Originally posted on MediaPost Email Insider March 31, 2015


From time to time, people realize that email is that one channel that just won’t die. Recessions come and go and budgets remain. CAN-SPAM, CASL, state-level threats, International laws: not even a blip to slow it down. Social networks threatening to take people away from email: not happening. New generations turned off by email: NOT, at least once they need to pay a few bills. Phishing schemes from Nigeria, no problem.

Why is email so recession-proof? We’ve seen it thrive in the years following the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. We saw it go through the roof after CAN SPAM. It’s taken on every challenger there is and keeps growing 10% a year in marketing spend.

Unlike many other channels, email depends on a key thing: a unique identifier that’s the root of all other things (social, ecommerce etc.) As my friend Dave Hendricks of LiveIntent and I have been preaching for a decade, the email address is simply one of the most important assets to any company. In 2004-2007, we all wrote about how spam was out of control, the inbox was terrible to manage and consumers had 3+ email addresses at minimum, and the life of an email address lasted about as long as a car lease.

Email is not just-recession proof due to the cost and ROI factors. Yes, CPM prices have commoditized pretty heavily over the last five years, and MTA (on premise) solutions have become easier to consider if you really need to control your spend and have a few handy IT folks sitting around. Who doesn’t love the ROI boasts of 43:1 and last-click attribution that plays in the hands of personalized, direct-response channels like email. What I love about this channel that it is persistent and consistent.

Most companies have figured out what to do – at least somewhat. Simple: grow a list, pick a few types of communications, personalize it and then hack away on subject lines, content and frequency and squeeze it for all you can. I love that you can produce with relatively low-level resources and automate your way to the bank. But I love that it’s so resilient — unlike search, which of course is passive and requires intent (not a bad thing at all if the intent is your brand). Or like media, which can be both interruptive, passive and contextual. You may assume I’m a really fit guy because I drive a luxury car, but am I? Who trusts those media guys anyway?

Email is always on. It is the connector to THE DIGITAL EXPERIENCE. The transaction, the registration, the share, the promotion, the reminder, the birthday, anniversary or any other holiday that you can think of. Its so beautiful because there are thousands of brand interactions each year that can be made better and personalized, and it just keeps on coming.

But what makes email so resilient is it’s the most durable key in the industry, outside of your Social Security number (which I’m sure you don’t use as your login anywhere.) It’s unique, can be tied back to who you are, what you want, how often you want it and who else around you knows you want it. Even the smart home/car and device of the future will ultimately map to a unique ID, most likely the email address associated with your phone, cable or social login. It will be the unique identifier to connect with you in and out of all channels. Not cookies, not device IDs, but: email address.

Years ago, I wrote various posts about the value of an email address, explaining that it has more value than purely a cost advantage of sending an email or a revenue accelerator to Lifetime Value index, it has an asset value to the business. If you aren’t looking at this as a balance sheet asset, you are minimizing the multiplier for your business. As Oscar Wilde wisely said, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

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