A Friendly Open Question For Clay Collins

I like Clay Collins. I think he’s very smart, funny and helpful, and I’ve learned a lot from him, and still do. That’s why I’m subscribed to his marketing show and that’s why I received the email that ultimately led to this post – and hopefully to a bit of friendly debate.

Clay Did Something I Didn’t Really Like – And it Confused Me. A LOT.

Last week, an email notification flashed across my screen, announcing a message from Clay. Subject header: ‘Hater’.

Now, I’m a guy who lives and dies by the power of words – quite literally. I also like to philosophise about things like ethics, psychology and semantics, amongst a bunch of other things.

As such, the word ‘hate’ is one that I rarely, if ever, use.

Maybe it’s a matter of mental hygiene, or maybe you think I ‘m being pedantic, but I just really do not like the word and will always find a way to avoid using it, whether in speaking or in writing.

So when that email landed, it of course struck me, and while I wasn’t offended or upset in any way, it was kind of jarring. For a second, a mild, panic-inspired feeling swept through me: ‘Is he accusing me? What is that about?’ Obviously, I stopped what I was doing and went to read the message immediately.

Turned out, it was not a personal message, but rather one that was sent to his list. Some people had been calling him a ‘hater’ and this was his opinion and reaction to it. Fair enough: I subscribed to his list, so he can send me whatever he thinks should be sent, right? Right.

I Don’t Like Being Confused

So obviously, I sent him an email, and asked him to clarify, pretty please.

As a marketer, Clay scored one with me, because that subject header made sure that I read the message. And that’s what the subject header is supposed to do. Well done, therefore.

However, since I find the word so negatively charged, and since Clay is all about ethics in marketing and treating people nicely and all that modern feelgood socially responsible stuff (the stuff I just love to learn about), it didn’t make sense to me. Why would he use a tactic by leveraging the power of a strong negative message? What, other than making sure the open rate on the email was going to be high, was his explanation? Surely, just making sure lots of people would read it couldn’t be his only justification?

So I wrote him a friendly email and asked him – after thanking him for the lessons and making sure it was clear there was no criticism implied at all – what his reasoning was for ‘such a negative outreach’.

A few days later, his assistant Tracy wrote back and thanked me for taking the time, and said that they took note and would be ‘mulling over’ what I had written.

Fair enough, and appreciated. Still, I wanted Clay’s opinion, so I replied and asked – again, friendly – if she would ask him. I don’t think he ever was asked or shown the email because he never got back to me. Fair enough.

A few days later he sent another email to his list, asking us to take a few minutes to give him feedback about his work, so I did. And of course I included my question again. Another of his assistants replied to the question, and didn’t answer it. And I can imagine, it’s a tricky question to answer.

Then I tried to DM him on twitter, but he doesn’t follow me, so that didn’t work.

But I would really like to know. Not that he owes me an answer, but I can ask, can’t I? So here it is:

Dear Clay,

That ‘hater’ email you sent me: why was that? For me personally, using that subject header was too strong and too negative. For one thing, the psychology of it really isn’t my thing, but it’s also kind of like swearing in my inbox, so to speak.

Aside from that, isn’t it a bit of an easy trick? I mean: Come on, it’s like a buff rich sporty dude in a convertible making a pass at a younger, impressionable woman: There’s nothing really wrong with it as such, and it’ll probably work, but it’s kind of easy, isn’t it?

Teach me man. Please explain what that was about, if you have the time.

Your reaction?



So there you have it. I hope the guy’s got a sense of humour :)

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