Email list scrubbing

Lucky Brand: A Lesson in How Not to Run an Online Business


Who is Lucky Brand?

For anyone who is unfamiliar with the name, Lucky Brand is the maker of Lucky Jeans. According to their website, they have 209 stores all over America, sell their clothing line in department stores as well as online retailers.

I’d like to preface this story with a disclosure; Lucky Jeans are my all-time favorite jeans. They fit great, have an awesome look and are the most comfortable jeans I own. I probably have 7-8 pairs sitting in my closet, with the oldest pair being 12-15 years old.

Last month, my wife and I were walking in the local mall, when we passed the Lucky Brand store. I decided to go in and look around. The salesperson was extremely knowledgeable about the brand and styles. He explained the different “models” to me and how they fit and my wife ended up buying me a pair of $129 jeans. Yes, you heard me right. The jeans were $129 + tax. While the price even seems crazy to me, I consider them an investment in my wardrobe and will likely have this pair for 10+ years. The salesperson also explained to me that Lucky had a Model 181 which was more of a relaxed fit jean, but they did not sell them in the stores, only on the Lucky Brand website.

The Lights Are On, But There’s Nobody Home

So, when I got to work the next day, I logged on to the Lucky Brand website, signed up for their newsletter to receive a discount (as stated in the newsletter signup pop-up message that appeared) and proceeded to find the Model 181 relaxed fit jean, picked my size and attempted to place my order. I was then asked to create an account and to my amazement, noticed that the website was not secure. Thinking this was some type of oversight or a new error, I then sent Lucky a message to the customer support email address I found on their website.

Below is the email message I sent:


Six hours and nineteen minutes after I sent the email above to their customer support, I received a response. (See below)


Besides the reply seeming very canned and generic, the first of many mistakes made by Lucky is to allow interns, uneducated or untrained staff to respond to consumer inquiries, especially concerning website or ordering issues. Based on my email and the rationale why I didn’t place my order (the site being unsecure) why would Cadelia J. (the customer service rep) respond to me with, “We assure you that our site is secure”, when it’s obvious that it is not secure and the only reason I sent them an email to begin with. Then she suggests that I contact their Customer Service team, via telephone. Sure, that’s exactly what I want to do; call and give someone my credit card information over the phone who will simply type it into the same unsecure website I didn’t want to type my information into originally.

As soon as the shock of stupidity wore off, I promptly responded to the above email with the reply below.


And the reply to my email, received on September 25, which came from Elizabeth G., a different customer service person at Lucky Brand. (See below)


Sadly, the 3-5 days has come and gone a long time ago, I’m glad I wasn’t holding my breath and I never heard from anyone at Lucky Brand ever again. While this was not anticipated, it is still very disappointing, especially for such a large brand. Their website is still unsecure, which is utterly amazing to me. How a company, that claims to generate $100 million in annual sales, could drop the ball and allow something like this to occur is beyond me.

There is One Failure After Another – But Wait, I’m Not Finished Yet

Since I still wanted to buy these Lucky Jeans, I decided to look on Amazon for them, and voila – there they were, perched among all of the other Lucky Jeans. So, I picked my size and color and placed my order. Now hold on because here comes the best part…… They were $79.00 and I got free shipping. What’s even better is they were sold by Lucky Brands and fulfilled by Amazon. A few days later, my new jeans arrived and they are as expected, simply awesome.

Email Marketing – The Clueless Continuation

Sometimes I wonder if the lights are simply left on and there’s nobody home, because it sure seems that way here. I made the mistake of signing up for Lucky Brands’ email newsletter and now I’m stuck in newsletter hell. Every time they send out a newsletter, I receive 2 identical newsletters simultaneously. (See below)


Then I noticed they were sending newsletters every day. So, now I’m receiving 2 identical emails from them daily. It get’s worse – it’s the same email creatives rotated every few days. It’s either 40% off, 50% off or mystery percentage off (just go to the website to find out what percentage off you’ll receive). So I decided enough is enough and tried to unsubscribe. I clicked the unsubscribe link and was brought back to their home page. Thinking they just weren’t bright enough to bring me to an unsubscribe confirmation page, I concluded that’s it, no more emails from Lucky, hallelujah. Not So Fast – guess again – the emails kept coming – 2 at a time. I then thought to myself, maybe it’s a browser issue and tried the unsubscribe link in Firefox and Internet Explorer, because Chrome didn’t seem to work. In IE it finally worked and I was brought to the page seen below.


Now I figured I’m done with this. I made sure “Unsubscribe” was ticked and clicked “Update”. I was brought to a page that said “Thank You” (See below)


Now You Think We’re Done Right? Think Again

Did you possibly believe it could be this easy? I did – why? I have no idea. You guessed it, the emails kept coming – 2 at a time. To end this fiasco, I simply clicked the spam button so that all Lucky Brand emails simply go into the junk/spam folder. What’s even more amazing to me is that Lucky has still not fixed the SSL Certificate issue on their website. I cannot imagine how much business they are losing from this simple configuration fix and what its costing them. I can’t be the first person who brought this to their attention, nor can I assume I’ll be the last. So why haven’t they fixed it? Why is their email marketing program, deployments, frequency and creative choices so poorly managed for such a large company? I agree, I have no clue either.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise – Lucky Brand files for bankruptcy July 2020. Why am I not surprised?

Over the past few weeks I’ve received a large percentage of phishing emails that purport to be from American Express, although they are not. These emails are sent by scammers trying to steal user names and passwords from unsuspecting American Express card holders, so they can then access their account information and card numbers to use them for fraudulent purposes. Below is a sample of one of the many phishing emails I received.

Although it is pretty obvious to me that this email is not from American Express and is no doubt a phishing email, there are some recipients who are not so astute. If your mother, grandfather or someone new to the Internet or not paying close attention received this email, would they be able to tell that it was not sent from American Express? Would they click the link that looks legitimate and appears as if it would take them to the American Express website? Even though it will not take them to the real American Express website, will they unwittingly type in their user name and password on the fake site? Obviously a percentage of people do, because if they didn’t, these phishing emails would cease being sent.

Below is the header that was received with this email:

From: American Express []
Sent: Tuesday, October 09, 2013 12:15 PM
Subject: Fraud Alert: Irregular Card Activity

Based on the received ‘from name’ and ‘email address’, it looks like the email was sent from American Express. It even has an email address, which is the domain American Express uses to send emails from. It’s not that I blame American Express for sending this email, but rather American Express could easily stop this email from being delivered if they would simply fix their SPF Records. You might ask yourself at this point, how can you blame American Express if they didn’t send this email? Hang in there for 2 minutes and I’ll tell you. Let’s review a few details first.

OK, so what is an SPF Record?

An SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record is a DNS (Domain Name System) record which lists specific servers and IP addresses that are allowed to send e-mail from a domain, such as Correctly configured, this reduces spam and phishing activity that may be perceived to originate from a specific domain, that actually doesn’t, which is known as source address spoofing.

An SPF record is used for messaging security purposes. The SPF record enables a receiving email server to query DNS and determine whether the sending server is authorized to send from a specific domain. There are three ways in which an SPF record can be parsed and dealt with; such as hard fail, soft fail or neutral. The difference between a hard fail and a soft fail is how the owner of SPF records expects the message recipients to treat a spoofed message. When a neutral response is received, it usually means that no SPF record exists for the domain. Most email servers will accept an email with a neutral SPF response, but most SMBs and large corporations all have published SPF records.

Below is a list of SPF Records for, which is used by American Express to send email.

“Spf2.0/pra ~all”

“v=spf1 ip4: ip4: ip4: ip4: ip4: ip4: a mx ~all”

To simplify and make the records easier to decipher, I have broken down the formatted records into an easy to understand format.

Without getting into too technical an explanation of how an SPF record is configured, I’ll discuss and point out the failure. If you look at the last line in the SPF record detail above, you’ll notice ~all which is listed as a “Soft Fail”.

Understanding the difference between ~all Soft Fail and -all Hard Fail

A Soft Fail (~all)

If the email message from a domain comes from an IP address which is outside the IP range that is defined in the SPF record for the domain, the message will be accepted but marked in the email header. This is something you do not see when you receive the email. All properly configured email servers will accept an email tagged with a “Soft Fail”.

A Hard Fail (-all)

If the email message from a domain comes from an IP address which is outside the IP range that is defined in the SPF record for the domain, the message will be rejected.

How American Express has failed to protect its card members.

If American Express simply changed their SPF Record from ~all (Soft Fail) to –all (Hard Fail) these fraudulent, phishing emails, that appear to be sent from American Express, would be rejected at the recipients email server and never get delivered to the intended email recipient. Simply using ~all is tantamount to saying, here are all the possible servers that our email should come from, but if it doesn’t accept it anyway. Why even bother publishing SPF records if you’re going to override them with a ~all?

American Express has a section on their website dedicated to fraud prevention and protecting your information. They provide advice and a vast amount of information to help you protect yourself, but fail miserably themselves where it really matters.

In 2012 alone, losses from credit card fraud totaled $6 billion. Now who do you think pay’s for those losses? You are correct, we all do. If by simply changing a tilde (~) to a dash () or ~all to -all (Soft Fail to Hard Fail) American Express could reduce the number of phishing emails delivered and significantly reduce credit card fraud and losses due to stolen credit card information. Why wouldn’t American Express make this simple change? Don’t know? Neither do I.

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?”

― Isaac Asimov

December 2023 Update:

It appears American Express has fixed their SPF record and it only took them 10 years.

Imagine walking into a bar and immediately proposing to the first person that catches your eye. Unless you have the body of David Beckham or the lips of Angelina Jolie, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that your approach to finding a life-long partner is a bit skewed. And I bet you would agree with me. As we all know, dating can be extremely exhausting. It’s a large investment of time, money, and emotions in your search for “the one” that makes it all worthwhile in the end. What it all boils down to is that the world of dating and the world of marketing are one in the same. I am not suggesting that you pursue romantic relationships with your most valued customers, as that could lead to sexual harassment charges that could do more damage to your business reputation than it’s worth. What I am suggesting is that you should align your approach to dating with your approach to marketing.

The problem with marketers today is that we go straight for the gold. We are attempting to go fishing without bait. We tend to interrupt customers and try to sell them our products and services without realizing that, without offering some kind of incentive to spark the conversation, they have no reason to pay attention to you. This is essentially equivalent to proposing marriage before asking them on a second date.

Think about applying for a job, for instance. It’s a process. You can’t submit your resume on every job search website and expect to get hired on the spot. A well-crafted resume will earn you an introductory interview. Given that you are well-spoken and present yourself in a professional manner, you may get the opportunity to come in for a second or third interview. Once proper measures are taken to determine whether or not you are a right fit for the company, only then should you expect an offer. After paying hefty fees toward your schooling and investing your time in an effort to gain relevant work experience, you are now armed with the knowledge and expertise to enter into another line of work and eventually reap the rewards of your initial investment.

The same goes with marketing in that the customer acquisition costs far outweigh the customer retention costs. Take American Express, for example. This credit card company invests nearly $150.00 to get a new cardholder. Although this makes you wonder how they are still in business, it’s because they have adopted the permission-based marketing model to generate loyal customers who stick with them for the long term. Instead of approaching new customers with the intention of making a sale right off the bat, they woo their customers with an offer that they can’t resist. They focus their media efforts to sell their permission to engage in conversation, and have earned much higher response rates as a result. While $150.00 seems a bit steep at first glance, American Express leverages that expense by engaging in a continued, mutually beneficial relationship with their customers. Rather than exhausting their resources into selling their product pipeline to as many new customers as they can find, they extract the maximum value from each of their loyal customers.

But how do you initially open the lines of communication with those who want to hear from you? In this information age where owning a computer or smartphone is just as common as owning a toothbrush, we can target and reach business decision makers or consumers in around the globe through email marketing for a fraction of the cost of more traditional forms of advertising. As advances in technology have enabled us to track consumer interest and buying patterns online, we have the ability to choose who to target. As long as you provide something of value and demonstrate how it will enhance the lives of your audience, those who are interested in your offer will come to you for more information.

In addition, smart marketers acknowledge the fact that marketing does not end with the first sale. Rather, that’s where true marketing begins. Now, the question lies in finding the secret to keep our customers satisfied and wanting more. Not to keep referencing the dating analogy, but try to spice things up every now and then. Eventually, we all get sick of going for dinner and a movie.

Successful business lies in continually fine-tuning the products and services you offer while also expanding your selection to meet the ever-changing wants and needs of your client base. It means revamping your advertising strategy and adjusting your incentives to continually lure them in.

The bottom line? Sell more to fewer customers.

“Hey, it’s me… your old customer… remember me?

I bought from you a while back. I’m in need of your service again, but I didn’t know if your business was even in existence anymore, nor did I even remember your company name. I decided to go with another company who actually cared about my business.” This is how the story goes. You celebrate over the fact that you made a sale to a new customer. Either a product is delivered or a service is performed. An order is filled out, and that customer now goes into a manila file folder in the office file cabinet. A year passes. As you wipe off the dust that has collected on your file cabinet over this period of time, you now ask, “What ever happened to that customer, and why haven’t I heard from them?” I’m here to give you a reality check. Most likely, that customer moved on because they simply felt that you didn’t value their business. They switched to a competitor of yours who actively took the time to continue the conversation, even after the product was delivered or the service was performed.

This makes perfect sense when you consider that the majority of customers come to you because they developed a relationship with you prior to purchasing your offerings, or were referred to you by a friend or business colleague. When you fail to open the gates of communication and keep them informed of your brand existence, you no longer become the company that comes to mind when the need for your service arises once again.

The goal of marketing executives is to stretch their marketing budget as far as they can in an effort to gain the maximum benefit using minimal amount of resources. Without unleashing the power of marketing, any opportunity or potential for business growth goes out the window. However, our focus toward acquiring new customers is oftentimes so strong that we become blinded by the reality that 80% of your business is right in front of your face.

Instead of spending the majority of your time and resources going after new clients who must be persuaded and convinced that you are a reputable business and capable of delivering above and beyond consumer expectations, why not capitalize on those who have already chosen you over your competitors at least once before? Why not engage your customers with your business and continue the dialogue? Maybe It’s Time to Start Dating Your Customers.

Nurturing, retaining, communicating and maintaining the relationship with your existing customers is the key to keeping the sales rolling in, especially when, on average, repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers and are also more inclined to refer additional business your way.

It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t require any strategic thinking or a reallocation of your marketing budget. It’s actually easier than you think. All it requires is a simple email every so often, or perhaps a follow up phone call every now and then will do the trick. Pick up the phone and start calling. Make that call just to say “Hi, how are you doing. I’m here if you need anything.”

Email newsletters are the most effective method of outreach to keep your customers in tune with news of your business, new products or services you have on the market, blogs or press releases that discuss insight into your field of expertise, or anything else that will provide a value-added benefit to your customers. Never underestimate the value of an effective, relevant, and informative subject line to capture the attention of your most prized asset, your customer database.

So what’s the hold up?

Acknowledging that your imploding in the basics of simply generating sales and have been screwing up for the last year or so, will not get you any closer to your goals. Do something about it. You just blew your opportunity to increase your sales by 50%. Failing to simply keep in touch with your existing customers, is unconscionable. Now pick up the phone, and make that call. A good customer is a terrible thing to waste.

How many of you think mistakes and failures are a good thing? I don’t see too many hands in the air. Most people usually view mistakes and failures as negative. I would challenge you to look at failures and mistakes positively.

We are often fearful of admitting our mistakes or making them to start with, because most feel it would make them look vulnerable, weak, stupid or a bad business decision maker. Making mistakes should be seen as something positive, because it shows that you have tried something new, different or difficult and didn’t quite get it right on your first attempt. Many successful people, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford all made mistakes and had failures along their path to success. It took Henry Ford three times to get it right. He went bankrupt in his attempt to build a car company, then was fired from his second endeavor and finally made it on his third try. All of these very successful people could have simply given up after making mistakes or based upon their past failures, but they didn’t. They learned from their mistakes and failures, changed direction and blazed their own path to success.

I believe that most successful people look at mistakes and failures much differently than the average person. Most successful people don’t look at mistakes and failures as negative. They look at them as a learning experience and take what they learned, make the appropriate changes and try again. To be successful, we need to change our attitude and how we view mistakes. Mistakes and failures should not be something we are ashamed of. We should encourage people to discuss and admit their mistakes in an effort to learn from them.

Failures are generally valuable lessons learned by people that ensure they never make the same mistake again. Obviously, it’s not acceptable to make the same mistake twice, as all successful people are not afraid of making mistakes but they don’t make the same mistake twice. As an example, Thomas Edison’s attitude toward mistakes during his quest to develop the light bulb: “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. It is exactly this attitude and his ability to learn from mistakes that enabled him to eventually succeed. Edison also said “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

What is Success?The definition of success is:1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.2. The attainment of popularity or profit.

Is success understood as owning a large home or nice car? Are you successful if you make a lot of money or are the CEO of a successful email marketing company? Success can be interpreted by many different people, many different ways. You could be a great parent to your children, by learning from your mistakes, which makes you a success. You can have lots of money in the bank, be a mentor, help the less fortunate, or graduate from college. Being a success is what you understand the word success to mean and being successful in your own mind.

Without mistakes there would be no progress or success. Be comfortable in your mistakes and your failures in your pursuit of success. Don’t be ashamed of making mistakes, but be sure you learn from them and you don’t repeat them. And, of course, never give up on chasing your dream; no matter how many times failure gets in your way.

I feel that success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.

Let’s dumb it down and look at the word “moron” first. I assume after we do that, most can determine what a marketing moron is.

Here is the definition from Wikipedia;

Moron is a controversial term once used in psychology to denote a category of mental retardation. The term was closely tied with the American eugenics movement. Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use by the psychological community.

Origin and uses:

“Moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard from the Greek word moros, which meant “dull” (as opposed to “sharp”), and used to describe a person with a mental age located between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale. It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51-70, being superior in one degree to “imbecile” (IQ of 26-50) and superior in two degrees to “idiot” (IQ of 0-25). The word moron, along with others including “retarded”, “idiotic”, “imbecilic”, “stupid”, and “feeble-minded”, was formerly considered a valid descriptor in the psychological community, but it is now deprecated by psychologists.

I have been in the Internet Marketing industry for more than 12 years. I have worked with some great people who know their stuff BUT the bulk of the people I see in this industry are morons. Now you might say to yourself, “how can he call such a large group of people morons?” Well, it’s easy. At our morning sales meetings, I usually discuss where we are with open IO’s from affiliate networks and a large portion of the time the answer is always the same, we are waiting to hear back. Communications is a huge part of any business and communicating with your clients and vendors is probably the most important factor in keeping good working relationships intact. Below is a list of common sense items in working with clients and vendors that most people in the affiliate world, at least 75%-80%, don’t do on a constant or continual basis. Are you one of those morons, I mean people?

Do you:

1. Return phone calls the same day
2. Respond to emails in a timely manner

3. Follow up
4. Deal with issues and concerns timely
5. Know your business and what you are selling

These are just a few things in a long list of common sense items when dealing with customers or vendors in any line of business. I guess my biggest concern about marketing morons is mainly pointed at affiliate networks. I am curious if most affiliate networks hire morons to fill seats versus hiring qualified people to deal with their customers and vendors. The biggest bitch from salespeople in my office is; “I sent an IO last week, sent 3 emails to follow up and left 2 voicemail messages and have heard nothing back.” My question is then, “Why did you send them an IO?” and the response is, “Because they asked me to during the numerous phone calls we had after going through all of the details and working out the terms of the deal.”

You may think my article is a little harsh or over the top by including such a large group of people in my definition of marketing morons. You should think to yourself, does this happen to me? Does it take me 3 emails and 2 voicemails to not get a response from an affiliate manager OR am I the affiliate manager who is not responding, am I the marketing moron?

Every successful business begins with a thorough business plan — and Business Plan Writing 101 includes an effort to identify and analyze the competition. So it’s no big secret that understanding how “the other guys” stay in business is a crucial part of bringing your potential customers around them, and to you. But while the tools of the digital marketing age might have changed, the fundamentals of so called “opposition research” remain the same as they’ve ever been: if you’ve got competition (and everyone does), your efforts need to focus on determining 1) what the competition is doing to attract and retain customers, and 2) how you can learn from their successes (and failures).

Just Browsing. In the “old days” getting a read on another business’ practices might’ve been as simple as walking into the competitor’s store, asking a few questions, maybe getting a price list, and then checking at the local newspaper to see how big an ad they were running. Today’s successful marketing campaigns are multi-pronged and coordinated affairs — but you can still “shop” the competition to some extent. Visit their website and imagine being their customer. What works? What would you change?

Follow and Join. If your competition is on social media, you’ve got another chance to look over their shoulder. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, wherever they have a presence. How do they present themselves on Pinterest? What times of day do they update? There’s a huge amount of data to be mined here. Remember, they’re watching their own campaigns to see what works; if they stop posting in the evening, for example, and only post during business hours, you can bet it’s because they saw success in daytime updates.

Read your email. If you’re in the target audience for your competition, the odds are pretty good you’re already receiving marketing email from them. If you’re not, get on their lists. If there’s a place to sign up for email messages, sign up for them — and pay attention to how they arrive, when they arrive, and whether you as a potential customer found them useful. Did you have the sense they were using a verified and targeted email list, or did you feel they were using a more “shotgun” approach — and how did that make you, as a potential customer, feel?

Search for them. Again, imagining yourself as a customer who wants to buy something your competition is selling, try to find it online. Enter the search terms you believe you’d use to find the product or service — and see if your competition turns up. If they don’t, you might have found an opening for your own business. If they do, look carefully and see what they’ve done to reach the top of those search results. Are they providing extra content that’s helpful to potential customers, or are they offering a streamlined purchasing experience? Several online tools can help you see how often they update their pages; fresh, relevant content always rises to the top.

Believe in the numbers. If you’ve found (and tried) a strategy that seems to be working well for your competition, now’s the time to pay attention to your metrics — the things you can accurately measure. Whether that’s an analysis of what kinds of social media efforts bring eventual customers to your website, or simply a reckoning of what kinds of email marketing translates into sales for you, you’ve got to trust your own numbers. Don’t get stuck doing what the competition does if it doesn’t work for your business.

See related article: Are you a Marketing Moron? What is a Marketing Moron?