Recently marketers and consumers alike have been enjoying the creative element behind Groupon’s unsubscribe campaign ‘Punish Derrick’.

If you click on the unsubscribe link, it then it leads you to a page which enables you to punish the person who has been sending you your emails, Derrick.

Punish Derrick 11

The concept of humanising the person who is sending you emails, adding some comedy and creating engagement is very clever, especially as you are asked to reconsider your opt in after inflicting pain on Derrick.

Punish Derrick 2

On the surface this looks like a good mechanic for keeping subscribers. In fact, the unsubscribe page is something that has recently made a resurgence with many brands trying to save their marketing lists from diminishing or at least trying to understand preferences and offering links to social media or options to redefine preferences.

There’s no denying the intelligence behind Groupon’s campaign and that they have most definitely saved a few subscribers; but does an entertaining opt out mechanic mean you can forgive a brand for spam, irrelevant emails or whatever reason it is that you’re leaving them? 

Probably not, and the reason that drove the decision to opt out has not been addressed. You could question a contact’s motive for not unsubscribing after viewing the Punish Derrick page. I’d assume it might be distraction rather than anything else.

This campaign merely plays on the conscience, and any subscriber is still at risk from email fatigue. So should you even bother to try to keep a subscriber who has clicked the fateful unsubscribe button? Yes of course.

They had an interest before but something is driving them to opt out. The intelligent next step would be to communicate and engage with such a group and learn the reasons behind their decision to opt out.

This insight should then drive segmented communications and intelligence to inform the bigger marketing strategy to try and prevent further churn. But in an ideal world of course, I would argue, brands should really focus on preventing them getting there in the first place.

Email fatigue can be a tricky topic to deal with, as one size does not fit all:

  • Are you sending emails too often?
    Optimum frequency really depends on the buying cycle of your product or service. If you’re promoting cars, a purchase typically made every few years, and emailing your contacts daily then it’s fair to say you’re overdoing it.
  • Assess your purchase cycle 
    Base your communications strategy on an appropriate level of contact with appropriate relevance. Are your subscribers engaged in your emails? If you’ve sent one hundred emails in the last year and a contact has never opened or clicked on a single one you need to assess your email content.
  • Apply the principles of marketing to your email marketing programme.
    Relevant content will drive higher engagement and keep subscribers interested in hearing more from your brand.
  • Recognise a jumper before they jump 
    If you analyse the profile of those unsubscribing, recognise trends and alert yourself when others follow this path then you can prevent them reaching from having to make the decision to punish Derrick in the first place.
Richard Lees

Published 11 March, 2011 by Richard Lees

Richard Lees is Chairman at dbg and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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Comments (10)

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One thing I see people doing a lot is putting the unsubscribe link at the top of the email - you're practically encouraging your subscribers to leave you that way.

over 7 years ago

James Le Gallez

James Le Gallez, Senior Search Executive at Genting Alderney

@Jenni - Most webmail clients feature their 'Mark as Spam/Junk' button at the top of the email. A lot of companies feature an unsubscribe link at the top now to ensure people don't mark as spam rather than searching around for the unsubscribe link. If your subscribers aren't interested in your email you shouldn't make it hard to unsubscribe, if you're sending targeted and engaging emails you should have nothing to worry about the unsubscribe link being in plain view.

over 7 years ago



For what its worth, if I find that the emails are too frequent and seldom relevant I'll try to unsubscribe or maybe reduce frequency. But...

It has to be easy and effective.

On a couple major retailers I tried using their form on the unsubscribe page and reduce email. I unchecked most options. No noticeable reduction in email.

On another it said I had successfully unsubscribed but it would take 6 to 8 weeks to process. Months later I was still getting emails.

Both of these are not sent to spam folder and I ensure that they never reappear.

I'm tolerant and try to avoid classifying companies as spam. But the bottom line is my email address was more important to them than my business.

Don't Lie, respect my wishes and provide me service I actually like.

over 7 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

How do you punish Derrick then? Can I punish him by sending him an endless stream of irrelevant email offers for overpriced beauty treatments? Please?

over 7 years ago



Poor Derrick. I hope he gave his permission to have his name bandied about like this.

over 7 years ago



The biggest problem with losing subscribers from email newsletters is that recipients are often added onto lists without their consent. This is particularly the case when you've handed out a business card at a function and the only correspondence you get in return is being added to an irrelevant email newsletter list.

A major step in getting subscribers to remain on your list is to get them to sign up to receive your emails. They have shown the initial desire to receive them because of the quality of the content.

Get the content right first. The subscribers will follow.

over 7 years ago

John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

On that note, at least I prefer that approach than the 'what cup is it under' format like you get from brands like Moneysupermarket where the email opt-out page is, effectively, deliberately misleading.

However, will this page change my opinions in terms of thinking about the Groupon email differently? I don't think so.

And they also 'nicked' the idea from a creative agency in Holland who's own website was late so they put up a landing page showing their lead designer getting various emotional and physical grief as a result of the tardiness...

over 7 years ago


Simon Newsam

I'm not a sadist - really - but I admit I did want to punish Derrick.

However, it seems I was too late. When I tried, the page had been taken down and all I managed to do was unsubscribe from Groupon.

I wonder how many other people unsubscribed, just to see Derrick get punished? Seems Groupon may have been victims of their own wit.

As for Derrick, poor bloke just can't get it right ... bet he's back in the naughty corner now.

over 7 years ago


Denise Edwards, Marketing Manager at Alpha Exchange

I've recently gone through some major "Email Fatigue" and have been unsubscribing from everything that does not add genuine value and professional development. I've also become very selective in releasing my email to reduce the number of emails I'm receiving. I'm definitely turning into a "pull" person.

over 5 years ago


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over 5 years ago

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