Wednesday, December 08, 2004

According to BT, by 2008, 71% of all e-mail sent worldwide will be spam.

A recent Yahoo! Mail survey of 37,000 Internet users in 11 countries on five continents, found that people all over the world hate spam. Surprising? It shouldn't be.

I'm amazed that after so many years, that anyone still needs to make arguments against spamming. If you want to know what are the biggest threats to legitimate (which means permission-based) email marketing effectiveness, they are spammers and people who buy from spammers. I'll forgive the latter for their own ignorance and move on to the former.

To keep it short. Spammers are irresponsible, short-sighted, unethical, stupid and greedy individuals. I don't even like to refer to them as marketers -- it's kind of like calling snake oil salesman, drug dealers or pimps "marketers." Unfortunately, the truth is, spammers are not merely the fly-by-night no-name companies and "brands" selling Viagra and breast enlargement creams, but also consist of a number of well-known corporations. Especially in the direct marketing world.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA), whose members are primarily direct marketers, strongly backed the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. I think they missed an opportunity to have taken a stronger stance. This law was reported, correctly, by much of the world community as the U.S. being the first nation to legalize spam. While CAN-SPAM does put rules around spam and makes the worst offenses illegal, it does not legitimize legally compliant spam in the minds of email users or stop the significant problem caused by what may end up being a huge amount of legally compliant spam (a lot of spam today is non-compliant with this law). Consequently, U.S.-based spam monitoring groups will still blacklist a legally compliant spammer, resulting in ISPs and organizations blocking emails from the sender from reaching their clients or employees (respectively), as this legal spam still causes a lot of headaches.

Often, CAN-SPAM compliant spam will still violate the laws of smart marketing and branding. Getting a small percentage of short-term sales at the expense of annoying, alienating or harming your brand image with the vast majority of recipients remains a stupid offense -- regardless of laws -- putting brand image, reputation, relationships and long-term profitability at risk. Smart marketers still operate using best practice permission email marketing standards: only email to people who have specifically requested you to send them email with the frequency they expect and allow them to easily unsubcribe whenever they choose.

- Peter DeLegge

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