Marketing’s Weekly Dose of the Truth

Ken Magill

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Yet More Evidence We Should Stop Beating Ourselves Up

By Ken Magill
“Don’t believe the hype: There was no holiday email blizzard burying subscribers under heaps of unwelcome marketing messages. Neither was there a consumer backlash against email marketing, or evidence of weakening engagement or offer fatigue around Christmas 2014. In fact consumers’ interest in email marketing actually increased during the peak of the holiday shopping season.”
So goes the opening paragraph in email intelligence and security company Return Path’s recently released “State of the Inbox, Quarterly Snapshot: Q4 2014 Report.”
Introductory statements don’t get much clearer than that.
The report goes on to point out that the vast majority of email in people’s inboxes is commercial and that when people complained in the fourth quarter of 2014 that email was spam, rarely was it about a retail brand’s messages.
Return Path’s report comes on the heels of a MarketingSherpa study claiming that 91 percent of American adults like to receive promotional email from companies with which they do business.
So what does all this mean? It means the incessant chatter in permission-based email marketing about sending fewer but smarter emails so we can stop annoying people is just that—chatter. And increasingly annoying chatter at that.
It means when someone begins to make a point by saying people are drowning in unwanted commercial email, everything that comes out of their mouth following that statement is complete nonsense.
Email inboxes are primarily commercial and people like it that way.
If people don’t like email from a specific sender, they can unsubscribe. Or if they’re wary of clicking unsubscribe links, they can report the messages as spam.
Either way, the messages stop. “Problem” solved.
The idea that people are helpless victims of unsolicited email has long lost all validity. Spam is a problem for ISPs, not individual email users.
And yet the constant refrain in permission-based email marketing is: “Send fewer emails. Trim your lists.” and “Stop annoying people.”
It’s a mentality that defies common sense and costs real money.
Do the people calling for marketers to send fewer emails and trim their email lists in search of the Holy Grail of engagement even look at their own inboxes? Do they fail to see that almost all, if not all, of the email in their spam folders is unsolicited? Do they fail to see that almost all, if not all, of the email in their inboxes is solicited? 
And most importantly, do they fail to see that all of the email from brands whose email they signed up for is getting delivered into their inboxes whether they have interacted with subsequent messages or not?
As some readers are aware, I set up an experiment in 2012 in which I created three dummy email accounts, signed them up for a bunch of lists and then did not click on any of the messages for more than two years. 
During the entire experiment, hardly any of the senders’ messages went into the inboxes’ spam folders.
However, after two-and-a-half years, two thirds of the brands had stopped sending email to the addresses.
I would like to believe a significant number who stopped mailing consulted a data-services provider and found the addresses were financially active nowhere before they stopped sending email to them.
But why bring in a data consultant when you can operate on needless fear and guilt?

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