A couple of weeks ago I was clowning around with Ryan Phelan, Andrew Kordek, Morgan Stewart, and some others making fun of the “b-word” to the tune of popular songs. Andrew is busting out the rap; Ryan at a smokey piano bar; it being a Friday, I was in more of a Nina Simone mood. Appreciating the dichotomy Morgan soon presented me the coveted “Dennis Miller Award for Overly-Intellectual Cultural References”.

In my acceptance speech I offered a favorite quote from Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.”

So how the hell does this tie email to Ayn Rand and Sun Tzu? I’m getting there….

Fast-forward to about now and another conversation that has taken an interesting turn, to which my response was;

Ayn Rand once wrote, “The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.” That reminded me of Sun Tzu who said, “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”, so in the immortal words of Atticus Finch (again), “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view….”

Trust me, this is all going to make sense in a minute….

First, Atticus Finch; the second quote was the very next line following the first Atticus Finch quote and reads in full:

If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

That said, Atticus didn’t need to be in there, but I know that Morgan appreciates it….

Anyway, through a mis-translation of Latin the topic turned to the bane of email; purchased lists.  Here’s where Ayn Rand comes in with:

The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles. 

The basic principle of email marketing is that permission to communicate is granted the sender directly by the recipient, not a reseller.  To compromise that fact not only damages those looking for shades of grey to justify their actions or desires, it damages the industry as a whole. 

 Adding Sun Tzu;

To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

Since the dawn of email marketing senders have been blocked, blacklisted, and otherwise denied Inbox access to the recipient due to emailing purchased lists.  Those lists have been sold over and over and quite often contain a number of spam trap addresses, and yes, the IT departments of those B2B recipients have have spam traps, too.

Back to Atticus Finch in the context above; I understand the view of the marketer that wants to purchase an email list; I really do.  After all, who wouldn’t want to go from zero to millions of subscribers overnight?  The thing is, if you buy them they aren’t subscribers, really, are they? 

Unless, of course, you’re willing to compromise the basic principle of direct permission and set yourself up for defeat at the Inbox….