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Email Marketing: Why phishing emails (unfortunately) work … and what marketers can learn from them

August 8th, 2018
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I was riding in the car with my wife’s uncle. And when he found out that email marketing was one of the things I work on, he said, “Oh, so you send spam. I hate spam!”

It goes without saying, spam is bad marketing and I don’t support it. As I’ve written before, email marketing is just a means to an end. And the end should be helping a person.

I bring this up because we’re going to a pretty dark place today: Phishing emails.

Let me be clear. Phishing emails aren’t marketing. They are a flat-out scam. The role of marketing is to help a customer perceive the value and cost of products in a world of choice to — ultimately — make the best choice for them. Phishing emails are just plain thievery.

While phishing emails don’t ultimately deliver value, they do communicate value. Not to everyone, but to a specific audience. And that is why some people act on them.

So let’s see what legitimate marketers can learn from them. Let’s not be close-minded because their intentions are wrong. After all, for the marketer who seeks to grow his personal capacity, there are lessons everywhere. So here are some email marketing insights from email marketing scams.

What is a phishing email?

Earlier in my career, I worked in the IT security space for a bit, and I learned that the weakest link in security isn’t that encryption could be hacked.

It’s you. And me.

And that’s what phishing is, essentially. Instead of trying some complex technological ways to steal, just get people to act of their own volition. It’s a form of social engineering. They are using bait to catch a victim, and the visceral way it is named always reminds me of this scene from “Wayne’s World.”

 

You can see 15 examples of phishing emails here, and I’ve included a few of the most common types below.

 

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