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Ken Magill

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What Email Marketers Can Learn from My Dog Willy


By Ken Magill

[Warning: Crudeness ahead]

One day recently I looked into our living room I saw our male cream-colored Labradoodle, Willy, humping our other male cream-colored Labradoodle, Woody.

Woody didn’t seem to be bothered by Willy’s actions. He just kind of stood there and let Willy continue.

As I watched the two of them, I thought: “If ever there was a metaphor for bad email marketing, this is it.”

You see, by humping him, Willy was making Woody an offer. But the offer was neither relevant nor valuable to Woody.

It wasn’t like Willy was acting like a spammer, though. Willy had received explicit permission to communicate with Woody years ago. Heck, they communicate all the time.

But Willy was thinking only of what he thought was a cool offer. He wasn’t thinking of what Woody might want.

And just like most consumers receiving irrelevant email of no value in their inboxes, Woody wasn’t particularly bothered by Willy’s off-target offer.

He just ignored it.

He didn’t do the equivalent of deleting the email by shoving Willy off of him. And he didn’t do the equivalent of making a spam complaint by growling or biting Willy.

He stood there and acted like nothing was happening, allowing Willy to continue making the same irrelevant, no-value offer.

So while Willy was busily humping away, his offer was doing the equivalent of just sitting in the inbox, going ignored, unread and unopened.

Oh, and I should also point out that Willy is a stunning creature—canine perfection. When he runs at full speed, it is poetry.

What does Willy’s physique have to do with email marketing? Well you see, the creative Willy used to present Woody the offer was beautiful. But it didn’t matter how beautiful the creative was. The offer was worthless.

After about five seconds of watching Willy hump Woody, I walked over and gave Willy a shove.

“Willy! Get the hell off him!” I said.

I did the equivalent of an inbox provider noticing Willy was making an offer Woody didn’t want.

By shoving Willy off Woody, I was doing the equivalent of pushing Willy into our living-room spam folder.

So next time you’re putting the final touches on an email campaign, remember: Your creative could be the marketing equivalent of poetry. The campaign could be 100 percent permission based.

But if the offer is off target, you’re just one male dog humping another male dog.

[Author’s note: This article is part of The Magill Report Truly Twisted Marketing Metaphor Contest. Click here for details.]


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by:
Date: 2013-05-21 18:08:05

Love that they're named Willy and Woody. Could that have been more perfect?
Posted by: Matt from Boston
Date: 2013-05-15 13:39:05
Subject: Brilliance

This may be the finest piece of journalism on any topic that I have ever read.
Posted by: Nancy Arter
Date: 2013-05-14 19:23:36
Subject: Woody and Willy

I love your metaphor article and you HAVE inspired me to write one of my own. I will share it when I do! OK, now brace yourself for the truly bizarre . . . I am the parent of two male Pugs who also hump each other. Wait for it . . . their names are Willy and Woody!! Although in our household, Woody is the humper and Willy the non-plussed humpee. Hysterical!!!