Arnold for Guv: A perfect example of accidental spam

Ian Lurie
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Is e-mail going to be the death of the Internet? Some people think so. Spam – those useless messages that bury our inboxes every day now – is taking over.

But I’ve long suspected that most spam isn’t meant to be spam. At least, I believe that most spam could be rendered far less offensive if the folks sending it put a little effort into designing useful, targeted campaigns instead of shotgunning tens of thousands with total dross. hddshsrvxf

A perfect example? An e-mail I received (supposedly) from the Arnold for Governor campaign.

Someone has taken the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor campaign (that’s in California, in case you’ve been in hiding for the last three months) and is selling T-shirts that say ‘Recall 2003 – Arnold for Governor’. I’m now getting 3 or 4 of these messages per day.

Now, I don’t know if these messages are being sent by Arnie’s campaign. but if they are, they’re an horrific blunder: Unsolicited, poorly designed, oversized messages that make his campaign look about as credible as the 400 messages I get promising me limitless libido.

Even if they’re not, they break some of the cardinal rules of effective e-mail marketing:

First, the messages are comprised almost entirely of images, so most anti-spam software immediately flags and deletes or blocks them. Change the message to text, and at least the computers don’t think you’re spamming.

Second, the message are not opt in. In fact, they’re sent to randomly selected names under specific domains. I’ve received messages send to peter-, sam-, jane- and philip- None of these are real addresses. C’mon, guys – use a real, legit, opt-in list. You’re conversion rates will skyrocket, and your spam complaints will all but disappear.

Finally, there’s no clear way to know exactly who is sending the messages out. That’s just tacky, and it makes any half-savvy reader suspicious. Just say who you are. If you don’t want to, maybe you should rethink your e-mail campaign.

The worst part is, these t-shirts are an easy sell. If the folks selling them had done it right, they could rake in the cash. As it is, I’m sure they’re not selling as much as they might.

E-mail marketing is a very powerful tool, if it’s done right. This is a perfect example of a campaign done wrong.

Where’s the Terminator when you need it?

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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