Theme: Targeted advertising works, but self-congratulating e-mails are spam.
Background: I've been getting my haircut from Carol at the American Male salon in Mountain View since they opened several years ago. She delivers a great haircut and I like all of the pampering. Instead of just a haircut, I get an experience: a paraffin dip, a mini facial, a scalp massage, and lots of head washing. Yum!
Targeted Advertising: I'm on the American Male mailing list, because they sometimes send me great offers. When they sent a coupon for $20 off a facial, I made an appointment for my first facial. Because my face enjoyed it so much, I scheduled another (full-price) facial a couple months later. I became a success story of the e-mail campaign, which had a goal of hooking salon-goers to the fabulousness of facials.
Self-Congratulating Spam: Today, I got an e-mail from American Male titled "CNBC Segment on American Male." In it, I was informed that American Male will be featured on CNBC and "this is exciting news for everyone." I'm not excited in the least. I'm not going to watch the segment or send this e-mail to friends and family, as they suggest. Whereas I'm glad that American Male's business is going well, this e-mail offers me nothing, tells me nothing useful, and serves only to annoy me.
Conclusion: I've noticed this as disturbing trend recently. The fact that you're one of Time's 50 Coolest sites (got an e-mail from Kayak about this) or the top Audi dealer in the Bay Area mean nothing to me if you're not introducing a significant new feature or offering me a deal on my next Audi. Marketers should be careful about sending out spam, as users will either stop opening e-mails or opt out entirely. Don't be fooled into thinking that something that's good news for you is good news for your customers. If you're looking for an excuse to e-mail me, offer me something targeted that might inspire me to use your product.