Spam Works for Weight Loss


No, it’s not the latest fad diet: Marketing Pilgrim. Marketing news, folks. How many of us have stared at the thousands of spam messages and wondered, “Why on earth do they keep sending this crap out? It can’t possibly be effective . . . can it?”

Unfortunately, incredibly, in some industries, the answer is yes. As MediaPost reports, a small study showed that even recipients without weight issues opened and purchased from spam weight loss emails, as published in the Southern Medical Journal this month.

Though the sample size was only 200 (and probably not representative—students at a single New York commuter college), the findings are startling: 18% of those without weight issues opened the spam emails and 5% actually purchased. Of those who identified themselves as having weight issues, 40% opened the spam and 18% purchased.

MediaPost clarifies that these numbers aren’t necessarily great on their own: “The study does note that the purchasing behavior is at a lesser level than a six-country survey for any health or pharmaceutical product.” However, the fact that even those outside the target audience opened and bought from a spam email is pretty significant.

MediaPost also notes that the emails appeal to a “captive, maybe even desperate audience” (and if you’ve ever really battled your weight, you know that feeling), so these findings probably won’t apply across the board. And given that one out of twenty non-target audience members also purchased, suddenly I’ve lost hope that those dozen daily Viagra ads will go away.

What do you think? Is the study skewed? Or is spam really that effective (for some products)?

  • http://arguments.callee.info/ HB

    200 people surveyed…
    unknown percent of those are “without weight issues” (not specified)…
    18% of those opened weight loss spam mail…
    5% of those bought something?

    Even assuming NONE of the students have weight issues, that means 1.8 of them bought something due to spam e-mail. Since you can’t have 0.8 people, at least some of the students apparently had weight issues to make that 5% equal 1.

    “One student bought spam.” — Southern Medical Journal
    .-= HB´s last blog ..Quick Tip Regarding Google Chrome Frame =-.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Jordan McCollum

    Your math is absolutely correct. But actually, the MediaPost article says that 5% of all those with weight loss issues purchased from the spam—so if we assume that none of the students had weight loss issues, that would mean 36 opened and 10 purchased.

    Sorry if that wasn’t clear in the article; I hadn’t considered that angle!

  • http://www.markmedia.org.uk Mark

    The limitations of the survey are pretty clear, but it does indicate why all those spammers and low quality ‘get rich quick’ people still seem to be around and prospering after ten years.

  • http://www.weightlosstargets.com Mike

    These marketers have ways of convincing people they have a problem by showing them a solution and…. it works enough for them to keep bringing in money. See they know approx. what percentage of a return they can get by sending out emails and such. That’s why there is so much of it. It would be interesting to see a more in depth study with a wider sample. Thanks for the post!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..A Look Back At 2009 In Words And Photos =-.