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Connections Blog

Sharing ideas and opinions about content, communication, and connections...what's important to relationship-building

May I Have Your Consent Canada?

Canada turns 147 years old today. Besides celebrating a great country most of its citizens in the professional world have something else weighing on their minds: Canada’s Anti-SPAM Legislation (CASL) is in effect today with the intent to shrink every citizen’s digital inbox, specifically, to protect Canadians from “spam”. This means, any email communication with commercial intent must be formally consensual or there is potential for hefty fines galore.

As a marketer, I’m intimately familiar with the term “permission marketing”. Since its popularization by marketing icon Seth Godin’s book “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends and Friends Into Customers”, its principle of “anticipated, personal and relevant” has defined the best practices for e-marketing communications for many years. Godin’s revolutionary idea was that mass-marketing yields little results. Valuable customer relationships could only be developed if they were built on a foundation of trust. Trust is earned through permission and attention that is garnered through quality products, services, and engagement. I whole-heartedly agree.

The positive impact of Godin’s book is profound. I have seen many organizations embrace permission-based marketing best practices since the early 2000s. There are a host of permission-based marketing firms that were founded in the last decade and have been very successful by providing a third-party platform to brands. Marketers at large are more educated and aware of the need for creating relevant and value-driven content that promotes 1:1 engagement. New algorithms continue to improve the quality of our digital inbox by identifying and filtering out spam messages. The proliferation of social media and the “Internet of Things” reinforces Godin’s customer-centric vision as a valuable digital engagement model.

But apparently some law-makers in Canada don’t believe we can rely on technology and common sense to control our marketing behaviors. We now have a law with severe punishments to correct them for us.
The new law has backfired in the last few weeks. I’ve never felt so spammed in my life. My company’s mail-hosting provider has been trying to fix an unexplainable transmission delay caused by a sudden surge of email volumes in the past few weeks. Both my personal and work email accounts have been bombarded daily with permission-seeking emails from organizations large and small. Messages range from the creative, to desperation, to bribes.

  • “We’ll enter your name in a monthly draw for a spa treatment if you subscribe”
  • “Please, please, please let us keep you on our list. We really don’t want to lose you!”
  • “We just want to keep you informed of our events that only happen once a year in your area. We would contact you very infrequently. This is your fourth and final reminder to subscribe.”
  • “As your accountant, we’d love to keep communicating with you via email.”
  • “We LOVE Canada and YOU especially! We hope you feel the same about us.”
  • “We want you to want to keep in touch with us. Just good info. No spam. Please consent. Your Starbucks gift card will be in the mail.”

Many of these messages came from places I never even knew existed nor did I mind receiving an email from them once in a while. But now that I’ve received not only one, but sometimes three or four reminders from each of them in a span of two weeks, my tolerance level is going down. Since the law will be phased in and the “implied consent” must be converted into “express consent” by 2017, I’m bracing myself for the painful side effect of CASL – ongoing permission-seeking spam mail.

Those that I did give permission to, I shouldn’t have had to waste my time on clicking the button. They include my dentist, my daughter’s school board, and firms I’m doing business with, or have already subscribed to.

Another side effect I’m dreading is the surge of telemarketing calls. Respectable organizations will model themselves after the infamous Duct Cleaning Services. I don’t know about you, but I find email less intrusive than a phone call, especially when your ducts do not need to be cleaned.

But, we human-beings are a resilient bunch. Change is uncomfortable. We may not agree with policies we can’t control but we can use our common sense as a guiding principle. Canada is a great country with an open mind. Is CASL the right approach to fostering a productive economy? Time will tell.

As a parent, I know my child doesn’t thrive on penalties or rules that are unenforceable. As a professional, I know morale soars on a positive culture. Godin said permission marketing is an investment. As a country, if we want to reap the benefits of permission-based marketing, we need education, not punishment.

That’s my opinion. I would love to get your perspectives if you’d like to share them.

You are also welcome to connect with me on Twitter

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