Another Penn State Scandal? Email Marketing Problems Now

In the next year and a half, I’ll have TWO kids in college – yikes! And since my kids both took the SAT test, our family email inbox has been overflowing with emails from colleges that the kids may or may not be interested in attending. While I’m not thrilled, I do understand that since they didn’t opt-out when they took the test, the colleges’ emails are CAN SPAM compliant. However, there might another Penn State scandal – this time in their email marketing opt-out practices.

In April, our home email address received an email from Penn State inviting us to spend a summer day at Penn State.

Penn State Email

Penn State Email

Thanks, but neither of my kids is interested, so I’ll just Unsubscribe. I click on the link and I’m taken to a page with the following info:

Unsubscribe Email Address

Please enter the email address you would like to unsubscribe from our events and communications lists.

Email Address:

You will receive an email at this address which contains a link to confirm your unsubscribe request. Thank you.


WHAT??? You’re sending me another email? I know DJ Waldow says it’s ok to break the rules and send a post-unsubscribe email, but I’m not sure an email with a link to confirm my unsubscribe request is exactly what he had in mind… I’m feeling agreeable so instead of clicking the “This Is Spam” button on the original email, I insert my email address and click Submit.

I received the email confirming my unsubscribe selection:

We have received a request to have this email address removed from our events and communications mailing lists. If you wish to complete the unsubscribe process, please click the confirmation link below.

Your web browser will display a confirmation notice when your email address has been removed.

Confirmation Number: XXXXXXX

Phew, I click on the link and I’m done, right?

By having to visit two separate pages, the Penn State email unsubscribe process could be considered in violation of the portion of the CAN SPAM compliance guide requirement #6 Honor opt-out requests promptly which states “You can’t…make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request.” But it’s ok, because I’m done so I won’t create another Penn State scandal by ratting them out on my blog.

Unfortunately, we’re not done yet. I then received ANOTHER email from Penn State Admissions stating:

This email address has been removed from the events and communications mailing lists of the Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Office.

Please allow 24-48 hours for the change to take effect. If at any time you wish to begin receiving email messages from our office again, please send an email to indicating your preferences. Thank you.


The Undergraduate Admissions Office at Penn State

Two emails after the original marketing message when my kids didn’t overtly subscribe to begin with, and I had to click on two links and go to two separate web pages in order to unsubscribe, but wait there’s more…did I mention I got another email from them and started the process all over again in May??? Let’s hope that’s the end of email marketing messages from Penn State coming to my email address.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? Were you mad? Did you delete the email or choose the “This Is Spam” option or contact the sender directly? Please let me know what you did and if you got any positive results in the comment section below.

Don’t Put All of Your Eggs In One Basket

Easter Bunny says, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket!"
The Easter Bunny says,

The topic of the first Twitter chat that I moderated was Jack of All Trades or Master of One. You can read more about it here. This past weekend was Easter, and even though the kids are growing up, the Easter Bunny was still hopping!

That combination made me start to think about the way some companies put all of their budget into one channel. During #SMchat, the focus was on individual growth rather than corporate, but the general consensus was that in order to grow you needed to have experience in more than one area of marketing. If it makes sense for the marketer to diversify, it should also work for the companies that they represent, right? That’s why it is surprising to me that so many companies don’t make use of all of the online and offline marketing venues that are available. The explanation that I’ve heard is that there is not enough money in the budget to cover all of the media channels. My response to that is you’re doing your company an injustice if you don’t test every available area of marketing. You never know what will work best for your company without testing.

Testing marketing channels can be done relatively inexpensively, and once you have proven ROI you can determine how much more you can spend in that media. For example, I have worked for several companies who felt that TV is too expensive for their budgets, but I’ve run national DRTV (direct response television) tests that cost far less than what they’re spending on PPC SEM (pay-per-click search engine marketing) campaigns and bring in more revenue for the money spent, plus have the advantage of reaching offline viewers that may not see your ads online.

Another really great marketing channel to test is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is wonderful because there are so many options and it is the most easily tracked – you can pay for the click, the sale, or even the phone call if you convert better over the phone than online.

Email traditionally has the highest ROI of any marketing channel but you need to test email marketing to see how it works for your company, plus you need to build your email list organically in order to have email perform at the levels it is capable of producing. You won’t get those high ROI numbers on a rented list.

Social media is the “new kid” and people are having difficulty determining ROI from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the other social media venues. I see social media as the glue that brings the company and the customer together. You need to be where your customers are – and more and more people are on social media sites than any other with the exception of Google.

Do you agree – should your marketing budget be spread across multiple channels or should you focus on one aspect of marketing in order to spend your budget wisely? Please comment below to let me know!

Did You Wish Everyone A Happy Halloween?

Photo courtesy of and copyright Paul Prawdiuk, Free Range Stock,

Photo courtesy of and copyright Paul Prawdiuk, Free Range Stock,

I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very happy Halloween!  The kids went trick-or-treating, so we’re stocked up on candy for at least the next 24 hours or so.

One of the email marketing initiatives that I developed for work is a Holiday Greetings email for any applicable holidays.  This gives us another reason to contact our subscribers other than the direct sales pitch, plus it’s just a nice thing to do.  The company where I currently work is a travel medical and security assistance provider called MEDEX Global Group.  Our subscribers have responded positively to the holiday greetings in general and the MEDEX Global Group Halloween email creative in particular.

Do you take the time to wish your subscribers happy holidays?  Are there any holidays that you avoid?  Which holiday campaigns perform the best for you?  Please leave a comment below and let me know what works for you! Happy Halloween!

The Right Message, to the Right Person, at the Right Time.

Don't be labeled a spammer?
Photo courtesy of and copyright Krystle, Free Range Stock,

I’ve got two children in high school, a freshman and a sophomore.  The kids’ school, like many others across the country, has the Connect-ED® notification service, where administrators can contact thousands of parents simultaneously without tying up school resources to get the message out.  In this scenario, they use it to call our land line to tell us some news from school.  The Homecoming dance is coming up, so I wasn’t too surprised to see the school phone number show on my caller ID at dinnertime this evening.  That’s a great use of technology to automate a formerly resource-intensive task, right?

Not quite.  It wasn’t a message about Homecoming (which would have been of interest to all of the students), but instead the phone call that we received was about an upcoming college night for high school juniors.  Did I mention that I have a freshman and a sophomore?  Not a junior = not relevant = phone spam.  Now, I know spam is technically unsolicited commercial emails, but the same principle applies to keep people from complaining.  You need to provide the Right Message, to the Right Person, at the Right Time in order for your information to be seen as relevant.

The Right Message

I gave the kids’ school my contact information and I expect them to contact me with messages about upcoming events or other things that they think I should know.  However, I also expect them to send me the Right Message.  I would be happy to receive messages about Homecoming activities, the end of the grading period, or even the high rate of absenteeism due to the H1N1 (Swine) Flu and what I can do to keep my children from catching it.

The Right Person

Since I don’t have a high school junior, I don’t expect the school to contact me about events that are targeted specifically to juniors.  I expect the message for juniors to be sent to the Right Person – parents of high school juniors.  I would be the Right Person for messages directed to parents of high school freshmen and sophomores.

The Right Time

In 2007, 78.3% of children had at least one parent working full time according to the NIH.  Assuming that these working parents get off work at 5PM, and have to fix dinner or pick it up which takes more time, this might indicate that 6-6:30PM might be an inconvenient time to call.  I think the Right Time to call might be a bit later, after dinner is over.  Or don’t call at all, send an email — but only to the parents of juniors who have opted-in to receive your emails!  What do you think?

Go to Top