One of the biggest issues facing legitimate high-volume, e-mail marketers is their inability to monitor their own affiliate network and third party e-mail brokers. I didn't realize this until I found out from my own customers. The product we sell, CETS, was originally designed to provide marketers with competitive intelligence in the e-mail space, but once we started showing it around and selling licenses, almost half the licenses we sold were to e-mail marketers who were using it to monitor their own e-mails, not their competitors.
While most e-mail marketers provide their networks with specific creative and approved subject lines, there is no guarantee that the affiliates will abide by the creative they are given. Here is an example:
Over the last 30 days, one of the top brands we've tracked (from a volume standpoint) is a brand called Remodel 4 Free, owned by 123 Click. Remodel 4 Free is basically a co-register site where customers sign up to receive offers from partner companies. E-mails that promote the Remodel 4 Free site are sent out by third party lists and affiliates. So far, so good.
Closer examination, though, reveals a problem. While most of the lists have a normal subject line such as "Win a kitchen or bathroom renovation!" a massive amount of e-mails have gone out with a the following subject line: "Revovate with us."
That's right, revovate instead of renovate.
And this isn't an isolated instance. We've been tracking the "revovate" ads at least as far back as May 22 and they arrive every day, some times multiple times a day. On July 21, we received over 80 "revovate" ads on that day alone.
Sending out huge quantities of e-mail on a single day is not unusual. One e-mail list provider we track sends out an average of 37 e-mails a day for various brands. On July 4, they sent out over 600 e-mails.
Pity the poor e-mail marketer who most likely has no idea that their brand is bombarding potential client's e-mail boxes every second or so while they are off celebrating Independence Day.
So why hasn't 123 Click stopped the copy? There are two possible reasons. One, revovate is working for them - maybe with the Elmer Fudd crowd. Or two, and more likely, they are unaware of it. At this point I've gotten used to the surprised looks I see on marketers faces when I show them exactly where their brand is showing up: places that they were unaware of.
Of course, these are cases where the affiliates are actually hoping to drive traffic to the marketers Web site. But what of the case where they appropriate your brand for their own purposes? Take a look at the following e-mail:
This is an e-mail sent by Winsweepstakes.net to get people to register on their site. It is an obvious reference to the JibJab animation parodying Bush and Kerry set to the music of "This Land is Your Land" that was on all the media outlets last week. Of course, they never actually say JibJab in the e-mail and the graphic they use here doesn't look anything like the JibJab parody. You certainly don't need to register to see the actual JibJab animation. But here, Winsweepstakes.net has appropriated the JibJab brand for its own purposes.
Of course, knowing that your brand is being appropriated and being able to do anything about it are two different things. I spoke to a large retailer who knows that their brand is being appropriated right and left, but there is little they can do about it. Many of the e-mailers hide their identity, and their lawyers are too busy to go after them.
At least brands can now do something about their own affiliates which is why much of my business is involved in monitoring rather than competitive intelligence. For many affiliates and the brands they advertise, though, it is still the wild, wild, west.