Autumn Bowes

Email Marketing Best Practices from Annoying Viagra Spam

By: Autumn Bowes | February 27, 2017 | 
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Email Marketing Best Practices From That Annoying Viagra SpamIt happens when I least expect it.

I’ve just sorted my Gmail folders neatly by category.

A bare inbox remains, free of a half-dozen or so discontinued subscriptions to eNewsletters I no longer read.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

For a few days, everything is cool.

My email is under control.

Then, out of the blue, I see an email for something blue—and little.

It’s an email that’s hard to swallow (forgive the pun).

Yes, the Little Blue Pill email has somehow tracked me down and crept into my neat and tidy inbox.

I wince as I read the subject line, smirk at its crude content, and move it to my spam folder.

And so the process continues.

Still, as a marketer, I can’t help but applaud the efforts these businesspeople (however shady) put into their craft.

They want us to want that pill.

They tempt us with tricky language, and it often works on the people who aren’t even in the market for the product.

Superdrug Online Doctor researched this specific phenomenon and detailed just how crafty these emails can be.

It’s worth mentioning that some of their tactics can—and should—be mined for reputable email marketing best practices (but perhaps we can keep our language a little cleaner).

The Anatomy of a Viagra Spam Email

Learn from the Email Marketing Masters

It goes like this: Roughly 74 trillion emails are sent every year, and nearly 90 percent of those emails are spam—which equals $200 million in sales each year in the U.S. alone.

Clearly, something in these emails is striking a chord.

We can glean some email marketing best practices from the simple marketing methods that Viagra and other pharma spammers use to make a sale.

Use an Emotional Grab

If there is one thing that I took away from the study, it was that email marketers need to pitch with emotion.

According to the study:

An emotional grab may be more likely to entice someone, particularly if the sentiment of feeling happier or more fulfilled resonates with them in some way.

An empty phrase with trigger words compels the reader to add their own value or meaning and mentally establish an independent reason to open the email rather than delete it.

Some key subject lines included, “Chase all the rainy days away” and “Delivery for you.”

Make the reader feel like he or she needs whatever it is you are handing out.

Include a Call-to-Action Link

Another key takeaway was actually quite simple but extremely effective: It’s the good old-fashioned call-to-action, but in its most basic form: A “Click Here” link.

Superdrug’s study notes:

Links with commands such as ‘Click Here’ hope you will respond reflexively before examining any other elements of the email.

A “Click Here” link draws the recipient’s eye and often leaves them reading (or clicking) rather than deleting.

These luring links remain a useful tool for marketers.

It’s true: Savvier consumers know they shouldn’t click on a suspicious email—but if you’re a smart marketer then your email likely isn’t fishy.

Your email marketing best practices to take away from all this?

Make sure to have a clear and prominent call-to-action.

And keep the clickbait simple.

And One Thing to Avoid …

With all that said, it’s clear that context counts.

You won’t inspire a click-thru with a call-to-action placed within a paragraph that’s about as valuable as lorem ipsum.

Remember to keep your marketing emails direct and free of spelling errors or fonts that may be difficult to interpret, because those devices may be mistaken for spam.

According to Superdrug Online Doctor’s research, many over-the-top tactics are also used by pharma spammers.

Marketers should remain professional above all.

Ultimate in Email Marketing Best Practices: Keep it Simple 

In the end, we can all learn a lot from Viagra and other pharma spammers.

It takes effort to get your email marketing to drive the action it was intended to do.

But the process can be made easier by deploying a few trusty email marketing best practices that these spammers regularly use.

OK, it’s time for me to get back to deleting those Little Blue Pill emails.

About Autumn Bowes


Autumn Bowes works at Fractl, a creative agency, on behalf of Superdrug Online Doctor. Superdrug Online Doctor's service provides convenient and compliant medical services for a range of ailments. We also create engaging and useful content around a variety of health topics to inform and educate the general public.

  • Oh, but spam emails provide such great comic relief!! Plus, I just inherited 10 million dollars!

  • This is so fantastic! When I read this last week, in preparation for scheduling it to publish, I laughed out loud. I mean, we all joke about the spam email. Who knew there were actual best practices from them?!

  • Oh, this is good.

    I have a great deal for you. Please send me $1,000 in eBay gift cards and I will send you $10,000!

  • Hannah Engle

    How can you have a consumer read the email when it shows who the sender is? Even if the tag line is catchy, if I see a sender from a company that I’m uninterested in, I won’t think twice about deleting it.

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