Stop It, You're Killing Me

The Email Diva is beginning to feel that her days are numbered. A quick view of my three inboxes shows the reigning philosophy of email is "more is more." As a result of this and the emergence of new communication media, I believe we are on the road to killing the email channel.

In the last 24 days, I have received 20 messages from WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a group I've always held in high esteem. In the past 30 days, I have received 61 messages from DMA, the Direct Marketing Association. These are marketing organizations, so if they don't "get" email, how can we expect anyone else to?

For business organizations, the direction is clear: If we can get another dollar by sending out an email, send as many as we can. Our "stats" are going down? Find more names! Test more subject lines! Fix the creative! Fire the agency!

As an Econ major, I learned that it is difficult to effect change when people know their individual actions have a negligible impact. The example typically given was littering. If I don't throw my gum wrapper in the street, it won't change the fact that everyone else is, and it won't make a dent in the problem. So if one smart email marketer focuses on providing value and relevance at a reasonable frequency, the rest are still flooding my inbox.



But as the example of littering demonstrates, we can achieve big things if we band together and individual actions conform to a social norm. The green movement is a great example. Everywhere you turn, it seems, the green message appears. We are seeing conservation become the right thing to do, the thing everyone is doing.

Will marketers ever do the right thing for its own sake, with a view to the long-term viability of the channel? Highly unlikely. But consumers will force our hand as they open additional email accounts, sort faster, respond less and report spam more. They'll also find alternatives that don't invite this onslaught of marketing messages.

As smart person Augie Ray said the other day, email needs to be part of an overall communication strategy that takes into account all ways a company can create a dialog with customers: email, RSS, Twitter, blogs, forums, ratings, "wall" posts, text messages, word of mouth, events/experiences and so on. If we want to maintain our relevance in the new age of communication, we must be consumer advocates first and marketing channel experts second.

As we learned in Econ 101, a consumer always acts in his/her own best interest. If we continue to pollute our universe, we will find ourselves desperately searching for the next big thing while we degrade our brands.

As sustainability advocates will tell you, we don't need to save the planet; the planet will survive. Nature will adapt to conditions, but perhaps not in a way that is hospitable to its human inhabitants. We can continue to abuse the email channel as we have been, but we may find it inhospitable to marketers in the future, as we will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Good Luck (we're going to need it)!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

Next story loading loading..