Permission marketing

Permission marketing is a term coined in the title of a book published in 1999 by Seth Godin, founder of the Yoyodyne Entertainment, to describe a marketing technique intended to avoid traditional methods based on interruption.[1] Instead of interrupting the customer with unrequested information, permission marketing aims to sell goods and services only when advance consent is given to receive the marketing information.[2]


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.[3]

Interruption marketing is essentially a competition to win people’s attention. Before the advent of the internet, it was relatively easier to win people’s attention. However, in today’s world of mass-marketing, people are overloaded with advertisements that compete for their limited time and attention span. The average consumer is said to come into contact with 1 million advertisements per year – which is nearly 3000 per day. 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 have thus become more difficult and costly – increasing the number of exposures required to attain the same outcome.[4]

Seth Godin's experience as an entrepreneur helped cultivate his philosophy. 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:[5]

These elements were combined 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.

After permission marketing was first introduced in 1999, it inspired a large number of firms and companies to establish permission-based marketing agencies, campaigns, and platforms. It has also largely contributed to the development and the expansion of the social media, which heavily utilizes the methods of permission marketing; “friending,” “liking,” and “following,” all closely associate with the idea of permission marketing.


Permission marketing allows consumers to choose whether or not to be subjected to marketing. By targeting volunteers, permission marketing assures that consumers pay more attention to the marketing message. Permission marketing thus encourages consumers to engage in a long-standing, cooperative marketing campaign.[6]

Initiation paradox

Supporters of permission marketing claim that it is more effective than interruption marketing, however, this is paradoxical. Permission marketing is inevitably initiated with interruption marketing. To get the attention of a prospective consumer for a permission-based relationship, the first step requires interruption marketing.[8]


There are 5 levels of permission in permission marketing. 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.[9]

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.



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.[10] Other notable examples of permission marketing are listed below:

Opt-in email

Opt-in email is an example of permission marketing, where Internet users request to receive information about a certain product or a service.[11] 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.[12]

Huffington Post

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.[13]


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.[14]

Sundance Vacations

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.[15]


  1., (2014). Seth Godin. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2014].
  2. 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.
  3. Godin, S. (1999). Permission marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  4. Godin, S. (1999). Permission marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  5. Forbes, (2014). Seth Godin's 'Permission Marketing' Turns 15. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].
  6. Saarbeck, S. (2014). Permission Marketing. Wiesbaden: Imprint: Springer Gabler.
  7. MasterBase, (2014). Permission Marketing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  8. MasterBase, (2014). Permission Marketing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  9. Godin, S. and Cohen, L. (2009). Permission marketing. Paris: Maxima.
  10. TED, (2014). Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread. [video] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2014].
  11. Aweber, (2014). Permission Based Email Marketing - Opt-In Email Marketing from AWeber. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  12. Krishnamurthy, S. (2001). A comprehensive analysis of permission marketing. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 6(2), pp.4--6.
  13. Yovanno, D. (2011). Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising. [online] Mashable. Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  14. Yovanno, D. (2011). Why Permission Marketing Is the Future of Online Advertising. [online] Mashable. Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2014].
  15. "Sundance Vacations/Dowd Marketing on the American Business Awards". Stevie Awards Website. Stevie Awards. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
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