Permission Marketing: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Want to reach an already captive audience? Permission marketing is one way to do it! In this lesson, we'll discuss what this strategy entails and look at a few examples where you might see it in action.

Signing Up For Marketing

Have you ever said 'yes' to marketing messages from your favorite brand? In all likelihood, you've said yes dozens of times; that's why your email inbox is bursting at the seams!

Getting a consumer to say yes to your messaging can result in better marketing outcomes.
sign up, opt in, permission marketing

For example, the popular shopping website Zulily requires a new user to sign up, or opt in, to the company's terms and conditions, which includes receiving the brand's marketing messages, before they're ever granted access to the website and all its shopping fun.

Consumers understand that by giving their email address they're trading access to great deals for a bit of marketing directed at their inbox. This strategy is known as permission marketing.

What is Permission Marketing?

The term was coined by marketer Seth Godin who describes it on his website as, ''the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want them.''

This is not the television ad you seen while watching the news or the billboard you encounter on your commute home. These are purposeful, direct and targeted marketing messages to people who have said ''yes'' to a brand.

Maybe it's a Facebook ad delivered to fans who have liked a social media account or a text message about a sale to loyal consumers. Whatever it is, the audience has said they'd like to hear more and has given permission to send content to them, perhaps by phone, email, text or social media.

Permission marketing puts the power of messaging in the consumer's hand because they have to want to receive marketing, which they generally do by signing up, subscribing, joining loyalty programs or consenting to text messages about products or services.

However, just like a consumer can say ''yes'' to a message, they also have the power to stop the communication at any time.

You've probably seen permission-based marketing in some of these scenarios:

  • Subscribing to a brand newsletter
  • Joining a business' text club
  • Adding an RSS feed to your email
  • Subscribing to blog posts sent to your email
  • Opting in to a loyalty or rewards program

Benefits of Permission Marketing

Say you own an online company that sells accessories. Once a customer has given you permission to market your products to them, what does it mean for you as a marketer?

First, it means you've found a low-cost method of reaching consumers. Permission marketing is based around digital delivery of messaging, such as e-mail, text alerts and social media posts. All of those can be done at bargain basement prices.

Second, you have a captive audience. The people who have given you permission to 'talk' to them are doing so because they want to hear from you. It's like they've said, ''Yes, please tell me all about your brand/product/service.'' So, go ahead and deliver relevant messaging to them!

With that being said, relevance is key. Use the gift of your consumers' permission to give them personalized and informative marketing. It will help build a relationship between your brand and your audience. Don't forget to offer coupons or incentives that keep them interested and likely to buy!

Looking for some examples of permission marketing rock stars? Read on.

Permission Marketing in Practice


Facebook isn't so much using permission marketing as it is creating a venue for permission marketing to exist. As a consumer, you have to 'like' Dunkin' Donuts' Facebook page in order to get their marketing and messages in your newsfeed. The simple act of ''liking'' or ''following'' opens up the permission channels for a brand to interact with its audience.

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