Today's guest post is by Peppercom's Director of Digital Strategy, Sam Ford.
Marketers sure know how to wear out a welcome. How often these days do you find a store you like, a publication you follow, or a cause you care about–only to pull your hair out at the barrage of junk they send your way days later?
Consider MoveOn.org. A few years back, I signed a petition the organization was circulating on a subject about which I was passionate. Soon, I started receiving emails from them on a regular basis, assuming that I agreed with the organization on a wide range of issues that only rarely had anything to do with that narrow subject; many were concerning supporting particular political candidates, or rallying against particular candidates.
But it isn't just pushy political groups committing such gaffes in their zealousness. Every trip to the mall to purchase something leads to an inquisition about all my contact information. Soon, giving them my business is rewarded with a mailbox (physical and virtual) full of junk. Our switch to more online purchasing is likewise rewarded with being added to mailing list after mailing list. And, after booking trips on Travelocity and Orbitz, both groups started to email me on a regular basis, telling me about rates to cities I had a one-time business trip to months ago. I find it of great service to interrupt my day on a frequent basis to delete emails about the rate for a flight to Ithaca, NY, or Cleveland, OH, next week.
Perhaps the most frustrating offender for me is the publication TelevisionWeek. In my early days of online writing back in 2005–as the lead blogger for the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium–I regularly relied on Jon Lafayette, Daisy Whitney, and others who were writing for TVWeek back then to learn about how entertainment producers and brands were innovating how they were communicating with their audiences through television and online video. The publication became my go-to source on television news, and I enthusiastically subscribed to email updates from them.
In September 2010, a particularly significant situation occurred in the television industry: a gunman entered Discovery's headquarters and held hostages. TelevisionWeek sent out breaking news updates. For those of us who knew people who worked at Discovery, it was a harrowing day, and I was thankful to the publication for going out of its way to keep me updated.
However, after that day, TelevisionWeek started sending EXTRA ALERT emails on a more regular basis. Consider this EXTRA ALERT from June 2011: "TVWeek Extra Alert: Clarence Clemons, of Springsteen's E-Street Band, Dies." Or from February 2012: "TVWeek Extra Alert: Davy Jones of the Monkees Dies." Sure, both were interesting and beloved performers, but qualifying this as breaking television industry news is ludicrous. Perhaps the strangest of all was this EXTRA ALERT email subject line from November 2010: "TVWeek Extra Alert: 'Wheel' Contestant Even Stuns Sajak with Answer." Yes, a Wheel of Fortune contestant guessed a 7-word phrase after just having only a single "L" revealed. I was shocked Walter Cronkite didn't rise from the dead to interrupt my regularly scheduled programing for that one.
And, over time, TVWeek's frequent digest of important television industry news has started to fill up with entertainment gossip, obituaries, and all sorts of other updates that–while sometimes interesting–didn't fit with my expectations as a reader. Eventually, I quit paying so much attention to what was once a trusted daily news source. After a while longer, I moved to deleting TVWeek emails altogether, as soon as they appeared.
Now, I've had enough. I've spent the past few days on a spam email purge, unsubscribing to everything I delete as soon as I see it. I'm starting to take out virtual restraining orders against my corporate stalkers. Plenty of companies I like are included on that list, but I am happy to sacrifice their unwanted communications with delusions of waking up in the morning without a full inbox of messages to delete.
In the process, I noticed a trend. Several of the companies surveyed why I was unsubscribing and included as an option: "You send me too many emails." Please, they beg, we can scale back a bit–don't delete us completely. It seems the organizations are well aware of the nuisance they've become, but the supposed ROI of their email blasts just make it look on paper too profitable to quit bombarding people. Perhaps, as I've queried in the past over at Fast Company, a little bit of empathy could teach marketers to cease fire. Until then, I'll remain on my unsubscribing purge.
So TelevisionWeek, my old friend: you have once again inspired me. Thanks, and goodbye.