I’m quite interested in spam. In order to make an email convincing enough to get people to click the poisoned link, it has to sound a good deal like the brand it’s purporting to be from. Or at least, sound like A brand. Even if you’re not overly familiar with how your bank speaks, you wouldn’t expect them to misspell multiple words or sound like they wrote the email via BabelFish.
Scammers and spammers have cottoned on to this, and realised that the more they sound like their target company, the more money they’re going to make. And so those of us who write on behalf of brands for a living are no longer the only ones learning their tone of voice. Scattered across the world are a whole other group of people learning the quirks of a brand’s way of speaking, often through the filter of their own native language and with no hint of a brand manual. So it’s all the more impressive when they sound passable.
Behold this email I received from “Alliance & Leicester” the other day:
We are excited to announce that…
Alliance & Leicester, Abbey and the Bradford & Bingley savings business, are coming together to become Santander. This is great news for our 24 million customers in the UK, who will be able to enjoy the benefits of access to over 1,300 branches and 4,500 cash machines, all under the one name.
We want to be the best commercial bank in the UK, best for service and best for customer loyalty. We have got big plans to do it, and this website tells you all about them.
Please Click Here To Start
Chairman, Emilio Botin”
Now, the language isn’t quite right (particularly “Click Here To Start”) but how clever is that? They’ve seen in the news that Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley are becoming Santander, and they’ve sent what looks very much at first glance like an official announcement message. They’ve even done their research about numbers of customers and ATMs.
If I were a customer of Alliance & Leicester, and a little less savvy about spam, I might well have clicked that.
Scary, isn’t it? Imagine what will happen when they do get it spot on. They could bankrupt the company they’re scamming (withdrawing a large proportion of savings from any bank puts it in trouble), which would eventually put legitimate brand writers like me out of business.
Spam emails could even become recruitment tools for new writers. Your standard Nigerian spammer scams because he needs money, and he’ll work for a good deal less than someone like me. We could end up with talent spotters from marketing agencies scouring their junk mail folders for potential new hires. I could end up working alongside a chap from Lagos who only last week tried to convince me I was the last surviving relative of a dethroned Indonesian king.
What a strange world that would be.