Perception is Nine-Tenths of this Law

Bryce MarshallThere is an old axiom in the legal field: "Possession is nine-tenths of the law." In the case of email best practices and privacy/opt-out requests, it reads: "Perception is nine-tenths of the law."
As an email marketer, if you're toeing the line with CAN-SPAM compliance, then you may need to revisit your email practices. Government CAN-SPAM legislation is defining what is illegal - not what is best. You should not be relying on Congress, or any federal bureaucracy, to set the course and tone of your email marketing practices. It is the perception of the email recipient that should absolutely dictate your email practices, especially in terms of the opt-out request.

We advise our clients to deeply respect the privacy/opt-out request of a customer, and to honor this almost absolutely – even within an ongoing business relationship. Purely transactional messages can be an exception; though, even in this case care should be taken. If you are superseding the privacy request of a customer for ‘non-commercial’ scheduled messages (those not triggered by a customer action) you are inviting trouble. You may have CAN-SPAM memorized chapter and verse and know your compliance standards, but guess what: your customers aren’t reading CAN-SPAM legislation. Fail to honor the privacy/opt-out request and you leave the customer with the difficult responsibility of evaluating if your messages are spam. And the customer’s perception of your message may not be good.

Take a look at results from a recent Marketing Sherpa study that identifies the top-five reasons consumers hit the ‘spam’ button.Marketing Sherpa Chart of the Week

Takeaways? The way your customer views your well-crafted, completely compliant email message is likely far different than your perception of it.

The smart marketer will respect this environmental context because the consumer’s perception rules. Superseding an email privacy request can be defended by citing CAN-SPAM chapter and verse. However, your customer may phrase their argument differently: “I did not want to receive this email from you. I’ve told you this before by opting-out; and, since you continue to send me email, I will report you to the FTC.”

The circumstances in which you should be superseding an opt-out request should be rare and in those instances Marketing, Care and Legal should be at the table approving this decision because the ramifications of customer misperception can far outweigh the benefits of the message.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 11, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink


    You are absolutely right on!

    The customer rules…no matter what the government or a team of lawyers say.

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