Spam: 3 rules brands should follow to ensure their emails will not end up in their customers’ junk folders

As consumers, our mailboxes often get flooded with emails from different brands, informing us of their next big sale or their new products available for example. Indeed, many marketers have now replaced their traditional direct mails by email marketing. By doing so, organisations are able to continue to deliver information that is of interest to their customers, while lowering their costs and measuring the success of their marketing activities more effectively.


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However, in order to successfully deliver their message to customers, brands must make sure that their emails are not considered as spam. Rao and Reiley defined spam as an “unsolicited commercial email that imposes a negative externality on consumers without any market-mediated benefit, and without the opportunity to opt out”. Large email services such as Google Gmail or Microsoft Hotmail have invested a lot of time and money into anti-spam technologies that send messages identified as spam directly to the junk mail folder. If a brand’s email is considered as spam and is sent to this folder by mistake, it will prevent this brand from effectively delivering its message to customers. Furthermore, while customers accept advertising because it enables them to access valuable content and services, they have a very negative perception of spam. If they believe that an email is a spam, most of them will send it immediately to their junk mail folder without opening it.


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Consequently, to effectively use email marketing, brands must make sure that neither customers nor email services will identify their emails as spam. The Australian Communications and Media Authority established three rules that brands should follow when they are sending commercial electronic messages.

  1. Consent

One critical characteristic of spam is that customers receive them without their consent. In addition to being automatically sent to the junk mail folder by anti-spam technologies, these mails often annoy customers and most of them will delete them instantly. Therefore, brands must only target customers who have expressed their consent.

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One way for organisations to make sure that customers agree to receive such emails is to ask them when they are filling a form. For instance, when customers sign up to Asos, they can decide which types of emails they are willing to receive from the brand.


  1. Identify

Brands should also personalise each email by including accurate information about the recipient. It will reduce the likelihood of them being treated as spam, and will also enhance their effectiveness. Indeed, customers are more likely to open an email and read it carefully if the message is personally addressed to them.


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Netflix personalises the emails it sends to its users based on the movies and tv shows they previously watched. As these emails are valuable and relevant to them, users are more likely to open and read them.


  1. Unsubscribe

Finally, commercial emails that do not enable customers to unsubscribe are considered as spam. As a result, customers must have the possibility to unsubscribe in each email they receive. The process should also be easy and quick.


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When their customers unsubscribe to their newsletter, Barneys New York asks them to give feedback. Indeed, brands should know why customers do not want to receive messages from them anymore in order to improve the quality and value of their emails in the future.


By following these three rules, brands will make sure that their emails will not be identified as spam and sent to the junk mail folder. They will also enhance their effectiveness, as customers will be more likely to read and respond positively to them.


I want to know your thoughts! Do you have other recommendations for brands to make sure they differentiate their emails from spam? What is your own experience with spam? Did you ever make a purchase after receiving a spam? Let me know in the comment section below. Thank you for reading!


12 Comments Add yours

  1. tzeyuntee says:

    Hey Magaly. Great post!

    I actually never open my spam mails. I have more than a thousand unread emails that I can’t be bothered with. Every time a website asks me to subscribe to their newsletter or for promotional emails, I always click accept without even thinking whether or not I am actually interested to receive. In the end, I have heaps of unread emails that will be deleted and I will unsubscribe months after that.

    I believe its important for brands to differentiate their emails from spam. Many brands include a big logo to show be visible to customers. Emails are always filled with words and could be boring sometime. By using logos and images, it works as visual aid in order to attract the customers’ attention. Also, many brands include moving images to appear to be more attractive.

    As I said that I have unsubscribed to many newsletters, it is a must for businesses to have this feature as they are required to provide a mechanism of withdrawal with the permission to withdraw at anytime.

    Well done explaining the 3 rules! I enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tze Yun, thank you very much for your nice comment!

      I totally agree with you, even once customers have opened the email, brands still need to keep them interested or they will stop reading and these brands will not get their message across. Also, I think it is a very good idea to brand your emails, in order to emphasise to customers that they are not spam and give them a good experience.

      Thank you for sharing!


  2. Zhen Yao Tan says:

    Yo Magaly! Great read you got there!

    There is an another way brands can use to differentiate their emails from spam, which is avoid using spam keywords such as Congratulations, act now! don’t hesitate!, etc. Which led to my experience with spam. Although I don’t often receive any spam emails, but I do receive certain spam SMS. For example, I just received a SMS 6 months ago which stated “Congratulations! You won 250 free spins without any deposit! Claim your free spins now!. The SMS ended with a link for me to click in order to do the free spins.

    I was horrified by this SMS not only because of its content, but also it was sent by an unknown cell phone number. Therefore, I immediately deleted the SMS.

    Besides using spam keywords, do check out other ways for brands or companies to differentiate their emails from spam by clicking this link:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Zhen Yao,

      Thank you for your comment. You have a very good point! Brands should definitely avoid all these words that sounds “fishy” and that we immediately associate with spam.

      Receiving spam on my phone annoys me way more than in my mailbox. I think it is because using someone’s phone number is even more intrusive than an email. It also makes me worry about my privacy!

      Thank you for the link, that is a very interesting article. It is true that messages using very bright colours, and lots of exclamation marks and capital letters could immediately be identified as spam. To relate to the comment made by Tze Yun above, brands should avoid these tactics and focus on maintaining consistency with their brand image within the email.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. toriperron says:

    Hi Magaly. Really interesting and simple read 🙂 Personally I receive hundreds of spam emails each month that go straight into my trash. Luckily I have learnt how to identify spam from legitimate emails. Unfortunately, some companies gain access to private and public mailing lists that allows them to target customers illegally. This is one of the real hazard with online marketing – the safety and security of your personal information is often at risk. A good tip is to make sure brands are not using any urgent language in the subject line, for example “unauthorised login attempt”, as these are often phishing tactics used to scam people. Another great tip is for companies to authenticate their emails before they send them. This ensures they are being sent from the company’s domain name as a opposed to a generic domain. Have a look at this great source from Campaign Monitor for more great information:

    Thanks, Tori 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tori,

      Thank you for commenting! I also receive a lot of spam, but they all go directly into my spam folder. I actually never notice them (until I looked at the folder this week!). I think it shows the effectiveness of anti-spam technologies used by companies like Hotmail or Google, which enables us, customers, to have a better experience with their services.

      I agree with you, by authenticating their emails brands are much more likely to get their messages delivered to their customers. Thank you very much for sharing this article! It is very interesting, and it clearly demonstrates that marketers cannot exclusively focus on the design and content of the emails but also must make sure that these emails will be effectively delivered and read by customers.



  4. Blogs Away says:

    Hi LaPauseDigitale,

    A great blog post! Personally I hate spam and have never made a purchase after receiving a spam email. I have a separate e-mail account which I use as decoy when I have to. Aside from fake address my spam in tray on my regular email is constantly ticking over with spam.

    You’re three rules for spam emails are great and I think many companies could learn from what you’ve come up with. Especially the part about having a clear an obvious unsubscribe function. However, I believe that identifying emails with personal titles no longer has the same effect as it once did as most people now understand that they are computer generated.

    It may seem that spam has no upside for marketers but there are in fact a few. The biggest positive of spam is its low cost. As Rao & Reily outlined in “The Economics of Spam” the cost can be as low as 0.06 per 100,000 deliveries sent. On top of this the marginal cost (the cost associated with producing one more email) is almost negligible. It’s for this budgetary reasons that spam becomes attractive to marketers.

    Despites it’s low cost ultimately I believe that spam works to cheapen a brand and annoy consumers.

    So with all this in mind could you see any scenario where spam is useful?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Blogs Away,

      Thank you for your thought provoking comment!

      As you said, I think an increasingly large number of customers use another email address when they sign up to a membership program or newsletter. I believe that it largely decreases the effectiveness of email marketing! For example, I always give a different email address to brands and I never look at it. Therefore, marketers are spending a lot of time and money to target customers who are unlikely to receive their message.

      I agree with you, although the low cost of spam can be very appealing to some organisations, there are disadvantages that far outweigh the reduction in cost. It negatively affects a brand’s image, reputation and relationship with customers, which is very valuable.

      I believe that spam is never useful for brands. Even if they want to increase brand awareness online and enhance sales, they can use other ways that are actually legal, accepted by customers and valuable to them (such as developing a social media presence for example).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nicholas Rooney says:

    I really enjoyed how you chose such a relevant topic. One thing that I would add on is as simple as added-value to the consumer. If people know that they will actually receive relevant offers from the emails sent to them, they will be more likely to make an effort to keep them out of their junk folders. When the offers are irrelevant, they will be more likely to associate it with spam. This connects to your point of identity. Identity adds to the relevance of the email to the consumer. This is important because, like how you said, emails can be intrusive. It makes it feel as if they are talking with you and not to you.

    Another thing that you could add onto your list is testing. It is important for companies to test out what works and what doesn’t when sending mass emails to people. If not, they will end up sending something that the consumer will send straight to their junk mail.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nicholas, thank you for commenting!

      I agree with you, companies should always make sure that the emails they send to their customers will provide value and are relevant to them. Otherwise, if customers do not benefit from them, they will get annoyed, which is the opposite effect of what is intended by marketers!

      Furthermore, I completely agree that testing is critical. Marketers should test their emails before sending them to all their customers. This will enable them to make sure that customers will not identify the emails as spam, will read them and will interpret the message as intended by marketers. Email marketers can be very expensive, and marketers cannot afford to make a mistake that could negatively impact their business’ performance!



  6. Hey Magaly good insights into actionable ways brands don’t create their own form of spam and annoy customers! I’d identify one more potential rule, that is to not over email those who have subscribed. Consumers want to be informed about up and coming products, services, events etc. but have no desire to be receiving 4 emails a day from one company (in most cases anyway). Would you agree with this?

    Feel free to check out my blog over at It could help expand some understanding on the illegal spam produced globally and what’s being done about it.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Simon,

      Thank you for your interesting comment. I definitely agree with you, companies must choose the right frequency for their emails! If customers receive too many emails from the same brand, they could identify it as spam and develop a negative perception of that brand. As you said, businesses should only send messages to customers when they need to inform them about something that could be valuable to them, like a new collection in store, or an upcoming sales promotion for example.


      Liked by 1 person

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