StrikeIron Blog

Graymail: Email Isn’t Always Black and White

Posted by Kathy Jameson on Mon, Dec 12, 2011

We’ve covered the issues that spam presents for email marketing. Today we are going to go over spam’s legitimate cousin – graymail, or bacn ("bland automated community notification", pronounced like "bacon").

When it comes to email, there are many shades of gray. Essentially, graymail is email that people falsely mark as spam. Once upon a time you gave permission to join a company’s mailing list. For whatever reason, you no longer enjoy getting messages from this company and hit the 'spam' button. This is considered graymail, which includes legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore.




How is graymail not spam? We will refresh by reminding you the definition of spam which is “unsolicited bulk email”. Unsolicited refers to the fact that the recipient did not grant verifiable permission for the message to be sent.

Graymail differs since it is email messages that subscribers opted-in. Two quick takeaways for email marketers:

  1. Set Expectations: When building your list, make sure subscribers are clear on what they are agreeing to. They should be well aware of what types of emails they’ll be receiving and how frequently.
  2. Clear Exit: Each email needs to have an opt-out. Make it easy for recipients to quickly unsubscribe.

Graymail has received significant attention since Hotmail declared war on graymail about two months ago. Hotmail estimates nearly 75% of what current customers identify as spam is actually graymail.

According to Hotmail, “The same message that one person thinks is ‘spam’ could be really important to another person. It’s not black and white.”

Many ESP’s like MailChimp can detect when email goes gray. If too many people mark your message as spam then ESP’s may disable your ability to send new campaigns.  It brings up another key takeaway:

  1. Create Engaging Content: As a marketer, it is important to be well aware of the needs and wants of your customers. Emails need to resonate with your audience.

What do you think about graymail? Is it a serious threat to email marketers?

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