Bank of America – This is NOT spam


Click to view the Bank of America preheader

Man. It must be tough to be a financial institution in 2009. I’m not referring to the current financial crisis. I’m talking about trying to convince consumers that the email you are sending is legitimate (not spam, not phishing).

My wife and I recently moved into a new home in Salt Lake City. We used Bank of America for our mortgage. A few weeks after signing the paperwork, I received the following email

Click to view the Bank of America email

eec Superstar, Lisa Harmon has written about the preheader in the past. Fellow Smith-Harmon guy, Chad White also talks about it often. However, I’ve never seen a company use that valuable real estate to tell people an email they are about to read is NOT spam. Interesting.

Why This Technique May Work
Hey, you’ve gotta give credit for Bank of America for not giving up on email marketing as a engagement channel. While I may have historically marked this as spam out of habit, I didn’t this time. Was it because of the timing of their email (I just secured a B of A Mortgage)? Was it because they told me the email was NOT spam? Who knows.

I wonder what their open vs. unsubscribe/spam ratios looked like for this campaign. Did they do some A|B testing on that big red box telling me “This is NOT spam”? Maybe that phrase works for some, maybe for the majority. So, Bank of America – did this work?

Why This Technique May Fail
Telling me something is NOT spam makes me think even more that it IS spam. That’s what spammers and phishers do. “Please trust us. We’re the good guys, the guys with the white hats.” Yeah, right. I trust you. Also, if you have to tell me something is NOT something I think it may be, well…you’re already starting behind. As mentioned above, that preheader / above-the-fold area is what usually is seen first. Bank of America wants me to complete the survey, but I may be caught up on the fact that this email is or is NOT spam.

A Few Other Thoughts
1. Using the data: Bank of America sent me a few of these survey emails. Notice the subject line leads with the word “Reminder.” I love this. Ideally, they are using data to know I haven’t completed the survey yet. They seem to be using this information to remail me (and others?). A great strategy.

2. Images on vs. off: Using a link as opposed to a button ensures that I’m more likely to see it with images off. Yes!

3. Copy (the good): I liked that they started by congratulating me. I realize this is not “personalized” per se, but it was a nice way to start. They build upon my feel-good attitude with a thank you in the first paragraph. The email continues by setting my expectations around time (10 minutes) and why they are asking me to complete (“measure and learn”). Finally, it closes with a signature from Peggy, the SVP of CEE. Good touch.

4. Copy (the bad):

  • I realize mergers & acquisitions can cause marketing headaches. They are tough to communicate and can be confusing to the consumer. I applaud their effort to make me aware of the Countrywide acquisition, but I’m now a bit thrown off. I’ve never heard of Countrywide.
  • “Please do not reply to this email” – a big pet peeve of mine. They just spent a ton of copy congratulating and thanking me, then asking me to take 10 minutes out of my life to complete their survey. Yet…now they don’t want me to reply as they are “not able to respond…” Oops.
  • Bank of America wants me to complete the survey. However, the link to the begin is at the bottom. Toss in the link in the preheader. Or, how about adding a link within the body copy? Don’t make me work for it. Remember, I’m doing you a favor.

Dear Bank of America – If you are listening, we’d love to talk more. Are any other financial institutions attempting this approach? Do share…


– DJ Waldow, Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory

DJ Waldow is the Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory, an Email Service Provider based in Baltimore. With over 4 years of experience in email marketing, DJ is active in the twittersphere (@djwaldow), on blogs (, and in the social media space. He’s an regular contributor to the Email Marketers Club and other email-related social networks. DJ resides in Salt Lake City, Utah where he can be found thinking, eating, and breathing email.