Email SCPs: Email Marketing Monsters to Keep You Awake at Night

Email SCPs: Email Marketing Monsters to Keep You Awake at Night
28 September, 2023 • ... • 2564 views
Daria Zhuravleva
by Daria Zhuravleva

The spooky season is almost here! We love a good scary story to tell in the dark 👻 That’s why this Halloween, we’re writing a love letter to one of the best fictional horror/sci-fi/very dark comedy universes out there — The SCP Foundation. We fooled around with the cliches of the SCP article genre and came up with 6 anomalies email marketers should be scared of.

Wait a sec, what is SCP?

Simply put, The SCP Foundation is a fictional scientific institution that collects and contains anomalous creatures, things, and phenomena to prevent the world (as we know it) from the apocalypse. The official wiki of the project is a secret database documenting each object’s properties, research logs, containment instructions, and more. Each article is written in a unique format, with the writing style imitating academic works and official documents. 

The story of the SCP universe dates back to 2007 when an anonymous 4chan user posted a message that later became SCP-173. Now, the project has grown into thousands of collectively written object articles in the database, numerous stories, and several fan-made video games like SCP — Containment Breach. The project also inspired other creators not affiliated with the SCP community. For example, the 2019 video game Control heavily references the universe despite not being derivative — it also features a government agency that collects anomalies to ensure public safety.

A little bit of lore

The SCP Foundation lore has its own terminology you might not be familiar with — here’s a short guide on the terms we used in the piece so you don’t feel confused. 

  • Special Containment Procedures — the instructions on what you need to do so you/other people/the whole world won’t get affected by the anomaly, in other words, to contain it.
  • Object Class — the characteristic of how dangerous and/or hard to contain the described object is. 

In the SCP lore, object classes are based on whether an object, if not contained, can lead to a K-Class Scenario (or, simply put, the end of the world). In our case, the classification will be based on how severe the effect of the anomaly on one’s business or email marketing efforts is:

  • Safe — the anomaly doesn’t crucially affect the business and its effects are easy to fix.
  • Euclid — the anomaly’s effects are unpredictable or harder to mitigate compared to Safe objects.
  • Keter — that the effects of the anomaly on the business may be detrimental.

Disclaimer: The SCP Foundation is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0. The piece you’re reading right now is derivative, similar to fan fiction, and paying homage to the awesome work made by awesome people from all over the internet is the only purpose of our project.

Email marketing SCPs as imagined by the Selzy team

ESCP-001: The gross SPAM sandwich

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: To prevent the appearance of new instances of ESCP-001, specialists in email marketing are instructed to grow their contact lists manually and in a consensual way, with the use of the double opt-in subscription form

Each promotional email must be sent from a corporate domain and contain a conspicuous unsubscribe link. Email subject lines must not be deceptive or contain clickbait. Sending image-only emails and plain text emails unless they are transactional is strictly prohibited. 

All email addresses used for sending out marketing materials must be authenticated via SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols, and all emails must be sent from dedicated IP addresses.

A sandwich with eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, and SPAM meat covered in mold, captions on the picture: ESCP-001. The gross SPAM sandwich

Description: ESCP-001 is a sandwich that contains one slice of toasted white bread, 2 to 4 pieces of fried SPAM canned meat (the Original flavor), two fried eggs, three leaves of lettuce, four slices of heirloom tomatoes, three slices of melted yellow American cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard. The chemical analysis showed no significant differences between the ingredients of ESCP-001 and regular bread, meat, eggs, and vegetables. None of the instances of ESCP-001 are meant for human consumption since all of them are expired. Email marketer John ███ described ESCP-001 as “so gross I excused myself to the bathroom to throw up” since the sandwich was covered in white and green mold, and had a strong odor of sulfur and decomposing flesh. The Foundation is aware of three cases of consuming ESCP-001, all of which led to subjects dying of lethal food poisoning and [REDACTED].

ESCP-001 appears in the workplaces of email marketers who neglect the Special Containment Procedures (see above). Right after the respawn, the victims start experiencing deliverability issues (see Log of respawn tests) that vary in severity depending on the action but in all cases end up in IPs getting blocklisted.

Log of respawn tests with ESCP-001

Subject: Jane ██████, email marketer for an Etsy jewelry shop

Action: Sending a welcome email to a purchased contact list of 3,000 women

Result: ESCP-001 appeared on the subject’s table the next morning, a week later the IP used for sending the email was found in a blocklist.

Subject: Chris █████, email marketer at a tech startup specializing in wireless headphones

Action: Sending a Black Friday email campaign from a public domain

Result: The subject reported an intense olfactory hallucination described as “the smell of rotten eggs and meat” that appeared three minutes before sending the campaign. After the emails were sent, an instance of ESCP-001 appeared on his table. A week after the encounter, the IP used for sending the campaign got blacklisted.

ESCP-002: The typo virus

Object Class: Safe

Special containment procedures: Email marketers are instructed to use native spell checkers and third-party applications like Grammarly to prevent the spread of ESCP-002. All the messages that are suspected to be contaminated must be moved to trash without opening or marked as spam. In case of the email marketer in an organization being affected by the anomaly, a non-affected employee must write and send a correction email in order to prevent the possible detrimental effects to the company’s business. Infected subjects must not communicate with other email and content marketers in the written form to prevent the spread.

A virus drawing surrounded by expressions written with typos like Your going to love this, Sing up now, and Free shopping. Captions on the picture: ESCP-002. The typo virus

Description: ESCP-002 is a cognitohazard that only affects email marketers. The only symptom that has been discovered by ██-██-████ is a rapid onset of severe dysgraphia that prevents the subject from writing without spelling errors and creates more instances of messages containing ESCP-002. The tests conducted on four email marketers affected by ESCP-002 showed that all of the subjects had normal to above average IQ scores. The F-MRI and EEG studies showed no anomalous brain activity.

The first message containing ESCP-002 is believed to be a scam letter sent in 199█ from the non-existing address in Awka, Nigeria. However, the Foundation is not sure whether the sender of this email is patient zero, the investigation is still in progress.

Warning! The document contains a cognitohazard. If you’re an email marketer, implement the antimemetic safety measures before reading.

Dear Sir/Madamme,

I hope this mesaj finz you wel. I am Prince Obinna, son of Rulr from Deepest parts of Nigeria. I am a descendent of quin-qua! My father has dotted to vaita kondysun must unxpectedly afta some foree agency konspirassy aim to overtrone his raje. Dis is hard times and konsternashun am by all members of familee. We a in great peril!

We hav stumbleed upon massife fortun, worth of one hundred millin dollers. This worthwhile fortune was hided away by my late father before his misterius paneefull deth. You see, our kontakt was influentiel and trustworthy za person for our esteemed funkshuns. But due to heavy panik, I must kontakt promo sers lik you to transfa fund quick! I am too much desparate! I hav selecteded you wit an hete of konsidration.

Listen! We mus acting fast before the konspirassy detsroys our familia legasi foreva! In order to transafer dee fund to ur account, I require ur help and some vital infor mation like:

– Bank nam and addres.

– UR ful name an addres.

– Phunn nnumber.

– Sosial sesuriti nnumba.

May God bles u.

Your trustful frend,

Prince Obinna.

ESCP-003: The disengaged

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Email marketers are instructed to clean their contact lists at least once a month in order to prevent the contact with the instances of ESCP-003-1. In case of the appearance of ESCP-003 in one’s newsletter contact list, email marketers are advised to send re-engagement emails that can help either turn instances of ESCP-003-1 into normal subscribers or remove them from the list. In order to prevent the ESCP-003 event from happening, email marketers are advised to send relevant content and implement email personalization.

Sad cartoon ghosts near Gmail logos with absurdly large amount of unread messages indicated. Caption: ESCP-003. The disengaged

Description: ESCP-003 is a supernatural phenomenon that occurs to the people who opted in marketing newsletters. The first case was reported by Anna ██████ who attended a psychiatrist complaining about “becoming translucent”. The doctor first thought that the patient was experiencing hallucinations until he saw the wallpaper pattern through Anna’s palm. During the investigation, the phenomenon was linked to one of the branded newsletters Anna was subscribed to but quickly stopped opening the company’s emails since their content “wasn’t interesting anymore”, according to the patient herself. 

ESCP-003 develops gradually, with the final stage being the complete disappearance of the affected subject. However, the process is reversible via re-engagement, list cleaning, or if the affected subject unsubscribes from the marketing newsletter they’re no longer interested in.

ESCP-004: The link breaker

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Email marketers are instructed to run extensive email testing before sending to prevent the emails affected by ESCP-004 from landing in subscribers’ inboxes.

You should not be deceived by the simplicity of the protocol above. Trust me, you don’t want to deal with the consequences of the ESCP-004 containment breach.

Dr. ██████

Description: ESCP-004 is a humanoid entity that claims to be “The Devil’s Apprentice” and looks like a standard representation of a demon often seen in children’s cartoons. The entity is sentient, self-aware, and it can communicate in several modern and ancient languages, although, according to Dr. ██████, ESCP-004 “only speaks in sarcasm and passive aggression”. The entity also knows a number of programming languages and can both orally and telepathically communicate with devices that have internet access. According to Dr. ██████, the “chants” performed by ESCP-004 are encoded commands that lead to hyperlinks in marketing emails becoming expired. During the investigation, the Foundation discovered that there are several “apprentices” working for the so-called “Devil” causing inconveniences varying in severity.

The stylized drawing of a devil in a black cloak, the creature's skin is red, it has horns and a tail. It holds a trident with a button "Buy now" impaled on it. Caption: ESCP-004. The link breaker

The first appearance of ESCP-004 was reported by email marketer Finn ██████ (see Interview Log 004-666).

Interview log 004-666

Date: May █, 201█

Interviewee: Finn ██████

Interviewer: Dr. ██████

[BEGIN LOG]

Dr. ██████: How long have you been an email marketer?

Finn: 3 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever sent a campaign with a broken link. I almost got fired, I swear to God, it’s not me, it’s this [EXPLETIVE] thing! (Starts crying)

Dr. ██████: Please calm down, you’re safe, and we believe you. Your case is under investigation. Could you please describe what happened in great detail?

Finn: So… I was preparing the campaign for sending when I heard a cartoon villain laugh behind my back. It was something like this… (Starts laughing in a high-pitched voice) I turned my head and saw, I don’t know how to describe the creature, the cartoon devil? Red, with horns and a trident. It said, I can’t remember exactly, something like “No sales, no sales, in April you’ll get no sales”. Wait, no, it didn’t say it, it sang the line using that cartoonish melody… After that, it disappeared. And… Well, I thought I was just stressed out and started seeing things, so I sent the campaign without double-checking. Then… this whole broken link scandal happened. (Starts crying)

Dr. ██████: It’s okay. Thank you for the information. We can’t leave you in acute distress like this, I’ll talk to the Foundation’s staff therapists to see if they can do something for you.

[END LOG]

ESCP-005: The inaccessible gates

Object Class: Euclid

Special Containment Procedures: Email marketers must perform Procedure 005-Inclusion, which consists of the following components:

  • Using large, sans-serif fonts, and avoiding justified alignment in marketing emails for better readability
  • Using contrast checkers to ensure high enough contrast between the colors of different email elements so they’re legible and colorblind-friendly
  • Optimizing for mobile devices and screen readers, which includes using responsive email templates and avoiding image-only emails
  • Performing HTML code optimization via proper alternative texts and using semantic markup for a better assistive technology user experience
  • Including a link to the plain-text version of the same email
A black monster with green eyes and long hands guards a padlocked gate. Caption: ESCP-005. The inaccessible gates.

Description: ESCP-005 is two entities, ESCP-005-1, also known as “The gates”, and ESCP-005-2, also known as “The gatekeeper”. ESCP-005-1 is a six-foot fence made of an unknown metal composite material that can’t be damaged or broken with any instrument or chemical currently available. Although the fence has a gate, it’s padlocked, and the gate is guarded by ESCP-005-2. The Foundation’s attempts to bypass ESCP-005-2 led to the death of 6 employees and [REDACTED], so further tests are strictly forbidden by the Ethics Committee. The only way to break ESCP-005-1 is to prevent it from appearing around the workspace of an email marketer (see Special Containment Procedures above). 

ESCP-005-2 is a black ghost-like figure made of an unknown chemical that releases black fumes. Breathing in the fumes leads to fatal lung failure. ESCP-005-2 seems to be sentient but it refuses to communicate and, if approached, only says one of the following phrases:

  • “Now you know how they feel”
  • “Gatekeepers shall be gatekept”
  • “Think of Nola”

During the investigation, the Foundation discovered that Nola ██████ is a disabled rights activist and the head of the “Daughters of Femida” witch coven. Nola herself has visual impairments. She refused to talk to the Foundation because “your office doesn’t have tactile paving tiles”.

I don’t think Nola is wrong. The Foundation has at least 50 employees with disabilities, and most of them have to work from home. Let’s finally address the accessibility issue — otherwise, I think our office buildings deserve their own “gatekeeper”.

Dr. ███████████

ESCP-006: The absolute feature creep

Object Class: Keter

Special Containment Procedures: Business and startup owners, CMOs of different organizations, and other specialists are instructed to be careful while choosing email marketing software for promoting their goods and services. They must not even book calls with sales reps of ESPs with unclear pricing systems, suspiciously long lists of features, no free trial, and a lot of negative reviews on TrustPilot and other websites since the further effects of ESCP-006 on the business can be catastrophic. It is highly recommended to read the documents 457-Choose Wisely and 458-Blots On Landscapes before purchasing email marketing software. ESCP-006 must be kept away from cash money, debit, and credit cards.

A mummy with a lot of hands, some of which are holding things: a skull, a broom, and a wizard hat. Caption: ESCP-006. The absolute feature creep.

Description: ESCP-006 is a sentient organism of an unknown species that is characterized by an unnecessary number of body parts and internal organs, according to the X-ray scans performed by the Foundation’s medical staff team. ESCP-006 claims to be a CEO of the best email marketing service on the planet, and each time the Foundation’s employees attempt to communicate with it, it mentions a different brand name. According to the reviews that the victims of ESCP-006 left on websites like TrustPilot, they lost a lot of money and almost lost their businesses, the tool is not user-friendly, it has deliverability issues and a lot of unnecessary features despite having poorly executed basic functions.

ESCP-006’s digestive tract is designed for processing cellulose, specifically from the paper money is printed on. The Department of Zoology is still researching how ESCP-006 also manages to eat digital currencies from credit cards and even crypto wallets. When the creature eats money, it becomes larger in size depending on the sum and grows more arms, eyes, legs, and internal organs.

Please refrain from feeding ESCP-006 with counterfeit cash. The Foundation has already had legal issues, and we don’t have spare employees to endure another [REDACTED] incident.

Dr.  ██████

One last thing…

Scared of getting a whiff of the gross SPAM sandwich? Don’t want to feed all your marketing investments to a feature creep? Selzy is not The Foundation and we can’t protect you from all the adversities of the email world — we’re just a really good and affordable ESP. Our forever-free plan includes all you need to start growing your business with email marketing and launch your first campaign in less than 15 minutes.

Fancy trying? Start for free and never put “horror” and “email marketing” in the same sentence again 🎃

28 September, 2023
Article by
Daria Zhuravleva
I'm a writer with 3 years of experience, knowledge and interest in all things IT and marketing, and a passion for the English language. As a staff author at Selzy, I see my mission as an educator who makes your life easier by explaining complex topics in a digestible and somewhat entertaining way. Hobbies include birdwatching, all things music and art, writing freeform poetry, and hiding in the woods.
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