Permission marketing

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Permission marketing is a concept introduced in a book of the same name in 1999 by marketing expert Seth Godin. Permission marketing is a non-traditional marketing technique that advertises goods and services when advance consent is given.[1]


Traditional methods of marketing often revolve around the idea of interruption – whether it is a television advertisement that cuts into a TV show, or an internet pop-up that interferes with a website. According to Godin, such methods (often referred to as “interruption marketing”), have become less effective in the modern world, where consumers are overloaded with information.[2]

Interruption marketing is essentially a competition to win people’s attention.[3] In today’s world of mass-marketing, people are overloaded with advertisements that compete for their limited time and attention span.[4] Yankelovich, Inc claims the average consumer comes into contact with 1 million advertisements per year – or nearly 3000 per day.[5][6] When there is an overflow of interruptions, people’s inevitable response is to disregard them, tune them out, and refuse to respond to them. Such traditional methods of marketing are more difficult and costly to attain the same outcome.[7][8]

In 1999, Godin observed that successful campaigns were the ones that sought the customer’s consent. From such observations, Godin believed that marketing strategies should be based on the following elements:[9]

  • Anticipated: people will anticipate the service/product information from the company.
  • Personal: the marketing information explicitly relates to the customer.
  • Relevant: the marketing information is something that the consumer is interested in.

These elements were combined[how?] to define permission marketing, first publicized in Godin’s book, “Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers”, published on May 6, 1999.[10]


Permission marketing allows consumers to choose whether or not to be subjected to marketing[dubious ]. This choice can result in better engagement. For example, consumers are more likely to open an email marketing message if they "double opt in" compared to a regular "single opt in". By targeting volunteers, permission marketing improves the odds that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. Permission marketing thus encourages consumers to engage in a long-standing, cooperative marketing campaign.[11]

  • Cost-efficiency: Permission marketing employs low cost online tools – social media, search engine optimization, e-mails, etc. Furthermore, by only marketing to consumers who have expressed an interest, businesses can lower their marketing costs.
  • High conversion rate: As the targeting audience are those who have expressed an interest to the product, it is easier to convert the leads into sales.
  • Personalization: Permission marketing allows businesses to run personalized campaigns; it allows them to target specific audiences according to their age, gender, geographical location, etc.
  • Long-term relationships with customer: Through the usage of social media and e-mails, businesses can interact and build long-term relationships with the customers.
  • Marketing reputation: Permission marketing only sends information to those who are anticipating the information. Therefore, prospects who receive the information feel less discomfort.[12]

Initiation paradox[edit]

Supporters of permission marketing claim that it is more effective than interruption marketing,[13] however, this is paradoxical. Permission marketing is inevitably[citation needed] initiated with interruption marketing. To get the attention of a prospective consumer for a permission-based relationship, the first step requires interruption marketing.[14]


There are 5 levels of permission in permission marketing. These "levels" measure the degree of permission a consumer has granted to a specific business. At each successive level of the permission framework, the business achieves a higher efficiency state, with a decrease in marketing cost. Thus, businesses usually aim to achieve the “intravenous permission” level. However, the 5 levels of permission should not be considered as a necessary sequential process, as more than one level could apply simultaneously depending on the nature of the business.[15]

  • Situational permission: The prospect permits the business to come into contact by providing their personal information.
  • Brand trust: The prospect permits the business to continue supplying their needs.
  • Personal relationship: The prospect’s permission is granted because of a personal relationship that he/she has with someone in the provider organization.
  • Points permission: At this stage, the customer has agreed to receive goods or services and has allowed the business to collect their personal data. This is usually because they are provided with incentives, such as exchangeable points or an opportunity to earn a prize.
  • Intravenous permission: The supplier has now taken over the supply function for a specific good or a service; the customer is completely dependent on the business. This is the highest level of permission. The marketer, who has taken over the intravenous permission will be making the buying decisions on behalf of their Customers.[16]


Facebook is a prime example – whether it is to post, share, or amplify, the marketer would have to send a friend request (or a permission) to the potential prospects.[17]

Opt-in email is an example of permission marketing, where Internet users request to receive information about a certain product or a service.[18] Supporters of permission marketing claim it to be effective, as the potential client would be more interested in information that was requested in advance. It is also more cost-efficient in comparison to traditional marketing methods, as businesses only need to target consumers who have expressed an interest in their product.[19]

RSS Feeds or Really simple syndication are one of the best methods for adopting permission marketing. This is a method for letting subscribers know about the latest promotion or content through notification.[20]

Huffington Post is an American online news aggregator and blog which offers original content including the areas including politics, business, entertainment, environment, technology, etc. The Huffington Post has a clear permission marketing-based approach: the readers will be required to register on the site using their social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.). The registration implies that readers have given the permission for Huffington Post to send them marketing information, such as newsletters.[21]

YouTube is a video-sharing website which enables its users to upload, view, and share videos. Many firms utilize YouTube as part of their social media marketing strategy to promote their products and services. Firms specifically make use of the “subscribing” feature to establish a permission-based relationship with their customers. Subscription would imply that viewers have given permission for the business to market them with updated information, campaign, etc.[22]

Sundance Vacations is a travel company that allows customers to buy vacations in bulk. The company employs a method of permission marketing by attending sporting events, shows and more and getting people to sign up to win their annual sweepstakes. The entry forms that are filled out contain an agreement that says the company is allowed to contact the person filling the form at the methods provided by the entrant. The potential client's signature is considered a form of consent to contact them, which allows the company to then email and phone market to entrants.[23]


  1. ^ Kavassalis, P., Spyropoulou, N., Drossos, D., Mitrokostas, E., Gikas, G. and Hatzistamatiou, A. (2003). Mobile permission marketing: framing the market inquiry. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 8(1), pp.55--79.
  2. ^ Godin, S. (1999). Permission marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  3. ^ "Permission Marketing". Fast Company. 1998-03-31. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  4. ^ Teixeira, Thales S. (2014-01-17). "The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Story, Louise (2007). "Anywhere the Eye Can See, It's Likely to See an Ad". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  6. ^ Kilbourne, Jean (2000). Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. Simon and Schuster. pp. 12. ISBN 0684866005.
  7. ^ "Print vs. Digital: Where Should You Spend Your Ad Dollars? | OPEN Forum". Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  8. ^ Godin, S. (1999). Permission marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  9. ^ Forbes, (2014). Seth Godin's 'Permission Marketing' Turns 15. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].
  10. ^ Marketing, On. "Seth Godin's 'Permission Marketing' Turns 15". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  11. ^ Saarbeck, S. (2014). Permission Marketing. Wiesbaden: Imprint: Springer Gabler.
  12. ^ MasterBase, (2014). Permission Marketing. [online] Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2014-10-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  13. ^ "Interruption Marketing vs Permission Marketing for Businesses | Call Tracking and Analytics". CallRail. 2014-02-26. Retrieved 2017-11-24.
  14. ^ MasterBase, (2014). Permission Marketing. [online] Available at: "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2014-10-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  15. ^ Godin, S. and Cohen, L. (2009). Permission marketing. Paris: Maxima.
  16. ^ Godin, Seth (2012-12-11). Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. ISBN 9781471105777.
  17. ^ TED, (2014). Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread Accessed 27 Oct. 2014.
  18. ^ Aweber, (2014). Permission Based Email Marketing - Opt-In Email Marketing from AWeber. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  19. ^ Krishnamurthy, S. (2001). A comprehensive analysis of permission marketing. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 6(2), pp.4--6.
  20. ^ "3 Awesome Examples of Permission Marketing".
  21. ^ Yovanno, D. (2011). Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising. [online] Mashable. Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  22. ^ Yovanno, D. (2011). Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising. [online] Mashable. Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  23. ^ "Sundance Vacations/Dowd Marketing on the American Business Awards". Stevie Awards Website. Stevie Awards. Retrieved 8 October 2015.