The holiday season will be here before you know it, and wouldn’t you know it? The merchants and retailers aren’t any better than the scam artists who count on you to make their Christmases very merry indeed. Legitimate or not, the spammers aren’t waiting for the holiday rush to pick your pocket. Instead, they’re relying on the gullibility of email users, and the generosity of a world that’s (mostly) kind and trusting.
It may seem like a strange notion that spammers are competitors – competing with each other and competing with legitimate businesses and charities – but it makes perfect sense. There are only so many dollars to go around, especially during the holidays, so the sooner they line their wallets with what’s currently occupying yours, the sooner they can buy all those neat toys with the ridiculous amounts of money – Facebook market cap ridiculous – they appear to make.
That email spam is seasonal, based on recurring events like tax season, back to school, holiday seasons, and the like, or trending on events like the summer Olympics in London or the U.S. Presidential election, is nothing new. Spammers aren’t nearly as dumb as they seem to be, and like legitimate retailers, who blast email campaigns with their own devious intent, the spammers recognize the opportunity to use familiarity to stimulate those who might not be able to decipher the fake from the real.
Take, for instance, this interesting article from CMS Wire, a website dedicated to help business keep up-to-date on ‘Customer Experience Management, Digital Marketing, Social Business and Enterprise Information Management.’ The article discusses how businesses can get their email messages out to consumers, a perfectly legitimate, if not a little annoying, cause. Bemoaning how spam has adversely affected businesses in their attempts to get a minute of your attention, CMS Wire points out that, “in addition to legitimate email marketers, spammers send billions of messages to consumers every day, leading recipients to use a “when in doubt, report as spam” policy.”
“The Q4 busy Holiday season is on the horizon,”, it goes on to state, “which means that competition for consumers’ inboxes and eyeballs is increasing multi-fold. So how do you ensure that your valuable messages make it past junk filters and reporting buttons?“ You can read the rest of the article if you really want to know how, but the point is that the field is muddied even before the legitimate marketers take a step on it. And, if you’re like this writer, you have little regard for unsolicited email, no matter who it comes from.
Today.com likens spam – the legitimate kind – to playing Space Invaders, but that’s probably too kind. It’s more like a boss battle in Gears of War. Three new services appear to offer solutions, but it’s probably the most ardent shoppers who would find the sites mentioned in the article useful. To the rest of us, it’s just more junk to deal with. ‘Christmas Creep,’ the time retailers begin to blast you with everything Christmas, seems to be coming even earlier this year, according to another article by Today.com, pointing out that “Fifteen percent of top online retailers have already started the holidays in their email campaigns as of September 6.”
With phishing attacks on the rise, malicious attachments reaching disturbing new levels, and a brand-spanking new version of the Blackhole exploit kit on the market, the battlefield is already rife with unfriendly fire, without retailers fighting the malware merchants for inbox dominance. What none of the sagely advice given to consumers or legitimate businesses seems to consider, is the anger users are going to experience – or are already experiencing – from the glut of unwanted mail. Period. Forget about the IT administrators, whose only request to Santa Claus is a spam filter equipped with a button that traces an IP address and launches a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
Unwanted mail is unwanted mail. Period. There’s an old rule of thumb in advertising that a potential customer has to see the same message three times before the message has been consumed and accepted. What the modern advertiser doesn’t seem to get is the other rule of thumb in advertising – that, if you piss off a customer, potential or real, you likely won’t get them back.
So, here’s the takeaway. Spam is spam, and if it clogs an inbox, it doesn’t really matter who it’s from. It’s not welcome under the tree – or in an inbox – this holiday season.