Thursday, July 5, 2007

Spamming And Marketing Are Two Different Things

Spammers continue to assume that spamming anyone, regardless of their interest in their products and services, is a great business plan.

Dollar (aka Swank, aka Christopher J. Brown) posted the following quite a while ago (Oct. 2006):

...this industry is full of immature haters, losers and competitors that hate to see you doing things. Having haters is a sign that youve made it in this industry.

He's wrong of course. One can be a completely compliant mailer and obey laws and not use hijacked machines to perform their business functions and they will significantly reduce the number of people who hate them.

If you spam me, and I object to it, and in response you spam me three times as much as last time: what do you THINK my reaction is going to be? If you keep doing it for weeks, months and years on end: how much better do you think my opinion of you will get? How much will I respect you?

I have a couple of email addresses which have been on somebody's spam lists since the late 1990's. I never asked to be put on them and they were likely scraped from ancient postings on usenet and old websites. There's nothing I can do about that. And now these same spammers are re-selling the lists which include my address, and they simply don't care that in the 10+ years I've been on them: I've never purchased anything from them, and I have never clicked on any of their ridiculous tracking links. They will never see dollar one from me, ever, as long as I live. Yet the messages continue to flood my and millions of other people's inboxes. They seem to think this is a winning business strategy. If dollar is one of these idiots: I'm shocked that he's "made it" in any industry much less bulk unsolicited email marketing.

I have nothing against an individual who chooses email as a marketing tool. However if that same individual starts choosing my email address apropos of nothing to start promoting products I would never in my lifetime wish to hear about: how is that good business sense? Hardcore career spammers see this kind of complaint as mere whining and fail to address it, and then wonder why they get arrested for doing precisely that. I will never understand this mentality.

Marketing thrives on recognizing and addressing a target group of consumers. It's been this way since the first flyer was deposited in a mailbox. You fit a certain age, gender and educational demographic, you will eventually see marketing targeted specifically for you. You may not want it, and for most traditional (a.k.a.: legal or legitimate) marketing formats, you can complain about it, and in most companies the company that sent you their materials has to stop doing so. Spamming - and by spamming I mean indiscriminate, uncleaned list, wholesale email blasting - is quite different. Everyone receives it, studies show that far less than 0.1% of that audience wants it, and everyone is spending lots of money to stop it from getting through. Spammers in return double their efforts to get around these countermeasures.


Who are the idiots who are finally throwing their hands up in the air and suddenly buying fake Viagra, at risk of their health and their personal data, upon receiving yet another unsolicited, misspelled spam message, probably with heavy obfuscation and an image attachment? Who are these people? Why are they sending their hard-earned money to these miscreants? It just simply does not make any sense. If I weren't seeing any of this spam, I would scarcely believe that anyone would click through it, much less continue on to placing an order, but apparently somebody out there is freakishly stupid enough to do so.

Spammers make the same highly misinformed claims over and over again:

  1. They are rich, and we envy them for it (discussed previously on this very blog.)

  2. Complaints - especially lots of them - are a sign of success in the spam industry.

  3. Spamming is perfectly legal and "just another form of marketing".

  4. If you don't like it, you can "just delete it". How hard is that to understand?

  5. If they weren't spamming you, somebody else would anyway.

  6. Marketing is everywhere, you should just get used to this form of "marketing" as well.

I don't need to go into laborious detail as to why these are all completely false claims.

Everybody by now knows that when you receive 20,000 spam messages and in the midst of them are the three or four genuine messages you actually wanted to read, you can't "just delete" all of them. You have to weed your way through them in the hopes that you don't accidentally delete a genuinely wanted message. This is time consuming and frustrating for pretty much everybody out there who receives email.

Marketing, and by marketing I mean genuine, legitimate, professional marketing, has rules and guidelines surrounding it which career spammers do not follow. For example: I, as an individual or a citizen, cannot just brazenly put up a huge billboard on someone else's building or vehicle. I can't erect that same billboard on land I do not own. I can't call your phone number if you have explicitly entered it onto a "do not call" list. If I violate any of these rules, you could sue me. People do get sued for these infractions and they can face severe punishment including heavy fines and revocation of business licenses for doing so. I can't enter your house and put up posters promoting my product either. There are numerous civil laws which prevent me from performing such activities on property which is not mine.

There's also the small matter of the cost of these forms of marketing. You have to invest a huge amount of time, money and effort to pull of a successful billboard, radio or TV ad campaign. Coca Cola spend billions of dollars every year on TV ads alone and it's a very successful method of marketing for them. Part of the reason Coca Cola is not lumped in with the likes of these career spammers is because they want a very specific message to reach a fairly specific (though widespread) demographic: thirsty young people. If they started sending emails in the same way that these spammers are doing you can absolutely guarantee that they would be vilified and investigated for doing so. There are rules. Coca Cola is following them. Spammers are not.

Spammers ignore all of that and make the blanket statement that spamming is "just another form of marketing." We see billboards every day. Do we complain about them as much as we do about spamming? Of course not. Do we complain about all the TV ads we see every day? Some of us do. But again there's a difference.

If spammers ran the TV ad industry, not only would there be more ads, there would be several hundred of them in sequence, leaving you a measly 2 minutes of actual TV program to watch for every hour of TV you spent watching. People do hate TV ads, but again: there are very specific rules around how often, at what time, and over what period of time you will end up seeing an ad. If I was watching a new episode of Lost and the first commercial break showed me 79 TV ads for a bogus drugstore: I would turn off my TV. I would also complain to the producers of lost that they had "Lost" me as a viewer for good unless they stopped this rampant marketing of products which don't appeal to me. People have done this, and networks have paid attention to this type of complaint.

My comparison of spamming to urination still holds as far as I'm concerned. People urinate every day, several times a day. That doesn't mean that it's okay to urinate anywhere you want, or on people, or on public transit, or at the dinner table. There are specific places to do this, and if you want people to respect you and not be offended, you'll do it where you're supposed to. Nor should you be surprised when people get angry with you for doing so, especially if you keep doing it when asked to stop.

There are rules.

Why this is not obvious to spammers is thoroughly perplexing.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the comparisons of dealing with spam to that of dealing with urination. It stinks to report or delete it from my inbox, it sucks up my valuable time. If digital spam had a smell in the real world it would smell like urine. -anti-now-and-then