Measuring Brand Perception & Strength With “This Is Not Spam”

Measuring the strength of one’s brand is an important part of marketing, albeit somewhat difficult and sometimes expensive as it traditionally relies on tactics like surveys.Multiple roles of an email marketing team

However, marketers now have everything they need to measure brand perception using email marketing analytics. Specifically the rate that users indicate “this is spam” (TIS) or “this is not spam” (TINS) in relationship to your emails can provide an accurate perception of your brand — and even your competitors’ brands.

For the most part, email subscribers are already customers, and the email marketing channel is used to both create demand and foster loyalty. As a result, metrics like TIS and TINS can serve as a strong indicator of how customers perceive your brand – better than social and better than intrusive website surveys.

Marketers Whose Emails Reach The Inbox Can Thank Customers

“This is Not Spam” (TINS) has been available to email users for a while to report that email they signed up for and want to receive shouldn’t be in the spam folder if ever delivered there (and my research shows that no email marketer ever goes without being delivered to the spam folder on a daily basis). It is meant to train the spam filters that they have made a mistake with their filtering decisions. Therefore, marketers with higher TINS rates have better deliverability and inbox placement rates compared to those with lower TINS rates.

In fact, according to a recent Return Path study, marketers that achieve near-perfect inbox placement rates (99%+) have a TINS rate four times higher than those that have less than 88% of their email delivered to the inbox.

Deliverability vs. TINS Rate

All Brands

Not Delivered to Spam


Less than 88%


88% to 97%


97.1% to 99%


More than 99%


The opposite of this metric is the “This is Spam” (TIS) rate. Commonly called subscriber complaints, this is negative feedback that signals to an email provider that email from this particular sender should be sent to the spam folder and not the inbox. Marketers can also use this as a signal of negative brand perception and/or strength.

TINS and TIS Typically Move Together

Our research also showed that brands with positive perceptions see both TINS and TIS rates moving in the same direction, meaning that if the brand strength is high enough, customers will ensure the email is delivered to the inbox, counteracting the negative feedback. Conversely, brands with relatively poor strength and perception will see TIS rates increase, and no relative increase in TINS.

TINS vs. Complaints


This IS Spam Rate


more than 0.10%






less than 0.02%


Further showing that the TINS rate is a good measure of brand strength is the positive correlation with the TINS rate and the amount of email read. Our research showed that marketers with a high TINS rate see their marketing offers read at twice the rate of those with a TINS rate of less than .14%.

Read Rate vs. TINS Rate,

All Brands

Read Rates


less than 9%








22% and better


Furthermore, there’s a strong, positive correlation with the amount of email forwarded to friends and family and having a high TINS rate. Marketing messages were forwarded six times more often when the TINS rate was .5% or higher. When measuring brand strength, this tells us that not only do your customers love your brand, they also want their friends and family to love you just as much.

TINS rate Compared with Forward Rate


Forward Rate

less than 0.15%




0.50% and better


Our research also looked at the brands with the highest TINS rates. The brands with the highest rates match many agencies’ findings that measure brand strength.

Top Retail Brands Have Higher TINS Rates

For example, Clear’s Top 10 Desirable Retail Brands USA chart includes brands like Etsy, Kohl’s and Target — brands that appeared in our study as having some of the highest TINS rates among retailers. In fact, their TINS rates were three times higher than the average. Other brands that frequently appear in “Top Brands” lists also had high TINS rates, like Apple, Zappos and Walgreens.

Being a top brand and having a high TINS rate isn’t a coincidence, either. Email subscribers are most often the business’ top customers. Therefore, looking at subscriber behavior is a better gauge of brand strength than other methods. Businesses can also look at their competitor’s TINS and TIS rates to benchmark their brand efforts against competitors.

For example, in the competitive home improvement category, the TINS rate for Home Depot is over 11%, compared to Lowe’s rate of .43%. Additionally, Home Depot’s “read rate,” a more accurate way of calculating email open rates, is at 50% — compared to Lowe’s “read rate” of 9%.

It’s Not Just About Email Marketing

Clearly, there’s more than just effective email marketing here — even great email campaigns don’t have TINS rates like Home Depot’s. Having subscribers take the time to search their spam folder, open the message, and mark it as “not spam” is a sign of brand strength and loyalty.

Email analytics provides more than just campaign performance. Data like “this is spam” and “this is NOT spam” are an effective measure of brand perception and strength, product branding, and even strength of global campaigns that also cross over to email. Every marketer should be using these data!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column


About The Author: is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter.

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  • Kenith Adams

    How does a marketer gauge the TINS? Feedback loops provide figures on complaints but how do you differentiate a TIN from your regular opens and clicks?


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