Posts Tagged ‘email marketing


Hail to the Spammer in Chief: Where Obama Went Wrong

CORNYN: The Republican senator from Texas alleged that the administration was using the e-tip box to collect names. The White House denied the claim.

CORNYN: The Republican senator from Texas alleged that the administration was using the e-tip box to collect names. The White House denied the claim.

NEW YORK ( — Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, one of the few things about Barack Obama’s presidential campaign that was hard to criticize was its use of e-mail and database marketing. But in the past few weeks, Mr. Obama’s team has gone from a digital-marketing case study to being regarded as a lowly spammer.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod sent an e-mail touting the administration’s embattled health-care-reform plan to thousands of people who apparently hadn’t asked to be contacted. Was it an innocent mistake on the part of the administration? A Machiavellian stunt pulled off by opponents of health-care reform? Or an act of desperation mixed with some hubris on the part of the administration in an attempt to push its plan on as many citizens as possible?

Zain Raj, CEO of Havas’ Euro RSCG Discovery, said he doesn’t believe it was an innocent mistake; the Obama team simply acted like many major brands do.

“The [administration] has become so arrogant about the amount of trust and credibility they have with their constituents, they think they can take advantage,” he said. “They forget who they are serving, and that’s what has happened with the brand Obama. When the campaign was building the brand, it was part of a movement, but now it’s become part of the establishment.”

Mr. Raj said part of the reason that happened is the absence of the marketing professionals who brought a tightness and focus to the campaign’s messaging. “The behaviors seemed to parallel the rhetoric. Since they got into power, there has been a fundamental shift happening in their approach,” he said.

Placing blame
Steve Cone, chief marketing officer at Epsilon, said there is no upside for the administration in just spamming people. “I wouldn’t assume they did this intentionally,” Mr. Cone said. But he said the White House could be guilty of assuming that those who subscribed to the updates signed up their friends only after asking permission to do so.

“In their ongoing e-mails, [the administration] asks that you get as many people involved as possible,” Mr. Cone said. “They assume you will ask permission before signing your friends up, and that’s clearly not practical. If they’re guilty of something, perhaps that’s what they are guilty of.”

But Stuart Ingis, partner at Venable, a leading consumer-protection, marketing and advertising law firm, said he doesn’t think the administration is guilty of anything; this is simply democracy at work.

“If elected officials can’t communicate with the public through whatever channel to make their case on important issues, that’s a real problem for our democracy,” Mr. Ingis said. “The question we need to ask before we talk about whether … people don’t want to receive these [e-mails] is whether this type of communication should be frowned upon. And I believe quite to the contrary.”

Mr. Ingis said the administration should be allowed to send out e-mails to citizens, but if people say they don’t want to receive them, the administration should respect that.

“The law is to honor a choice when it’s offered,” he said. “It doesn’t violate the CAN-SPAM Act, because that applies to commercial e-mail and this isn’t commercial e-mail. It’s not violating any laws.”

Fueling flames
Whether it’s breaking any laws or not, Margie Chiu, exec VP-strategic services at WPP’s Wunderman, said it doesn’t look good for any marketer using e-mail if the administration is seen as a spammer. “Something like this makes it more difficult for us, because there’s already such a distrust of e-mail and spam,” Ms. Chiu said. “And an incident like this fuels that mistrust.”

She also said the White House handled the aftermath very poorly by not taking the blame.

In the wake of “Spamgate,” two things happened. First, the White House issued a statement laying the blame for the snafu at the feet of “outside groups of all stripes” who may have added the disgruntled recipients to the e-mail list without their knowing, and apologized in a roundabout way, saying: “We regret any inconvenience caused by receiving an unexpected message.” It also shut down its e-tip box, which was being used to collect misinformation or “fishy” allegations about the administration’s health-care plan. John Cornyn, a Republican senator from Texas, alleged that Mr. Obama was using the e-tip box to collect names, a claim White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs later denied.

“It was really bad form,” Ms. Chiu said. “In general, whether or not it was a third party, the fact is that they need to own up to it and be accountable for something that came from their delivery system. Blaming a third party is just not great form.”

But Euro’s Mr. Raj said the Obama administration, like other brands that have stumbled before it, will make the necessary adjustments. “For every big brand, there’s an event that shakes them,” Mr. Raj said. “The Obama brand is going through that, and my hope is they learn from that and don’t continue to deflect to somebody unnamed, because that’s the political way. I hope they learn, like all good brands do, that it’s better to listen to our customers vs. not.”


The Way Not To Sell

I got this email today. It’s important that you know I’ve never talked to this person. I have heard of the company (who’s name has been changed because I’m feeling charitable at the moment) but this was sent to me cold. I’ve added my comments. The original email is in yellow. (I’m just sharing this with you – I didn’t respond to the email. Yet.) And, before you comment, yes, I’m a big jerk.

Dear Pete,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you regarding Acme Business Services.

I haven’t given him the opportunity – I’ve never spoke to him or heard of him. Nice trick though.

I’m happy to introduce myself as the Regional Director of Business Development for your area.

Good for you. I’m glad you are happy. Do you want a cookie?

I have been serving the market research industry for over a decade and am well acquainted with our services and how they might align with your particular service needs.

I’m glad he’s well acquainted with his own services. How could he know what my “particular service needs” are? We’ve never met or talked. He probably doesn’t know that all my clients are sky diving nuns with eating disorders.

Please review the attached marketing information and be sure to contact me if you have any questions. I will follow up this email with a phone call within the coming weeks to explore in detail how Acme Business Services can be positioned as a valuable partner.

Oh, boy! I can’t wait to read your marketing doublespeak about why you are so great. I can’t wait for your call so you can tell me even more about your company – in detail!

I look forward to serving you with enthusiasm and passion,

Is he hitting on me?

making our commitment of world class service a top priority.

Uh, what? You want to make your commitment a top priority? I’m totally committed to my top priority of giving up donuts but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep horking them down. I bet you offer excellent excellence too.

Thank you very much.

Don’t mention it.

Warmest regards,

John Smithe
Director, Business Development
Acme Business Services

This email violates everything I know about selling. It starts with a trick – implying that we’ve spoken and I “gave him the opportunity”. I’ve given you nothing and it’s unlikely that I will once you’ve insulted my intelligence.

Next, the message jumps right in talking all about the sender. How happy he is to have a job and to tell me about it. He goes on to say how smart he is about what his company does. I don’t care how much you know about YOUR business – tell me how much you know about MY business!

It just goes downhill from there.

My point is not to be mean to the well meaning sender of this email. My goal here is to help you see a better way to ignite a potential relationship.

In fact, I wouldn’t even send a message like this. I would make a personal phone call and ask permission to take 30 seconds to find out if the person is even remotely interested in talking to me. And if he or she is, the conversation will be all about his/her needs. Then, together we can decide if there is any point in starting a relationship.

And you would never hear me talking about my passion, commitment to excellent excellence or my stupendously superfluous synergy.

That is all.

Who is Pete Monfre

CLICK HERE to visit my web site

I'm a serial entrepreneur, marketing and media guy, raconteur, writer, producer and consultant. I write this little blog to help you unravel the mysteries of marketing and selling, to expose the silliness that masquerades as marketing and help you make better decisions that will grow your business. And I have fun with it. Why not comment? That way we can have a conversation. Or better yet, hop on over to my web site and drop me a line.

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