show Cancelled” would have given him all the information he needed. Obviously while driving he was not reloading his Twitter feed to see if Phish had posted anything…. that thought hadn’t even crossed his mind. He got to the venue, paid for parking, and only then did he bump into people (who had seen the tweet or heard from someone else) that told him the show was postponed.The email they should have sent out didn’t have to be overly fancy, they didn’t need a graphics designer or a copy writer. They could have just put together a basic email and distributed the information to everyone right away. They also could have included a bit more information to answer some questions that fans would have right away.What’s even more silly is that they did create a page on their website (see below) with important information. So, why didn’t they just copy and paste that and put it in an email? If they were using Elite Email (which, to be clear, they do not since we would have made sure they did this right!), creating an email with this content would have taken all of 2 minutes. So, we know that Phish missed the key opportunity to send out a timely email that would have helped & informed their fans. But, surely someone on the Phish team would have realized an email was needed at some point and it would have gone out a little after the tweets and website updates….. nope!Today (July 10) at 11:38am, they finally sent out an email. That….prepare for shocking moment…. contained the same content that was on their website.This email went out 17 hours and 11 minutes after their tweet!WOW!I’m here preaching that one of the biggest benefits to email marketing is that you can send out important information fast and Phish took over 17 hours to get it together.Here is the email they sent:I hope everyone else who puts on any type of event can learn from this epic fail by Phish. It’s sad to see one of my favorite bands mess up so badly. (I also hope they don’t read this and revoke my tickets for the make-up date!)In closing… should we discuss the irony of a band named Phish having to cancel due to too much water?! Nah…let’s not go down that path.

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