Email marketing is a tricky business – send too few emails, and you risk missing out on sales opportunities; send too many, and you could be alienating customers or driving up unsubscribe rates. Brand spam, which is an overload of communication and messages from businesses, is today’s leading reason for unopened and flagged emails by consumers. John Fleming, a Marketing Director at research firm Webtrends, says: “As consumers, we’re happy to sign up to receive updates from brands, but only bother to open the ones we find relevant. This means companies are wasting loads of money sending us things we just don’t care about – and in many cases it’s turning us off.”

Ultimately, committing email marketing spam hurts a company’s reputation, and wastes a lot of marketing dollars on emails that go unopened and deleted. Companies should aim to optimize their marketing spend to be more effective, and make sure their marketing messages are going out to customers who will actually open and click these emails. In this blog post, we’ve included a few suggestions on how businesses can make sure they’re not sending out “brand spam” to their customers:

1. Don’t buy customer lists

Purchasing email address lists from vendors and third parties is not only unethical but also illegal in many jurisdictions. What’s more, customers are unlikely to open emails from sources they don’t recognize, and will probably flag your email as spam. So make sure that all of the subscribers in your mailing list have knowingly agreed to receive your messages – it might be a slower process of growing a subscriber base, but it will teach you a lot about customer acquisition and help to foster a truly engaged and interested mailing list. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

Takeaway: Make sure everyone on your mailing list actually signed up to receive your communications.

2. Set different delivery times for your emails

If you’ve ever been woken up in the middle of the night by a marketing email, then you probably understand the frustration that many customers feel about receiving messages at the wrong time. Companies should send out marketing emails that are tailored for time zones, national holidays, and even a user’s past email behavior. These emails can be triggered based on specific indicators or activities. For example, some of your customers probably tend to open their emails late at night, while others check early in the morning. Breaking down your mailing list into smaller groups – and sending messages at times that will actually catch their attention – will improve email open and click rates.

Takeaway: Segment delivery times based on time zones, holidays, and even past customer behavior.

3. Offer something of value

Subscribers are giving up their time and contact information when they sign up for your mailing list – and they’re looking for something of value from your messages. As a 2012 study by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey shows, 58% of consumers say that their top reason for subscribing to brand email communications is to receive discounts or special offers – so make sure that your emails deliver in this regard!

But emails don’t necessarily have to offer a monetary discount to be valuable either – if you share interesting and relevant content with your customers, that will still be worthwhile to the readers as well. As a recent Earnest Agency demonstrates, 72% of B2B buyers reported that they would be happy to share content via email as long as it was considered useful to them.

Takeaway: Share content and offers that your subscribers will want to read, not the things that you want them to care about.

4. Personalize your email content – subject lines, text, and offers

Above all, personalizing your email content is the most important way to combat perceptions of brand spam. As John Fleming notes in the Webtrends report, “Of the 20 percent of Brits who never open brand emails, 60 percent say they would be more likely to open them if the subject line contained information that was personalised to them.”

But personalization is about more than just customizing subject lines (although that is very important!) – it’s about customizing the content that users will see in their emails, accounting for regional tastes and customs, and suggesting products based on what customers purchased in the past. Analyzing past purchase behavior and customer data will help to inform what your customers are interested in buying, so that the emails you write are offering the right content, subject lines, and products to help you make a sale. That’s the best way of ensuring your emails aren’t seen by customers as “brand spam” sitting in their inboxes.

Takeaway: Make sure customers are receiving emails tailored to their interests, tastes, and past purchasing trends.


This year, about 84% of all email traffic will be flagged as spam by users and email providers. It’s important that businesses make sure their email marketing is getting to the right users, contributing to brand positivity, and actually driving new sales and conversions to boost your marketing ROI. If you’d like to hear more about how your email marketing can be personalized for customer needs and purchases, get in touch with us here at Canopy Labs!