A marketing email from Dell caught my eye amongst all the inbox content because of the subject line: â€œWas it something we said?â€
Curiosity piqued, I clicked on it to open it, and saw the eye-catching image you see above.
The mixture of garish colours and popping eyes of the model really grabbed my attention, almost making my heart skip a beat. Whoa! I thought. What is this?
Then I was taken aback when I read the text alongside the â€˜Shock, horror!â€™ title:
Can we take a minute of your time? Itâ€™s just that it seems you havenâ€™t opened any of our recent emails.
Wtf? I thought to myself. How does Dell know I havenâ€™t opened an email?
It quickly turned out that asking such a question was exposing my naivete about current email marketing practice, as my Twitter community was quick to point out.
the old single pixel request thing…
html email with a uniquely named 1 pixel gif is my guess.Server gets a request for that pixel,they know you looked at the email.
Knowing whether someone opened an e-mail is a common feature of e-mail audience/campaign management software.
I use thunderbird which allows you to block requests for image from senders. So, if I get some junk, they don’t know.
More from Mike:
I can also tell whether a person forwarded the e-mail and to whom. I haven’t done the creepy "why aren’t you reading?" though.
I commented back along the lines that I consider this behaviour as spying and dislike it a lot.
Which prompted this from Mike:
that e-mail is pushy. But the "spying" thing isn’t Dell’s fault. That’s a standard function. How it was used is Dell’s fault.
And from Tim:
I tend to agree – it’s the sort of thing that makes people uncomfortable.
I think other companies do similar tracking, but don’t write in ways that make it obvious that they’re tracking you ;)
PaulieA said this:
all email marketing software tells the sender if the email has been opened…bit sinister i guess, but that’s how it is
And Donna Papacosta:
That being said, I don’t think I would email the customer a 2nd time saying "Hey you didn’t open the previous message."
I think Donnaâ€™s final comment resonated the most for me.
Things like 1-pixel GIFs that phone home and email marketing software that, unknown to you, tracks you are one thing (two, actually).
As PaulieA said, thatâ€™s how it is. Whether it makes me the customer feel uncomfortable or not is neither here nor there, I guess.
Maybe itâ€™s the approach in Dellâ€™s email that offends me, the wording that in one way or another says â€œWeâ€™re watching you and what you do on your computer, and you wonâ€™t know about it â€“ unless you donâ€™t open our emails, and then weâ€™re gonna jump on you.â€
Iâ€™m disappointed that itâ€™s Dell Iâ€™m writing about in this post. Iâ€™ve got to know many Dell people over the past few years, because of social media. I like and respect them.
This email and the distasteful email marketing employed clearly is from another part of Dell.
What Iâ€™ll call the anti-social media part.
Suffice it to say that Dell marketing emails now go to the spam filter.
[Later] Reading through this post after publishing it, I was struck by one of Tim Almondâ€™s comments, about his using Thunderbird that lets you block images in emails.
I use Outlook which lets me do exactly the same thing. I have such image-blocking set as the default.
However, I can allow images in email to get through automatically from companies and individuals I classify as trusted.
Dell is one such company.
Not now the anti-social media part, though.