Will We Never Learn?

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How would you feel if you got a spam email from a legitimate business with a five meg PDF attachment… twice?

It just happened. It happens all of the time. You didn’t give them your email address and you certainly didn’t give them permission to send you anything, but they still do it. Where did they get your name? It was either a stolen database, an unscrupulous seller of a sketchy third-party, maybe they went through a physical directory from your trade association, or they could even be scraping it right off of the websites from companies they would like as customers.

Whatever they’re doing, it’s wrong and it provides another annoying reason why people don’t trust Marketers (and maybe why they never will).

We all expect this kind of conduct from the more sketchy businesses out there, but when it comes from a legitimate business that you know, the pain cuts deep. It’s bad enough when it’s just an email, but to include a 5 meg PDF attachment and also leave the entire list of email addresses that it’s being sent to exposed is just plain idiotic. You know what happened next? Because they lack even basic email marketing skills, they sent it through again because their email server probably bounced a bunch of them back.

I called them on it.

Literally. I spoke to someone (who you could tell was fielding irate calls) who said that they didn’t know where they got my email address from, but that they would remove it. And, after all of that, they didn’t even say "sorry for the inconvenience" or even try to crack a joke about how they clearly don’t get it. Nothing. Even after explaining to them that it is unethical to send those types of email (maybe even illegal). Not even a "sorry."

Spamming someone is illegal, but that’s not the sad part. The sad part is that we have to tell Marketers that it’s illegal and we have to pass a law.

We would all be better off if we just used some common sense. Never send any customers, clients or potential ones anything unless they’ve either asked you to, or have given their explicit permission. If you really want more and more people that are not a part of your ethical database, try some mass advertising. You can even use the mass advertising campaign to really try to build and nurture your database. It could be a contest, provide them a white paper, etc…

Spam is not going to go away any time soon, unless everybody (and that includes you) stops responding to it. We could also take things up a notch and declare that – as Marketers – we are not going to take part or accept it when this type of practice is done.

A little self-policing in our own industry could go a long way.


  1. The sad part is there are also many companies that *know* it’s wrong and still do it anyway!
    I would also advise if it’s sent through an email marketing software (You can find out through the header info), to email the software company and let them know, as they almost always have rules against customers sending unsolicited emails.

  2. When can we take stabs at who we think the offending company is? I receive duplicate emails from a certain business with similarly heavy pdf attachments, though I haven’t received one today or in the past couple weeks. I don’t know where they got my address either but I’m pretty sure it isn’t from me!

  3. I believe that whether there were uniform standards that were followed by everyone or even laws that prevented marketers from conducting themselves in certain ways, marketing (and advertising and PR) will always have a certain stigma because of the role we serve. Simply put, our role is to capture a piece of people’s thought process and monopolize it with our own message.
    On a very primal level, that’s offensive because it infringes on free-will.
    I’m not saying it’s not natural to do this kind of thing. After all, we’re social creatures, and we cede brain space to other people’s ideas just be interacting with them.
    I’m just saying that it’s always likely to piss people off, especially when it’s what you specialize in and/or are committed to.

  4. Vectoring from Adam’s comment on outing the firm vs calling them on it, how many companies are receptive to the call in that it would change their future ways?

  5. What’s funny, Mitch, is that the spammers I’ve spoken with about this same issue, simply don’t understand. It’s like they’ve just arrived from Mars (or Venus), were given access to the technology and decided to email everyone and their brother because they can.

  6. If someone is spamming you the clearly don’t understand the word public relations… they might use a scatter gun approach at war and all that results in is a lot of people annoyed!
    What I’ve found from speaking to various PR agencies and marketing people is that they especially don’t understand that bloggers are ‘real’ people that have arms, legs and brains and are very similar to the marketer… Then I ask them, how would you like to be spoke to?

  7. I assume that most of us know it’s illegal. The only reason why they do it is, no matter how we hate it, spam works. Think about it: If only one half of one percent get hooked out of, let’s say 10,000 people, that means 50 new customers. With little or no investment at all, not bad.
    But we all know about the damage it causes to the brand, right? Except that some marketing guys only see the return on investment for their effort.
    The thing is, the value of the damage your doing to your brand by using that technique is far greater than the money you could ever get from those 50 new customers. But as that damage is untangible and difficult to calculate, the gain that they get from new customers is. And in a fast-paced world where instant results are important to shareholders, they sometimes see more in the benefit than in the damage. Don’t you think?

  8. Mitch:
    Have you checked with Cision.com? They have a database of thousands and thousands of media professionals, and more than 12,000 professionals. I was receiving terrible e-mail pitches — much of it I’d call spam as well — and through some sleuthing, found that my name and address were being pulled from a database at Cision.com.
    You can call up Cision and ask for your record to be removed or updated. The number is on the Cision.com website.
    I left an audio comment for yesterday’s For Immediate Release podcast about doing just that: http://www.archive.org/download/BryanPersonsAudioCommentForEpisode401OfTheForImmediateRelease/BryanPerson-audio-comment-for-FIR401.mp3
    Hope this helps!
    Bryan Person | @BryanPerson

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