“Forwarding This Marketing Email Is Strictly Prohibited By Law….”


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It’s been a while since I’ve whined about the stupid prospecting emails I get. I could literally post every day–even if I set the criteria “I’ll only post unsolicited marketing emails from ‘Global 1000’ corporations.”

Today, I received an intriguing email from a Fortune 50 corporation. I’ll overlook:

  • The fact that our company is already a customer, using some of the services they are trying to get me to buy.
  • The absence of any personalization other than “Dear Business Executive,” (It’s such an endearing greeting.)
  • The 263 words filled with no fewer than 20 meaningless acronyms, technical phrases, that required me to go to the dictionary to understand what they were saying.

To me, the most intriguing thing was the “fine print” at the end of this unsolicited email:

This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are the property of XYZ Corporation, are confidential, and are intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom this e-mail is addressed.  If you are not one of the named recipient(s) or otherwise have reason to believe that you have received this message in error, please notify the sender at 626-XXX-XXXX and delete this message immediately from your computer.  Any other use, retention, dissemination, forwarding, printing, or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

I started to think, “why would a marketing professional (?) do this?”

After all, this is completely unsolicited, yet they are disclosing “confidential information” to me? Oddly, if I go to this company’s web site, I can get the exact same inane information, laden with technology acronyms, and the same videos. They aren’t screening my access, it seems public, but somehow I am being burdened with protecting confidential information, I never asked for.

I’m also worried about forwarding this note. Normally, if I were interested in this, I would send it to the guy that handles our IT and Phone systems, asking him to check it out, but I am prohibited from doing so (I don’t want to do anything that violates the terms of this email).

Normally, marketing loves seeing emails forwarded. But somehow, I’m in violation of something–I’m not clear what or why–that I never asked to be part of in the first place. But I don’t want to do anything that would put our company in any legal jeopardy, so I won’t forward or talk about the contents of the email to anyone. I’ll keep it strictly to myself.

I wonder, if I call the sales person, expressing interest, would those conversations have to be kept confidential? Would I be in violation of some something if I invited my IT person to the meeting? I suppose, to be in compliance, I would have to get a written waiver from the company allowing me to have other people involved in the buying process.

I’m not interested in the offer, and don’t want to be in the position of violating the terms of the email. Per instructions, I make sure it is deleted from my system. But I’m worried–they didn’t offer me the option to unsubscribe. So I might, unwittingly be sent more “confidential information.” that I can’t copy, print, or forward, and that I have to make sure is forever deleted from my system…….

As I publish this post, I wonder, “am I in violation of anything, might I be sued?” Of course, I haven’t violated the confidentiality by revealing the content of this email, so I’m safe on that point. I don’t know if the disclaimer is covered by the disclaimer–by that, is the disclaimer confidential, can I not forward or copy it? I did take the time to disguise the name of this Fortune 50 company and the phone number…..

It’s early in the morning, our lawyers aren’t in their offices yet, but I’ll take a chance.

Imagine, this gigantic corporation is paying 100’s if not 1000’s of marketing people to come up with drivel like this. It’s not only horrible marketing, but they encumber their programs with unwarranted legalese. They are launching marketing programs to get people interested in their products, yet prohibiting the victims of those programs from sharing the information with others that might be interested.

It’s stunning to me that no one in marketing is paying attention to this disclaimer, thinking, “Isn’t this stupid? Why are we distracting from our message….?” It’s something that clearly would not hold up in any court, and if recipients pay attention to it, promotes exactly the opposite of what they want done with this marketing campaign.

I suspect they are doing it because the lawyers tell them to do it. I suspect they think, “No one will pay attention.” They know it’s meaningless, but if it’s meaningless, why do they include it?

Good marketing is tough. Getting people to open, read, and act on your messages is a real challenge. We have to be focused and create compelling messages if we want people to respond. We have to be thoughtful…..

Instead, this organization’s marketing people are just going through the motions, they are doing their jobs. They are, apparently, not responsible for results, just inundating the world with meaningless drivel. And I know, whoever implemented this is off to the next meaningless email campaign, with the same corporate approved drivel.

Marketing should be better than this!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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