We’re all aware of spam – it goes without saying. But the parameters of what is and what isn’t spam is changing, it seems. The literal onslaught in everyone’s inboxes is certainly affecting cut through. I’m still not sure that if I unsubscribe to one thing I am, in fact, subscribing to another – with my act of unsubscribing from a marketing email landing in my inbox, I’ve effectively proved I am a human being with a pulse, so it seems to keep on coming. Sound familiar?
An article last week on The Guardian discussed the topic of lazy emails, aptly named ‘Death by spam’. Cory Doctorow, the author of the piece, talked about how, when he was in the desert in Nevada, he was unable to check his mail for some time. When he finally found a WiFi signal, he spent hours and hours sifting through spam to get to the important ones. It frustrated him so much that he decided to begin an anti-spam campaign, of sorts.
He decided to laboriously unsubscribe by clicking the links at the bottom of the emails – something he’d not done before as he was wary of letting on that these emails had, in fact, reached their destination.
The surprise came when he realised that almost all of the spam he had received was “legitimate” – it hadn’t been sent by con artists, but by businesses he was actually familiar with or had a relationship with (but had never actually agreed to be on their lists).
“Being legit isn’t a guarantee of good behaviour,” states Doctorow, who goes on to say that some of these companies have “perfected the art of annoyance”. He even says he found it almost funny that some emails he would receive after he’d unsubscribe would ask him whether he did so “in error”.
After his anti-spam efforts, he says he is down to 10% of the spam he received before. Some companies expressed concern/hurt, so he’d carefully explain that, while he would be happy to subscribe to their Twitter or receive personal emails from them, he wasn’t interested in receiving “that sort” of information.
I think what we can learn is that the message, the design and the personalisation (and by this I don’t mean just having my name on it!) is what matters. It’s about giving me the information I want as opposed to blanket messages. We all know that there is targeting and information about me and my online habits available to brands doing it properly, and those that take the time to use the software available – and correctly supply me with relevant information – will get my attention.
The problem is that not everyone is using the techniques, time and effort required to get this kind of cut through. Do you bother to unsubscribe, or do you just delete because of the laborious process of unsubscribing to everything? And if the messages were well thought through and just for you, do you think it would truly make a difference? I am still indifferent, but I’m sure there is a place for non-spammy email marketing – if it’s done properly.