Remember faxes?

Everyone was doing it. Businesses depended on their fax machine to communicate with customers and prospects. Until email came along. Free, immediate and no thermal paper to replace, the email caught on quickly!

During the first 20 years of email communication, we witnessed the slow but extreme pollution of people’s inbox. We mass marketers with our “more is better” mentality built email lists consisting of anybody with a pulse. Then we actually began acting like there wasn’t a real person receiving those messages.  17% open rates were celebrated. “More crap to more unique email addresses” was the rallying cry. An email was a cheap and cheerful way to justify promotional reach. Heaven forbid anyone ask about “quality”.

Retailers, in particular, have barraged people to the point of pissing loyal brand fans off and turning them off their brand.  While checking out at the cash register, an associate of mine recently gave her email address to the clerk at Old Navy – only to receive 4 messages a day (most irrelevant to her) for 7 straight days before she unsubscribed! I kid you not.

She has vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. And she told dozens of her friends along with anyone else who would listen. Many of these people are now less inclined to shop at Old Navy. Last time I checked, advertising and promotion were supposed to increase sales.  Seems email marketing has a different objective.  It appears to be all about “consumer touchpoints”. When we hear about the Chapter 11 of Old Navy, they will blame Amazon for their situation and the narrative will be, “Amazon Puts Old Navy Out of Business”.

Email marketing is on it’s way to the same resting place as the fax machine because we collectively abused it. We stuffed the channel with crap. Even the delivery engines cannot flush the system despite their best efforts. Many people I know don’t even bother to check their email anymore. I communicate with them via text message or we actually call each other on the phone! (I know!!). The kids don’t get an email.  They don’t even have an email account. Not one they check every day anyway. To be sure, a more efficient way to communicate is right around the corner.

While the email sender may be speaking, very few are listening.

Communication is defined as “means of connection between people or places” and email is now a very “unreliable” method of communication. Email marketing is officially on notice. You can see the end from here.

The excess of “Junk” or “Spam” has polluted the medium. It is ruining the experience of opening your inbox: so many don’t. Inevitably those people will naturally seek other methods of communicating efficiently and conveniently. Social media allows communication – both broadcasting and one-to-one. SMS texting is a relatively new reliable way to communicate. Many have already started to make the shift.

And no matter how cheap it is to email large numbers of people, if no one is listening, eventually business will stop doing it.

We are witnessing people shifting from being annoyed about Spam to being ambivalent. When that kicks in we will find another way to communicate. We always do.

The Canadian government tried to save email communication by regulating it (CASL). But as Micheal Geist states “it seems unlikely there will be significant reforms to the anti-spam in the near future.”

Minsister Bains of Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada (ISED) “indefinitely postponed” the private right of action– the primary enforcement tool for CASL. It was the teeth and the claws of the tiger. It’s what had organizations take notice and invest the time and money into compliance. No teeth, no claws, no fear of the tiger. Business has moved on to the next business problem and we all know, there is no shortage of those!


Trends show 8 out of 10 emails are making their way into the inbox of consumers, up from 7 out of 10 emails in early 2016.

After steady quarter-over-quarter growth of inbox placement in 2016, 2017 recorded a dip in delivery in Q3 & 4 of 2017.  250ok Global Benchmark Report Q1 2018.

It’s a shame, as CASL showed signs of working during the first 3 years with a 37% decrease in spam reported by the Email Service Providers. But a recent study from 250ok on the global state of email delivery shows that since the “indefinite postponement of the PRA”, the main enforcement tool for CASL, Canada has shown a significant dip in deliverability. Compared to an increase of the global picture. We believe is attributed to an increase in spam in the last 2 quarters of 2017. Hold onto your hats Canadians. All the good CASL did to reduce spam is starting to reverse. We will be back to normal email spam levels in no time.

CASL could slide in comfortably beside our DoNotCall legislation in the “laws that were not enforced” category. Now email is free to continue to degrade to a point that is is so unreliable, recipients stop checking their inbox and business finds another, more effective way to communicate. It may take awhile but it’s future is inevitable.

Marketers will have lost one of our best communication tools. All because our government didn’t properly enforce a law that was designed to make email relevant to the recipient.

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