The History of Spam in Marketing

The History of Spam in Marketing 351x200 The History of Spam in Marketing

A virtually unregulated space, the Internet is ripe with individuals and companies skirting the gray area of marketing best practices. Log in online and within a few short minutes you’re sure to be exposed to spam. Whether it’s in your inbox or DMs, it won’t take long for you to be barraged with failed spammy marketing attempts.

A myriad of spam types exist today, including email, social media, search engine, and more. In spite of Bill Gates’ prediction, the problem of electronic junk mailings and postings certainly hasn’t been solved. If anything, it has gotten worse.

In this article we’ll dive in a bit deeper to the history of spam and what some countries are doing today to crack down on this expensive and time-consuming marketing gray area.

History of Spam Nomenclature & Early Examples

  • What is spam?

Electronic spamming is the act of using electronic messaging platforms to send unsolicited messages (spam). Often, spam is advertising sent repeatedly for the same site. The most widely recognized type of electronic spam is email spam, but the term can also be used to describe search engine spam, social media spam, mobile app spam, spam on blogs, wiki spam, forum spam, and many more.

  • Where did the word “spam” come from?

The act of sending unsolicited messages in the 20th century was named after “Spam,” a food product that is stereotypically thought of as being disliked by many. Distributed by Hormel and sold around the globe, Spam is precooked and canned spiced ham (thus the abbreviation “Spam”), and was first introduced in 1937. The analogy was also inspired by a Monty Python sketch about a menu that includes Spam in every dish. The reference is a tongue-in-cheek way of saying electronic spam is ubiquitous, undesirable, and unwanted.

  • What was spam like in the early days?

Advertising spam didn’t start in the 20th century; it actually started well before the 1900s. However, prior to the 1970s, this type of spam didn’t have a name. One of the first reported cases was in the form of a telegram from London dentist Messrs. Gabriel. In May of 1864. the company sent unsolicited messages to members of British Parliament to let them know the dental office would be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. through October. A recipient was so outraged at having received the advertisement that he sent it to the editor of The Times of London to complain, as seen in the image below. The first case of spam going viral? Quite possibly. Thousands of Londoners saw the letter in the newspaper, a not-so-easy feat at the time.

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