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Does it look like you're spamming?

There are lots of terribly complicated rules in email marketing and retention. “Only send email to people who opted-in”, “Never use a pink background”[1], “Have a working unsubscription link”, “Don’t put FREE in the subject line”[1].
Another one should be “How does what you’re doing look to a typical recipient?”.
I’ve received several pieces of spam recently from senders who were ticking quite a lot of the “email best practices” checkboxes, but who completely blew it by not looking at it from the recipients point of view. The mistakes they’ve made, and the things to learn from them, and much the same, so I’ll just give one example.
“Likes Music” is not the same as “Likes Groupon Clones”
I’ve been a subscriber to our local radio station’s mailing list for years – promos KFOG is running, local gigs, that sort of thing, all in a newsletter sort of format. They recently sent out an ad for a Groupon clone called “SweetJack” – on it’s own, not as part of a newsletter. I’m not interested, and I think it’s a fairly poor pitch and won’t work well for their demographic, but fair enough. A couple of weeks later I start getting spam from SweetJack, thanking me for signing up – to the tagged email address I’d only given to KFOG. And no mention of KFOG at all.
Most recipients are just going to see this as spam out of the blue from SweetJack, and hammer on the “This is Spam” button until it goes away. That’s dreadful for SweetJack’s reputation, and is going to hurt their delivery.
Recipients paying more attention are going to notice that the first they heard of SweetJack was an out of the ordinary promo by KFOG, and then they start getting spam from SweetJack. They’re likely to assume that KFOG sold their email addresses to SweetJack – and that they’re sending their spam to an email address that only KFOG has in my case confirms that. That’s going to be dreadful for SweetJack’s reputation and going to damage the relationship between KFOG and their existing subscribers. A dreadful idea.
Digging down deeper, it seems that while KFOG being bought out by media behemoth Cumulus Media a few years back didn’t damage their on-air content, it did change the amount of respect they have for their subscribers. SweetJack is a new Groupon clone started by Cumulus Media. They did have legitimate access to the KFOG mailing lists, sorta. It’s probably not an AUP or privacy violation. It’s just the sort of thing an eager marketing guy at the corporate owners would think was a great idea, to leverage the value of their existing subscribers.
But it would have been a pretty bad idea had they carried it out perfectly, with clear messaging and transparency to the recipients. And they blew their one opportunity to do it well, and I’m betting that most of the recipients have SweetJack categorized as “spammers”, both mentally and in their mail clients.
1. Not a real email marketing rule.

7 comments

  1. Daniel Caplin says

    Steve:
    You have some great feedback here and we in no way intended for you to see Sweetjack emails as spam. In fact, our goal has been to add more value for our radio listeners and we have added SweetJack to the mix in order to help our listeners experience new places while saving money. We believe strongly in the power of radio and our direct connection with the local community and our listenership.
    We did send 3 lead up onboarding emails announcing SweetJack was arriving in your market from the radio stations directly and indicated that on a certain date you would be receiving emails directly from SweetJack. These emails offered incentives to sign up, earn prizes and refer friends to gain credits.
    Your overall feeback is clear though, that this was not obvious that SweetJack and our radio stations are part of the same company and fully integrated. As we are rolling out the SweetJack brand nationwide we are making changes to ensure this is a clear as possible and that only those interested in learning about SweetJack promotions are included.
    Thanks for sharing your experience and we aim to learn from your feedback and are indeed listening.

  2. Phil Cooper says

    Thanks for the information, Steve. I, too, started getting spam from SweetJack for no apparent reason. I’m signed up with KSFO and they were recently bought by Cumulus Media. Just as in your case, there was no mention of KSFO in the SweetJack messages. As a result of their heavy-handed approach, I will NEVER be a SweetJack customer.

  3. Sam says

    It’s funny how someone complains about something a company does, and then the company responds by saying “we did it to add value for the recipient” .
    “As a VALUE to our customers, we are going to bombard your e-mail inbox DAILY with unwanted, unasked for spam.”
    In my case it was the once great radio station KGO that did me in. Also recently taken over (and ruined) by Cumulus. I too use custom e-mail addresses so I know exactly who sold me out.

  4. Tim Dean says

    I got my sweetjack spam today to the kfog@(mypersonaldomain.com) email address.
    It was spam. Reading the KFOG privacy policy http://kfog.com/Pages/PrivacyPolicy/tabid/189/Default.aspx
    It clearly states that “These e-mail offers will come from a Cumulus radio station only.” Not any company chat Cumulus happens to own. Clearly a violation of their own privacy policy.
    I am routing that email address to non existence at this time and will never sign up for another Cumulus offer again.. In fact I am going tp make it a point to use net radio as much as possible from here on out…
    Way to add value!

  5. Bending the Email Best Practices Rules | Email Marketing to Schools says

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  7. PPaul says

    Unsubscribing from any email listserv should be quick and painless… Unsubscribing from SweetJack is impossible! I’ve tried numerous time to click on Unsubscribe… Some stupid response comes up saying we are working on your account to make it better! Someone please tell me how to Unsubscribe SeetJack!

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