It’s incredible that Digital Messaging turns 50 years old this year. But in 1965, an MIT technician sent the first digital message from one terminal on the school mainframe to another. We don’t know what the message said; just that it spawned what is now the oldest and most successful species in the digital marketing world - Email. So successful, in fact, that the August 2014 edition of Atlantic Magazine gave email the ultimate accolade of “the cockroach of the Internet”!
Well put. Instead of joining the long list of digital dinosaurs like PointCast, Lycos and Pets.com, email gained strength as a marketing channel with every new era. Remember those dire predictions of email extinction every time a new channel emerged, like RSS, SMS and Social Media? Nope. It just found new ways to be more relevant and thrive.
Why has Email Marketing been able to do this?
Email is Adaptable
First, as Darwin discovered, the key to the survival of any species is its ability to adapt; and if there was ever a story of continuous evolution, it is the story of email. For example, in 1971 someone added the “@” as the separator of the address and domain creating the possibility of a near infinite number of addresses. Then in 1978 (as reminder that not all evolution is necessarily good), we got our first spam message. Digital Equipment Corporation mailed an ad to each of the several hundred users of ARPANET, the military precursor of today’s Net. How about the first email client? That was Microsoft Mail in 1984. The first mass consumer email network? Compuserve in 1988, when a personal address was firstname.lastname@example.org. But what got email really rocking was the advent of the Web in 1993, which gave us Hotmail only three years later – the Web’s first killer app.
Email is Mobile
A second big reason behind the survivability is mobile. This vastly accelerated email’s latter day evolution, thanks to the fact that we now carry it everywhere we go. When equipped with so much mobility, email became situational. Now you can reach subscribers anywhere, in any situation – on vacation, dining in a restaurant, entering a store, or watching TV. This meant a geometric expansion in the number of email marketing opportunities that continues today. Mobile managed to hyper-connect us all in a world of 24/7 reachability, to the point that we now have a generation of young consumers that literally never powers down.
A recent google study of teens and twenty somethings found that 92% engage with at least two devices simultaneously!
But what about the dark side of ‘reachable? It’s great except when people don’t want to be, at which point you (as marketers) are just bothering them. As the most data-driven of channels, permission email is the best tool in marketing with which to target only those who want to be, and with the most relevant message possible. Email has all those natural attributes to make hyper-connectivity manageable for both sender and receiver.
Email is Wanted
The third reason for email’s survivability is its ability to cut through the marketing noise. Your email message is going to get through and register with people amid all the clutter because it is the message that they have asked for. This attribute is perhaps the most important of all because it confers special status upon email marketers. Your message doesn’t have to fight a thousand other competing ads for access because the consumer has already granted it when they opted in. This allows you to do a very important thing – message people at exactly the right time.
Email is Active
This leads to the fourth and final reason for email’s survivability - messaging is active. It is push marketing. Unlike other forms of marketing, you’re not just throwing out a line hoping for something to bite, but going directly to the consumer with a unique sales proposition. No other channel does this like email, and it happens the second you hit send!
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