When Marketing is Worse than Spam

My inbox is loaded with "marketing"
My inbox is loaded with “marketing”

I got email today from Herman Melville which is creepy. The subject line was holiday related yet sexually explicit, which made it even creepier. I ignored it because people use subject lines like that to lure you in, to pique your interest. I know the real reason Herman is after me, he’s mad about my having used Cliff Notes in high school for that book report. Dude, the book is boring. Besides, I did my penance Herm. I read the Norton Critical Edition of your masterpiece in American Literature I. 752 pages vs 544. Why couldn’t you have done a better job with Billy Budd? In looking up Billy Budd, to be sure that I remembered the author correctly, I stumbled upon this review on Amazon:

Melville is an exceptionally difficult author for the modern reader. His wind-up to the events forming the core of the book is unpardonably long. And he is an intrusive and wordy narrator who can’t resist frequent digressions.”

Still, Herman only took 160 pages to cut to the chase on Billy’s story. I checked West Virginia University’s website and I see that American Lit I is now English 241. They are still reading Melville, but they are reading “Benito Cereno” a novella. They are still reading from the Norton Critical Edition. Worse yet, they are still reading works by Benjamin Franklin, perhaps the only American author that is harder to read than Melville.

Apparently, I can’t resist frequent digressions either because this is a post about marketing.

In addition to Melville, I got email from Warren Buffett. He was going to make me rich. Thanks Warren. I also got email from Amazon, CVS and Santa all urging me to take advantage of some great holiday offers. Santa? Hey, everybody else starts a month earlier than he does; he has to start playing hardball or he might lose the franchise. Before you know it, people will be taking their kids to sit on Jeff Bezos’ lap. Check out the picture they use on Wikipedia. Doesn’t that look like he’s waiting for your child?

I also got email from “Victoria”, asking me to join the Cleaner Toilet Seat Movement. At least she was honest. No holiday specials from her. I’m sure she wanted to sell me something but I’m reasonably sure it would have been something with which I could have cleaned a toilet seat.

I didn’t actually receive any of these emails. Our spam filter culled them from the herd before they got to my inbox. But, since we recently changed anti-spam services, I’ve been checking the daily digest of filtered items to make sure something important didn’t get caught up in there. There was an email from FierceCIO which probably was real, but I get so much email from them I figured I could afford to skip one.

Spam – note: I capitalized that because it’s at the beginning of a sentence. The good folks at Hormel don’t appreciate dignifying email spam with a capital S and certainly not a capital SPAM – I actually like SPAM now and then although the quartermaster in this little outpost is loath to buy it. Sorry, I was having a Melville moment. Anyway, spam (the lower case stuff) is bad enough, but it can be recognized with some degree of accuracy which means it can be filtered. Marketing, particularly bad marketing by legitimate organizations, on the other hand can’t be filtered nearly as easily.

Last week I got a bunch of email from various technology vendors offering Thanksgiving specials or worse, Thanksgiving themed messages. If you want to reduce the price of your product because it’s the time of year that everyone else does, fine. If you’re just jumping on the Thanksgiving or holiday theme because you don’t want to be left out, you’re actually hurting your chances of selling anything to me. I’m sorry, but I’m one of those silly consumers who think that I should want to buy your product, read your newsletter, or attend your conference because it’s good. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty easy to draw in with clever advertising, but doing what everyone else does isn’t clever.

I know that I can’t slow the global marketing engine from jumping on the holiday bandwagon. I know that I can’t take the commercials out of Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other holidays any more than I can take the unnecessary words out of Moby Dick. Still I wish the vendors in my inbox would stick to the facts.

Some of my friends report almost no email marketing from Amazon. The screen shot at the top is one of my inboxes. Maybe Sammy D is right, maybe the key to getting less email from Amazon is to actually buy stuff from them.

40 thoughts on “When Marketing is Worse than Spam

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    1. My daughter just confirmed your observations. She has a Prime membership and gets no email. It doesn’t seem fair, it’s like they’re penalizing me for not shopping.

      The quartermaster drew the line at my request for a SPAM and egg sandwich. She also refuses to make – or let me make – a tuna omelet.

      Thanks !


  1. Have you never received an email from the Russian brides? Or from Dr Oz? Or about how Ellen looks so young…and so can you? And this is what I get at work!! We started have server issues in September and, not being IT-talented, I cannot tell you what went wrong except the floodgates to all the crap I don’t need to read is sent to me on a daily basis. The Russian brides can’t spell worth a flip, but they sure are persistent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am the IT guy so when the floodgates open, I get the complaints. It was complaints that caused us to switch services. My manager found a pretty good one (it appears) but we’re still using a trail.

      I was getting the Russian bride emails :)


      1. Back in the summer, for just a couple hours, we lost AC in our computer room. Several months later, the computers started acting weird so we are moving everything (in the cloud) to another state. Hopefully, that makes some sort of sense. In addition to spam-a-lot, the dang computers could not be any slower….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. AC problems bring back many memories of cell phone alerts waking me at 2:00 am. Fortunately, I am no longer the one who has to drive to the office and do something about it. My crew keeps things moving at a pretty good pace here. Spam ebbs and flows, but we usually find a solution that works, if only for a while.


  2. When my Pawpan got out of the Army after WWII — 3 years in North Africa, Italy, and France — he told Meme that if she ever fed him SPAM he would divorce her. He loved that woman, but no one was ever entirely sure if he wasn’t serious. 50 plus years of marriage and no SPAM. She made it for us once, I thought it was pretty good.

    I like my Amazon Prime emails/alerts; after 10 years on Prime, generally pretty accurate with suggestions for me and gifts for the three women in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My father was the same way. Also, you could give him the food from a TV dinner, but if you gave it to him in the metal tray you could expect to see it on the wall very shortly. I guess if I want to stop the email, I have to start buying. Thanks!


  3. I order from Amazon regularly, and I get no emails from them.
    I totally LOL’d about The Cleaner Toilet Bowl Movement. She knows what toilets are for, yeah? She could have gone with a Thanksgiving theme…just sayin. :P
    I actually liked Moby Dick okay. Better than Faulkner. Better than the Russians, mostly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now I’m thinking about Victoria’s thankgiving themed toilet clening messages…thanks for that. Clearly, ordering from Amazon is the solution. Maybe i should order Moby Dick and exercise all the deamons at once. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I got three emails from Amazon today too: A “Cyber Monday Deals” from Amazon.com, a “Cyber Monday Deals Week” from Amazon.ca, and a “Movies & TV Deal of the Week: Save Up to 72% on Sci-Fi & Fantasy Movie Collections‏” also from Amazon’s Canadian branch. Of the 8 recommendations in the email, I’d watch the Harry Potter DVD set, but X-Men, James Bond, Lord of the Rings and *choke* Firefly? Ugh, NO. You couldn’t pay me to sit through those films, let alone get ME to pay to watch them.

    There’s never a shortage of emails from Amazon cluttering up my inbox. I get one or two every single day. And I actually DO shop there quite a bit, which makes it all the more galling when they send me such worthless recommendations.

    I mean really, Amazon? FIREFLY?? I swear, we’ve been together for 8 years now and it’s like you don’t even know me anymore.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a long time since I tried Spam and, Dan, I’m with your quartermaster: tuna omelette sounds gross. (Sorry, but it does.)
    As for spam, it’s a while since I checked out my spam filter so heaven knows what’s actually lurking in that folder.
    Too bad there isn’t a spam filter for Facebook – I reckon their ads are the worst. Especially the ones they think are targeted at my demographic. They’re invariably about weight loss or anti wrinkle miracles or what foods not to eat or some other such rubbish. They only ever succeed in offending me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, no votes for tuna omelettes. I made one in college when they were the only ingredients that I had. Maybe my memory is better than reality. Thanks for the comment. Sorry about those ads. I’m in the male half of that demographic so you can guess what they’re targeting.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Spam…really. OK, I guess you’re entitled to your own palette.

    This was funny, especially the part about (the) Norton Anthology(ies), which I slogged through in college as well. Don’t remember Melville, but that was probably my subconscious removing it or maybe too much beer.

    If you buy from Amazon, they just send you more e-mails.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I’m not saying that I would want a steady diet of Spam, just an occasional slice with eggs. From the comments, I’m guessing that the Amazon email algorithm is quite complex. Some swear that if you buy you escape the email. Others suggest that it doesn’t matter.

      Beer and Melville lead to the purchase of Cliff Notes :)


  7. Something’s definitely up as I also recently began being deluged with spam after years of (relative) control. Hard to know which is less fulfilling: monkeying with the filter settings or trying to slog thru Moby Dick on my phone in an effort to read something I always thought I should!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wait, you never had to read Moby Dick? Oh man, that is so not fair. I had to read it twice. Now I feel like I’m carrying you Steve. Sorry for that outburst, thanks for the comment. We had been doing well with spam and then in October, we started getting slammed. That’s when we decided to try a different filtering service. So far, so good.


    1. The woman who taught American Lit was particularly evil. She zeroed in on small details that were only brought out in the Norton edition. Someday, I’ll explain why a Chemistry major had to take so much English, it really was a form of penance.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Getting my evening laugh here, Dan! I’m now tempted to check my spam box to see what’s there. Notice, I did not capitalize spam😄 I do get a lot of marketing stuff in my inbox because I shop stores such CVS, Kohl’s, Barnes and Noble etc.
    The floodgates opened at my work email for all kinds of advertising…from refinancing to catering my holiday dinner!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Always funny! Since I grew up reading different literature than you and most of your readers, I won’t comment on Melville. Amazon knows where we are, what we like, what we might like, what our friends like (I’m maybe exaggerating here) and so Amazon suggests. It freaks me out when I get an offer from Amazon when I’ve been Googling something for my home for example. I really feel observed from above, but not in a good way. And the e-mails don’t even go in my spam folder but my good Inbox.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Sometimes they do know but i think we mess up the works when i ask my wife to buy stuff for me. Orher than English, i only have experience with German literature. Maybe Melville wasnt that bad…


  10. How strange, either I am blind or just ignore, or I don’t seem to get the spam you do. Perhaps my spam filter is really working. Huh. Imagine that. At least in my email spam folder you won’t find WP friends. :-) Great post, my friend!!! LOL Love, Amy

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I read Moby Dick. A very strange book. Wonderful, though.
    But I suffered a surprise at the beginning of this post, wondering how Melville could have sent you a sexually explicit email. I thought: “but he’s dead!!” Anyway, I think it’s extremely offensive for marketers to intrude upon other people like that. They are like the Jehovah Witness guys. Man, if Jehovah Witness could send emails . . . I think your inbox would explode. Those people are relentless!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nice post. If I was a businessman I would channel my energy towards making better practical products that consumers can use rather than creating a cheaper option and than spending millions on marketing it. My dad had a store and he always kept fresh food items and it would sell out in just few hours with no marketing at all. If its good you need no marketing. The word of mouth publicity is as quick as a wildfire, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much of this is driven by the major retailers. WalMart in particular is always asking manufacturers to offer items at year-over-year lower prices. Companies are forced to choose between ignoring a huge mass market or maintaining the quality they are known for. You can not have both high quality and steadily declining prices. Also, the push for new styles and new features makes people less satisfied with an older item and I think they don’t mind so much having to replace something that should have lasted for many many years. Thanks for reading and for the comment.


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