The Email Brand Equity Index

A product's "brand equity" has been described as the sum total of the tiny impressions a consumer builds up around a product, through each and every interaction that consumer has with the brand. Giant missteps either intentional (New Coke) or unavoidable (the Tylenol scare) can destroy a brand's equity over night. But more common is the death of a thousand cuts where day-by-day, small impression by small impression, a once strong brand is reduced to a shell of its former self. Think Saturn.

For the most part, and for most marketing channels, managing and overseeing the brand equity of a product is a time consuming but manageable process: services like Critical Mention, BuzzMetrics, Google Alerts, and even the old-fashioned clipping service can keep a marketer up to date on how a product is received via TV, print, and the blogosphere. Keeping up to date in email can be a more challenging proposition.

It is just a fact of a marketer's life that email communications are often a black hole that the marketer has no insight into. What affiliate email marketer is using your brand, and in what context, to make money? I still remember the email I received four years ago where Wesley Clark's presidential candidacy and links to his Web site were sandwiched between bra giveaways and sweepstakes offers in one affiliate's email "newsletter." And we have all seen the iPod, giftcards for Target, Home Depot, and Wal-Mart, and the iPhone all being incorporated into come-ons for email acquisition campaigns.



When your brand appears in email communications that are badly formatted, with broken links, alongside of other questionable offers, with garbage text to get past the spam filters, well... you know the old saying: lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

When I talk to people about competitive email intelligence, I often hear: "I don't need that. My company doesn't do email." But the fact is that your company may in fact be "doing email" in ways you never dreamed of, when it comes to the consumer's perception. We have reported in the past on studies that show that the best indicator of future email success is a consumer's past experience with that brand -- and even well-known companies face open rate and click-through issues if their past email efforts have not matched recipients' expectations.

The point is that whether your company has an email program in place or not, it is important to understand how you, and your competitors, appear to consumers in their inbox, the place they spend the majority of their time.

And so, as a public service, I'm going to begin releasing, market sector by market sector, the Email Brand Equity Index (EBEI) for top brands in each market sector. A company's EBEI will be determined not just by its own email marketing efforts, but email marketing efforts across third-party newsletters, affiliate offerings, and other email mentions. Look for this data over the next few weeks and months and find out where you stack up with your EBEI.

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