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.