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Home > Blog > What is it With Pain? And Other Email Annoyances
Out of Our Minds
Thursday, January 27, 2005 9:21 AM
What is it With Pain? And Other Email Annoyances
Anita Sharpe on Life

If your experience is anything like mine, you have several dozen spam emails waiting for you every morning when you first turn on your computer. Here's a mystery to me -- about two-thirds of the spam messages I get refer to pain in the subject line: ('Your Daughter's Pain;' 'Re: Your Painful Appointment on Feb. 2;' etc.) Do the spammers know something I don't? Are we a nation that gets off on agony and suffering? Who exactly are the people who open these emails? (Little do they know how much they are missing the mark with me -- I don't even have a bottle of unexpired Tylenol in my medicine cabinet, just a package of Band-Aids.)

But as long as there is a delete key, I can deal with spam. What I find far more annoying are spam blockers from people who are sending me unsolicited email. Someone today emailed me for Worthwhile's phone number. When I replied, I got an automated response saying my message was blocked by their spam blocker -- and directing me to a site where I could go through a variety of steps to have my email address OK'd by their computer.

I guess they will have to look up the phone number on our website.


Chris - 1/29/2005 12:13:00 PM
I think there's a darker side to pain-related SPAM. I think the US has a terrible problem with folks addicted to legal painkillers, and I'll bet illegally purchasing regulated meds online is a channel of sorts. I hope that's not why these folks are doing this... but I'll bet its at least part of the equation.
Eben - 1/28/2005 3:15:34 PM
Hi Anita--I have a post on the 'stickiness' (in Tipping Point parlance) of drama which you may be interested in in reference to this post. It should be in the 'January 2005' archive on my blog: www.ebencarlson.com. I also talk about short-term sticky (sticky sticky) and long term sticky (non-stick sticky). I believe--as I believe your magazine does--that we're moving from the first to the second. I've been waiting for a good time to introduce myself to Worthwhile as well. Keep up the good work.

anita - 1/27/2005 9:06:44 PM
Eric -- What's a good one? I don't like any that I have been exposed to.
Eric McNulty - 1/27/2005 7:58:48 PM
After receiving upwards of 50 spam messages a day, a spam blocker was welcome relief. The good ones add outbound addresses to the 'allow' list so that replies get through. I'm thankful for my spam filter every day.
Corey Henderson - 1/27/2005 4:24:22 PM
I swear I'm not a shill for the company, but Cloudmark Safetybar really does work on spam - and near zero false positives which is the biggest factor for me.
Dave Taylor - 1/27/2005 2:41:25 PM
Good observation. Much of marketing seems to be around fear (think security alarms) and I think that fear of pain fits into that category. Me, I seem to get lots of 'housewives looking for flings' email. But not from my wife. But that's another story! :-)

In terms of challenge-response systems for cutting down on spam, they're unquestionably a good idea until you actually use one, then you find out that shifting the burden of spam fighting onto your friends and colleagues isn't very nice. I *never* respond to challenges for just this reason: if the person really wanted to hear from me, they'd have figured out a smarter solution to the problem.
Laura Bergells - 1/27/2005 11:40:22 AM
It's a trite old marketing trick: focus on pleasure, or focus on pain. Either one gets results.

If your spam email focuses on pain, TV drug commercials seem to be focusing mostly on pleasure (I see more people dancing in fields and riding bicycles, smiling away....and I don't even know what the drug is supposed to cure.)

But TV ads focus on pain, too --the little animated monster than lifts up your toenail... the guy who keeps repeating 'tension headache' over and over until you practically have one...

But my overall favorite pleasure-based TV ad is one for birth control: a smiling lady leaping and covorting like a wood nymph through a forest. Another one grinning foolishly by a seaside. Another one glassily pondering a field of flowers -- all alone. It strikes me without men, that they wouldn't need the BC product to begin with. But they seem pretty happy. Must be the drugs.

Side point - can you imagine a 'male-targeted product' with men leaping and hopping through the woods, walking barefoot through a stream, etc. -- with nary a woman in sight?
James Stewart - 1/27/2005 10:41:39 AM
My wife is from the US and I'm from the UK, and one of the first cultural differences we noticed was the approach to pain relief medication. Kari couldn't quite believe how small the pharmaceutical selection was when visiting the UK, and I was very taken aback by the number of different drug names thrown around in conversation in the US.

I don't know if I'd go so far as to say there's a different attitude toward pain in the two countries, but it certainly does seem that people in the US are more involved in their drugs, vitamin supplements and other health treatments.


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