The Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect on the first day of July of this year and ever since has been responsible for the development of considerable migraines among email marketers with Canadian clients… which is just about all of us! What CASL does even to a greater degree than the already extremely restrictive legislation in place in the European Union, is to effectively prohibit the contact of anyone for any reason without previously obtaining their implied or direct consent to receive a commercial electronic message. While the intent of this legislation is to provide the Canadian government with powerful legal tools to use against spammers, the new law has also caught an inordinate number of legitimate email marketers in a Great White Northern Trap.

A cold country which has outlawed cold calling

It seems rather ironic that a nation known for its frigid climates is now leading the world in legislating against just about every form of cold calling, but as in many aspects of worldwide anti spam laws, the bizarre is becoming commonplace. Spammers are a huge problem and are still responsible for the vast majority of commercial emails but CASL has created a structure whereby many sales departments of fully ethical and legitimate corporations are now handicapped because they are burdened by the onus of having to conclusively prove through archived formal permissions that there is a pre-existing business relationship with the prospects they want to approach. If you’re thinking that is the diametric opposite of the solicitation of new business (which is what just about every sales department is based upon), then you’re absolutely right to be flummoxed.

A stultifying Canadian Catch-22

The Canadian Catch-22 is clear if stultifying. You can’t get a new customer unless you already know each other… which truly conflicts with the concept of “new customer” in the first place. So now that the Canadians have thrown a monkey wrench in the email marketing strategy of just about every brand in the United States what can you do to keep your metrics up while you continue to build your customer base? One of the best approaches which are fully allowed under the CASL restrictions is the utilization of powerful content to use as the basis of your brand’s entire sales and marketing strategy.

Create great viral content to avoid the wrath of Ottawa

When you create valuable content in any way, whether it’s a white paper, ebook, video, webinar, podcast, infographic, top X list, or just about anything else which can draw customers to your online presences you are not strictly soliciting new customers according to the CASL legislation. As long as the customer locates this content on their own, through social media advocacy, PPC advertising, cross-channel promotion, or best of all the virality of the content itself, then CASL has no quarrel with your marketing campaign. You create great content, which in turn attracts a whole bunch of people who might not have heard of your company before, and in the process of the consumption of that content they click on your landing page or email subscription form link. Presto! You have a new prospective customer without fearing the wrath of Ottawa on your unsuspecting head.

CASL’s details, exemptions & standards are as clear as mud

While some wags might comment that CASL is just forcing email marketers to adopt strategies which have long been considered industry best practices in any respect, the bottom line is that any brand with customers in Canada is now legally obligated to adhere to the new Canadian law. Unfortunately the entire legislation is woefully unclear on what consists of a commercial message as well as providing precious little detail on the exact definition of what a pre-existing business relationship is, and the ways in which it can be utilized as a CASL exemption. This lack of clarity is troubling given that the law calls for penalties of up to $10 million dollars!

CASL can be seen as an awful and totally inordinate burden on email marketers or as an enforcer of good email practice. Your view is up to you!