Email spam case study by Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone recently conducted an interesting experiment on the subject of email spam.  Only, they didn’t do it on purpose, exactly, and I don’t think they probably learned anything from the results.  First, let me say, I work for a competitor of Rosetta Stone’s, Transparent Language.  We’re the quiet ones, spending our money on product improvements and more languages instead of infomercials.  Rosetta is old-school marketing.  Television ads galore, but they have been trying to get on the social media and inbound marketing track lately.  They acquired Livemocha recently, which operated as a more collaborative community-driven language learning model. Because I like to keep tabs on the competition, I happen to be part of both those communities.

When one acquires a community, and a new mailing list, one needs to be mindful of such possible cases.  Because if, say, a company decides to massively barrage their email list with promotional “BUY NOW” messages, about a sale with “MERE HOURS TO GO” for an entire month, truly my LAST CHANCE to get this once in a lifetime deal, it’s bad enough.  But if you happen to be doing that to both your base house list and your newly acquired shiny list of Livemocha members and someone is, say, getting both sets… it’s downright bizonkers:


Back to school season is a good sales season for language learning, as you might expect. This had been going on all month by the time I got to the point of taking a screenshot, so rest assured that there are multiple pages of emails that came before these.  But it didn’t end there.  Here’s what the TRUE “final hours” looked like:


This was an interesting perfect storm in the sense that they did it to two separate communities at the same time, but even taking Livemocha out of the equation, just LOOK at this. I have no idea why I started getting duplicates as shown above. I guess to enhance the urgency? Or JUST IN CASE I somehow missed the previous legion of emails? Raise your hand if you would still take phrases like “last chance” and “final hours” seriously after this. Talk about the boy who cried wolf. It starts to feel incredibly cheesy, and I certainly don’t get the impression they actually care about my LEARNING a language nearly as much as they do about my BUYING one.

I couldn’t have picked a more perfect example of how email marketing used to be conducted, and how opposite that is to the way you’re supposed to conduct yourself today.  Hubspot blogged about another good recent example, but this one takes the cake for me. On social media, as a business, your communications are only supposed to be about YOU a minority of the time. The same applies to email. Go look at the Facebook page for Transparent Language.  Or our company blog. We also take great pains to email promotional offers only rarely.  We used to send email promotions once every week (which is still microscopic compared to the onslaught above) but even that gets tiresome. The New World Order is being there for people when they have a need for your product, not hitting them over the head repeatedly until you finally wear them down. We learned, and adapted.  Rosetta Stone clearly hasn’t, and I bet their Livemocha community felt this rude awakening.

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2 Responses so far.

  1. I just wrote about this. I am so annoyed that they did this to the Live Mocha community — and the week leading up to Christmas they sent two emails a day. I am now actively DISCOURAGING people to ever use Rosetta Stone on principle. I’ve heard in the comments they also spam their own customers, as if buying one language wasn’t enough, they’ll aggressively hound you to buy another. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

  2. ellis wyatt says:

    Rosetta stone is a great example of terrible email marketing. As a marketer, I stay subscribed just to remind me how diluted a message gets when it is sent too many times with a new impending events every week.

    Oddly enough, the software Saas by Oracle that they use to manage their email marketing touts them as a customer. I have to admit it turned me off of that oracle product as well. If it is facilitating this kind of mess for Rosetta, which undoubtedly has a lot more resources/large marketing dept than my company, why do i want to use it?

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