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Want Some Bacn With That Spam?

Bacn, a recently coined term, refers to email messages (such as notifications or alerts) that may not be wanted at the time they are received or may remain unread for some time. While the term is new, bacn itself has been around as long as email has. I would argue that bacn is really just “permission spam”, meaning any irrelevant emails you get from a source you signed up with. This can include the constant automated Facebook updates you get or airline offers for cheap seats from Montreal to New York… not helpful when you live in Toronto.

The good thing about notifications is you can typically manage them and even turn them off …you
can choose to get them or not. The problem with the airline example is that they have information as to where I live but they don’t use it and send me emails that are not relevant.

I have spoken to a few Facebook newbies and they are all in the same boat. After they signed up and began building their friends list, they wanted every alert they could get (maybe it’s some sort of popularity index?). Once they amassed a larger list of friends, however, they received more and more alerts. Too many! Soon they began managing their alerts so that they only receive the types of updates they wanted. Instead of 25-50 Facebook alerts daily, they are now getting less than 10.

When I speak to marketers about email marketing I always say spam is not
just the what the legal definition says (email sent without permission or fraudulent email messages). To the recipient, spam is anything they consider unwanted. Even if you have permission to email subscribers but consistently send emails that are not relevant to them, you will find subscribers don’t engage with them. Your subscribers may create rules to automatically delete your emails or they end up hitting the “spam” button as a quick way of getting rid of these unwanted emails. That’s not a good thing for email senders as it hurts their email reputation scores with ISPs.

So, whether you call it bacn, permission spam or just plain bad email marketing, as a marketer make sure you send email that is relevant. Use a profile centre and update profile page to capture and get updated information about your subscribers. Use this information to drive relevance. Add web analytics data for behavioural targeting and automate some of your email interactions. This will drive email open rates, click-throughs and recipient engagement. It will drive results! And it will keep your emails from being labelled as spam. Or bacn.


  1. Phil Barrett
    Phil Barrett September 7, 2007

    Great article – although email is still an effective channel, generation Y and Z would rather IM or text message over email…
    As marketers, we need to focus more energy around leveraging those channels effectively too

  2. Stefan Eyram
    Stefan Eyram September 11, 2007

    You are right, Phil. You have to advertise where your target markets are and you have to use communications channels these targets use.
    I believe the keys are permission (or awareness that you will be communicating with these people) and having this marketing data in a single place.
    ExactTarget, traditionally an email-centric company, has launched functionality that allows marketers to use a single communications database to send/trigger email, SMS (text), RSS (feeds) and even voice messages. This comes as a direct result of our clients requesting such functionality.

  3. Phil Barrett
    Phil Barrett September 12, 2007

    GREAT to see that companies like ExactTarget are extending beyond email.
    A multi-channel approach based on user preferences is the best way to get results.
    I wonder what’s next… allowing marketers to send a newsfeed directly to linkedin or facebook?

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