8 Marketing Lessons Learned from My Spam Folder

Email spam – while annoying, unethical, sexually graphic and a colossal time waster – IS quite entertaining.

It’s also a consummate example of smart marketing.

Recently, I spent some time perusing the 1,385 messages in my spam folder.

Not surprisingly, patterns began to arise.

So, I extracted a collection of subject lines and headers that either grabbed my attention, made me laugh, or caused my body to react in ANY kind of way. After all, emotion is the final arbiter of truth. And your body never lies to you.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: As you read each of these subject lines, set aside your distaste for spam. Forget about the fact that you (probably) don’t need Viagra. And turn on your marketing brain to learn eight powerful lessons from the masters of capturing attention and piquing curiosity:

1. Answer me. As if someone’s been trying to reach you for weeks. As if there was an important customer waiting for you. As if you were too cool and too busy to respond to this measly person. This speaks to your human need to be liked and appreciated.

What’s more, if one of your core values is approachability (or, in my case, your entire life and business philosophy) the cognitive dissonance of NOT answering someone’s question or request is so strong, ignoring this email becomes an exercise in futility.

SPAM SECRET: People want people to like them. How could you create a deficit position within your customer?

2. Best doping for night monster. Opens with a declaration of superiority to capture attention. I call this repeated articulation of your –est. Next, let me say that I’ve never heard of the term “night monster” before. Well done. Gave me a good laugh. And that’s more than I can say about the other 1,384 messages.

SPAM SECRET: People take action upon hearing vivid language. Are your words boring?

3. Frisking bleating merriment. First, I just HAD to look up the word “bleat” in the dictionary. It means, “to complain annoyingly.” Secondly, merriment is not a word used often, which is exactly why I noticed it.

Lastly, this entire sentence, “Frisking bleating merriment,” is so odd, so clumsy and so dissonant that I can’t tell whether it’s gibberish or a famous line from one of Jack Kerouac’s books. Nice.

SPAM SECRET: People are moved by poetry. Are you allowing your inner poet to shine, or does your marketing spit jargon like a Dilbert comic?

4. Go to the disco and let your love stick glow! First of all, are there still discos? If so, I’m in. Always wanted to go to one of those. Secondly, the term “love stick” is a wonderfully creative alternative to penis. Well done. Third, this headline is a rhyme. And it’s been scientifically proven that rhyming increases the memorability and repeatability of pretty much anything.

The only concern I have about this headline is the “glow” part. I think if your love stick is glowing, you probably need to go the doctor, not the disco. At least that’s what my urologist told me.

SPAM SECRET: People love rhymes. Is your message musical enough?

5. Bill Gates got one. Behold the power of the almighty testimonial! And just not ANY testimonial, but Bill Gates. The wealthiest, most successful and widely known businessmen and philanthropist on the planet. Ever. Who wouldn’t want to have what he has?

SPAM SECRET: People take action upon social proof. Are you leveraging testimonials?

6. Check it out now before I start charging for this free info. First, this creates a sense of urgency. Secondly, the effectiveness is compounded by a sense of scarcity.

Third, exclusivity comes into play for those who act NOW. And finally, the word “free” is a surefire way to seal the deal. Brilliant. I might actually steal this one for my own business.

SPAM SECRET: People want what is hard to get and what nobody else has. Are you exclusive enough?

7. Don’t look inside. Right. And while you’re at it, don’t think of a Pink Elephant. Classic NLP. The reader is forced to make an association and think of the very concept that’s linguistically negated, in this case, opening the email.

See, your brain can’t tell the difference yet. “Look inside” is all that it heard. The word “don’t” hasn’t been processed yet. Sneaky but effective.

SPAM SECRET: People’s brains are predictable. Are you leveraging neurology?

8. Have you seen this yet? Good. This piques immediate curiosity. What’s more, you trigger people’s need to feel included.

With the use of the word “yet,” it’s as if everyone else in the world has already seen this amazing “thing,” and you’re the only one left out. And nobody likes to be left out.

SPAM SECRET: People seek inclusion. How are you tapping that nerve?

Now that you’ve been schooled in the ways of spam, here’s your final exercise.

1. Take five minutes to peruse your spam folder. You might want to do this at home so your boss doesn’t look over your shoulder and wonder why you’re reading emails about “meat rockets.”

2. Record your reactions. Any time a subject headline makes you smile, laugh, roll your eyes or become nauseated, write it down.

3. Extract the lessons. Look for commonalities among all the headlines. Democratize and genericize the centrals marketing themes. Then, write out a list of “spam secrets.”

4. Apply. Execute those strategies in your own marketing practices in an ethical, professional manner.

REMEMBER: This is the best doping for your night monster.

Hee hee. Night monster.

Are you as savvy as the spammers?

For the list called, “6 Ways to Out Position the Competition,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur

Who’s quoting YOU?

Check out Scott’s Online Quotation Database for a bite-sized education on branding success!



Daily updates straight to your inbox.


Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
Sign up for daily updates


Daily updates straight to your inbox.

Copyright ©2020 HELLO, my name is Blog!