Never let it be said that marketers can’t take advantage of anything. In this case, there was a lot of commercial email mentioning Hurricane Sandy sent over the last few days. The emails themselves mapped into a number of broad categories.
Informational: Emails from hotels, airlines and east coast businesses keeping customers updated about their current status. Emails from many banks also fell into this category. Generally these emails offered information about reservations, flight statuses and cancellations. In the case of banks, customers were also told about loosening of overdraft and other policies.
Sales: Some retailers used the storm as an excuse for a storm. American Apparel sent out an email advertising a 36 hour sale for residents in states on the hurricane path. This prompted some recipients to complain about the tastelessness of the advertising.
Relief efforts: A number of companies sent out emails encouraging subscribers to donate to relief efforts. In many cases these companies are located in or have employees directly affected by the storm. Some of these companies offered discounts or bonuses to people who donated to relief efforts.
Spam: Finally, I would be remiss in not pointing out that spammers and scammers come out in force after most natural disasters. Spammers took full advantage of the storm, too and were sending out lots of mail mentioning the storm. Mailchimp dedicated a full blog post to looking at the amount of spam mentioning the storm and its impact on email delivery.
Return Path has an analysis of some of the Sandy related mailings and how they performed both between categories (although Return Path didn’t categorize them like I did) and within categories. It’s well worth a read to see how different approaches worked.
Email is a great way to communicate with people. The breadth of emails going out about or referencing the storm are a testament to that.