“Marketing” as a term has been around for several hundred years, and initially described the trade of goods and services. The actual term was derived from the Latin “mercatus”, which was used for a marketplace or merchant. In this sense, of course, “marketing” has existed for a very long time and only later the meaning changed.

The meaning, which we know and use as a given nowadays, ultimately describes measures to promote the sale of services and products. This started with simple measures, such as signs, to attract customers and culminates in the 21st century in a holistic and profound approach to sales promotion.

Permission marketing is only one type of marketing, which, however, is historically relatively young, and yet this form of marketing is becoming more and more important.

Interruption Marketing – The Discontinued Model

The best basis for understanding Permission Marketing is to look at its predecessor model.
“Interruption Marketing” illustrates only too well what is strictly avoided in the new approach, because in Interruption Marketing people are deliberately interrupted and disturbed in order to spread an advertising message. Partly obtrusively or even penetratingly. Constant repetition also plays a significant role in literally hammering the slogans and brand names into the heads of potential customers. An ideal example of this is television advertising, which was very common in the 1990s. Largely without digital marketing and therefore in a completely different marketing landscape, there was a much greater reliance on television advertising. Interruption marketing was very successful for many years, but the volume and intensity of advertising messages have reached a level that can hardly be absorbed. The positive effect is lost due to the enormous flood of information, the audience loses interest or, in the worst case, is downright repelled.
This concerns not only television commercials but also posters and signs, which in the meantime “enrich” our everyday lives. There are probably not many people left who actually read each of these advertising messages attentively.

Features and definition of permission marketing

The basis for this form of marketing is an invitation or offer made by the marketer. It is then up to the recipient or consumer to actually accept this offer or not. The consumer is then sent information or advertising only after he has given his consent (permission).
The consumer should be informed about the actual content of future measures as part of the consent. This guarantees transparency and thus creates trust and acceptance.

Seth Godin is considered the founder of this approach, he coined the term “Permission Marketing”. In 1999, he published a book on the subject entitled “Permission Marketing – Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers”.

Categorization of Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is a form of “Direct Marketing”, as the marketing measures are specifically focused on the potential end consumer. In detail, it is also a “One-to-One Marketing” strategy in which the focus is on the individual customer relationship, and communication is tailored to the recipient as far as possible.
One condition in permission marketing is the secure management and storage of recipient and customer data. This must be taken into account in order to comply with legal requirements.

Advantages of Permission Marketing

Permission marketing is thus continuously replacing and displacing other forms of marketing. But on the basis of which characteristics does this happen, what are the convincing advantages?


Permission marketing results in a smaller group of people. It is a well-defined target group, which shows actual interest in products and services.
Interruption marketing, on the other hand, works on the “watering can principle” – EVERYONE is flooded with information and advertising.


The smaller target group means that a specific, tailored offer can be made. This offer is subsequently much better accepted, since on the one hand the recipient’s attention span is not overtaxed, and on the other hand it is also possible to send specialized information that offers more depth on a specific topic.


By concentrating resources on a smaller, but promising target group, the efficiency of marketing activities is increased. On the other hand, it is not efficient to “waste” measures on people who have absolutely no relation to the product or the brand.
Through the interest in the brand in permission marketing, numerous consumers instead invest attention and energy and act proactively, which in turn increases the efficiency of marketing.

Through the consumer’s consent to advertising measures, the marketer works in a legally secure space. He can be sure not to violate laws that protect the data and rights of companies and individuals.
On the one hand, this gives more freedom for marketing activities, and on the other hand, resources do not have to be allocated for handling complaints or even legal disputes.

Motivate readers to become subscribers

To motivate a recipient to participate or agree, you can “entice” them with various benefits and advantages.
For example, lower prices can be an appropriate motivation. This can take the form of a one-time bonus. For a permanent commitment, however, a perpetual price reduction can also be used. Furthermore, exclusive information or access to limited products, that are not available to everyone, might be a tempting reason.
Another option to be mentioned can be games for subscribers, in the best case with attractive prices to win.

Permission marketing in the field of email

Important basics

In permission marketing, the first step, the offer to communicate, is pronounced by the marketer. This is ultimately the question of permission to take further steps.
In email marketing, this first step is the reserved presentation of the company and the corresponding services and products in an email. This is done solely to give the recipient an idea of the benefits he or she could derive from a future partnership.

But this first email also needs to be well thought out and considered. Particular attention should also be paid to the right target, the right target group. Addressing only this target group not only makes sense for reasons of efficiency but is also urgently necessary due to the GDPR. The products or services offered must have a certain relevance for the recipient and his business field.
This brings us to another enormously important aspect, which must be respected and implemented. If the first step is done by the marketer, it is called “a cold email”, as there was no contact or relationship before. This is also regulated under the GDPR and in order to protect the rights of private individuals, it is only permissible to approach companies. So it is limited to B2B (business-to-business), and this is also only without the use of personal contact details and with generic email addresses.
To ensure that all marketing emails comply with the strict legal requirements, special attention should be paid to the source of the address data in order to exclude negative consequences. Ideally, one can rely on a qualified provider who can also provide guarantees about quality, origin, and GDPR compliance.

The actual process

The first step is known to be always the hardest step, but if the reader’s interest has been aroused with this one, a great deal has already been achieved. The cold email must take over this task.
However, this interest must also be expressed in a highly official manner in order to actually become effective. But what does this mean in detail?
The official consent is thus given as soon as the reader expresses his desire for further information by an “Opt-in”, or better, by a “Double Opt-in”.
Once this has happened, all further marketing measures or further emails to the corresponding recipient can follow, now also without the restrictions that still applied with the first email. This means that now prices or special conditions and benefits, for example for newsletter subscribers, can be communicated completely concretely and directly. However, it is always advisable to keep a healthy balance without straining the “delicate” connection to the email recipient too much.
Too aggressive advertising messages or too frequent sending of direct emails, as well as newsletters, can be perceived very negatively. The likely consequence is then the “Opt-out” of many subscribers. According to the GDPR, this must also always be offered as an option and describes the process of withdrawing from the consent again. The potential customer who was won at great expense is thus quickly lost again and all the effort was in vain.


Due to the changing expectations of the population and social developments, measures and methods such as interruption marketing are a discontinued model. Permission marketing has long been established and the majority of companies have already adapted their strategy accordingly. In this context, email marketing will continue to play an enormously important role for sure.