Many marketers and coaches will tell you that a great way to secure blog traffic and high open rates is to make whatever it is you have to say relevant and, if possible, tie it in with recent events.

But what you should not do, however, is something as sick as tasteless as what you’ll find in this newsletter received this afternoon from elektroniknet.de:

elektroniknet's painfully distasteful newsletter, sent on the day of the Germanwings tragedy

elektroniknet.de’s painfully distasteful newsletter, sent on the day of the Germanwings tragedy

For those who don’t speak German, which probably includes the marketing staff at Texas Instruments, who are no doubt unaware of the mud elektroniknet.de just splashed them with, here is a translation:

Subject: Breaking News: WIs MSP432 Microcontroller with ARM Cortex M4

Dear Reader,

On a day on which 150 people lost their lives in a plane crash, it is not easy to write about a new microcontroller. First of all, also on behalf of all my colleagues, I would like express my sympathies to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the crash of the Germanwings plane. Nonetheless, it is our duty to inform you of new developments, even on a dark day like this one, if they have the potential to change an entire market.

So here you see it. There’s an attention-grabbing headline: “Breaking News” (Eilmeldung), which is especially suited to a day like today when half of Germany is watching for updates on what exactly has happened to Germanwings Flight 9525.

Worse than that, this guy refers to microcontrollers. Microcontrollers are used in embedded systems, and therefore a common feature in modern aircraft. Like many, I quickly opened it thinking there was some problem with a particular type of microcontroller and that it might have something to do with what happened to the plane.

The subject line was bad enough, but the awful, unethical, inconsiderate and feeble attempt to justify their abuse of current events to enhance interest and open rates is just another slap in the face.

Frankly, marketers and indeed companies like this give marketers a bad name. Yes, the world does not stop spinning ‘just’ because of some tragedy. I understand that. But there is simply no need to abuse people’s feelings with deceptive subject lines and try to score a PR hit by expressing your sympathy while announcing the latest microcontroller. However groundbreaking that microcontroller is, on a day like today, I simply could not care less, and I’m greatly shocked and irritated to have received such a vulgar newsletter.

Judging by the timing, I expect Texas Instruments is probably completely unaware of the promotion of their product that has gone out in their name. It is unlikely that a translation was arranged and quickly approved by the relevant departments before this went out. That’s not to say Texas Instruments did not make a mistake: ideally, they should have checks such as translations of local marketing activities arranged to see nobody commits such a blunder in their name. But mistakes happen. The fault really lies with elektroniknet.de and their cack-handed attempt at “relevance” in email marketing.

My final advice on this matter is yes, make your newsletter relevant. But don’t mislead people in the subject line or try to turn a recent tragedy into a marketing opportunity. If you believe the world must go on, then let it: don’t mention whatever’s happened, because any attempt to mention it or tie it in is likely to be (rightly) viewed with considerable scepticism. If you really are moved by the tragedy, then wait a day or so, and then explain the reasons for the delay. I can’t speak for everyone, but I certainly find appropriately timed silence to be an acceptable mark of genuine respect.

Finally, and respectfully, I offer my deepest condolences to those affected by the crash.