Adventures in Mobile Marketing

How Spam (Fails to) Work

To my knowledge- and I don’t know spammers individually, I’ve just pieced this together from the defensive manoevers- spammers spam because there are people who respond to spam, hard as that is to believe. And they manage to keep their costs almost non-existent, illegally. Stealing server accounts, bandwidth, you name it. They also don’t really hold any data- it’s all done on the fly. So corporations will store interactions with customers, whereas spammers randomly generate usernames/passwords/email addresses and just throw it out there and see what sticks. Also, they have a trenchcoat industry. There is no desire to maintain a nice reputation, brand identity, or customer lifecycle, as good corporations do. Also, it’s like a pyramid scheme- as long as they convince someone else that eventually someone will buy, they sell the “starter kit.” See link for some folks who are taking it seriously: FTC Launches Crackdown on Deceptive Junk E-mail

Corporate email marketers, especially the ones from very large companies, are usually very conservative in their email drops. Because it costs money to do it well. To craft a good email message, to extend the lifecycle of the customer, to collect feedback data, and to re-integrate it into another engaging communication, it’s a lengthy and consuming process, that is great when done well, but can be easily destroyed by the wrong email. So in these email marketing groups you will actually see a large base of customers who want communication, but aren’t getting it because they haven’t demonstrated anything recently to show they are active. That’s right- corporations aren’t even emailing all the people they could.

It essentially comes down to the fact that what spammers are usually selling is embarrassing “trenchcoat economy” things- they don’t need to maintain a relationship with the customer after the initial purchase. Most of them actively don’t want to know you- as they just stole your PayPal password, for example. I worked briefly for a company that had a client that was an adult toy company. My excuse was that they didn’t disclose, ahem, all of their clients in the interview (lesson learned!). Doing QA for a them was a joke. There is no quality control, no costs really. You can bring down the server for a day and nobody will complain. So spammers have such bare bone costs because they certainly don’t care about maintaining and creating the same customer relationship as legitimate companies. Here today, gone tomorrow.

There is a tiny bit of guilt that lies with the consumer. This would not go on if folks didn’t buy from them. No one is altruistically sending out millions of emails on Viagra. They’re doing it to make money- so there are people out there buying Viagra. (I’m going to get tons of hits for saying Viagra now, what twice now) At one client, I did an analysis on the response to an email that was a very bland, text-only policy change message that had one tiny call to action after a lot of legalese. The percentage of people who purchased off of that email message, that were opted-out – “don’t send me email”- was 60% of the customers. FYI, the reason we even emailed opted out customers is that kind this kind of service message does not require opt-in permission, as stated in CANSPAM.

This is probably why I’m a fan of AOL’s certification for email- the more expensive it becomes for bulk emailers, the better the distinction between spammers and legitimate companies.


  • “Why Am I Getting All This Spam? Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report”
  • Most of theanti-spam Wikipedia entry is obviously about how to deter spam, but it has some intriguing insights into spam techniques:

    Background checks on new users and customers
    Since spammers are frequently kicked off the network, they are constantly trying to create new accounts. Many spammers are able to make even a few hours profitable for them and can cause many days of damage to reputation of the services they abused. As a result, many ISPs and web -email providers use CAPTCHAs on new accounts and try to verify the credit cards are not stolen before accepting new customers, check the Spamhaus Project

  • The group that brought you CANSPAM: CAUCE
  • I love SpamAssassin- up to date ratings on what is spammy about your emails. Used as a tool to evaluate your email campaigns, which is kind of a reversal since it is a spam filtering tool. More on this later.
  • If you read this far, you deserve some fun. Starked SF on Spam email subjects he would open.
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Written on Wednesday, 28. March 2007 at 17:48 In the category ethics, spam. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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1 Comment »

  1. why do Emails fail to work

    Comment: Hummarah Haq – 30. October 2009 @ 3:49 am

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