Sep 192008

Why The Rules Have to Be Flexible

Why The Rules Have to Be Flexible

We have clients ask us all the time – how much email should I be sending out to my subscribers? One a week? One a month? And usually, we give the same advice – it depends on what you are sending, and on what expectation you set with your subscribers when they sign up.

This week is a great example that proves the rule “it depends.” I get the Wall Street Journal’s email alerts of major headlines. I think I’ve subscribed in two different categories, maybe three – I can’t remember, since I signed up about 10 years ago. In a typical week, across all the categories, I might get 5 or 10 emails from the Journal. So far this week, I’ve received 42 — and my guess is that we’ll close out the week around 50.

With all the global financial markets in turmoil, of course the Journal should be sending out news more frequently. It doesn’t even occur to me that it’s “too much email” or spam. In fact, I would have thought something was weird if I didn’t get a lot of them this week. Context makes it right.

Filed under: Email

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Jul 162007

Starbucks, Starbucks, Everywhere, Part II

Starbucks, Starbucks, Everywhere, Part II

In 2004, I blogged about Starbucks’ implausible Forbidden City location (post includes picture) in the heart of one of China’s most prominent national monuments.

Today, under pressure from the Chinese government, Starbucks announced that they’re closing the location, reflecting “Chinese sensitivity about cultural symbols and unease over an influx of foreign pop culture,” according to a very short blurb about this in today’s Wall Street Journal.

It must be indescribably different to live in a society that’s so tightly controlled.

Nov 062006

A Tale of Two Strategies

A Tale of Two Strategies

Two headlines right next to each other in today’s Wall Street Journal tell an interesting story.  First, they tell of Google’s strategy to allow advertisers to use Google’s web site to bid on and buy print advertising in over 50 leading newspapers. Then comes CBS’s strategy to bring in a new executive digital media M&A guru, Quincy Smith from Allen & Company, to “find the next YouTube.”

(These links should work for a week, but I think that’s all the Journal allows – sorry!).

So there you have it.  CBS’ grand interactive plans are about trying to do value-based Internet acquisitions.  Best of luck.  Les Moonves’ quote is somewhat sad — “This shows how serious we are about new media.”

All that against a backdrop of Google probably dropping three engineers and a case of Jolt Cola into a room for a week and coming up with an automated way of buying print ads in newspapers whose circulations are declining precipitously.  Eric Schmidt’s quote is equally interesting for its contrast to Moonves:  “Anything that we can do to improve the economic efficiency of the old model [of advertising] transfers money from the old model to the new model.”

Now to be fair, Google did say that eventually they would have 1,000 people working on offline media placements, 10% of its workforce, but they will probably grow their way there profitably, instead of turning into a private equity firm.

Dec 072005

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part V

The Rumors of Email’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, Part V

Thank goodness I can finally write a positive piece under this headline, and not a rebuttal like I did here, here, here, and here.

It seems like there are signs of an email marketing renaissance left, right, and center these days.  First, the industry has enjoyed significant growth this year.  Every vendor I speak with in the space except for one or two is posting record numbers — whether they sell data, technology, or services.  And lots of vendors have been swallowed up by larger multi-channel CRM or DM companies for nice prices.  Every marketer or publisher I speak with is investing more money into their email programs, and they are seeing stellar returns.  In fact, their most persistent complaint is that they can’t get enough good names on their lists fast enough.

But beyond those signs, the much-maligned email channel has finally garnered some positive press of late.  First, as, Ellen Byron wrote on November 23 in her Wall Street Journal article entitled “Email Ads Grow Up – Department Stores Discover Devoted Fashion Fans Read Messages in Their Inboxes,” consumers are beginning to much more easily separate spam from commercial email they want, one consumer even going so far as to call emails she receives from retailers “like a quick shopping trip…a guilty pleasure.”

Byron also went on to quantify what some mailers are doing to tilt the balance of their marketing spend ever so slightly in the direction of email.  For example, The Gap is diverting over $26mm that they spent last holiday season on TV towards online and magazine.  And analysts point out that no matter how much marketers spend on their email programs, it’s still a small fraction of what it costs to create and insert a big print or broadcast spot.  I couldn’t even find the full article to link to, but it wouldn’t matter, as you have to be a Journal subscriber to read it (annoying).

And today, email industry guru Bill McCloskey wrote an admittedly self/industry-serving piece about how he is seeing the signs of this email renaissance moving into 2006 as well, starting with the fact that trade associations like the ESPC and the DMA are doing more to step up to the plate in terms of defending and promoting the email channel with the press and consumers.  He also cites the fact that consumers are getting more used to spam and mentally separating out good email from bad email as a reason for the comeback.  Bill even goes so far as to say that “email will surpass search in the battle for marketers’ hearts and minds.”  The full article is here, but warning again, you have to be a Mediapost subscriber to read it (free but still annoying).

It’s nice to see the media tide turning here towards a more rational, balanced position on email.  It’s not just about spam and scams — it’s about the power, customization, and intimacy of the channel!

Feb 172005

Now, This is What Blogs Are All About

Now, This is What Blogs Are All About

In case you missed it, this article from Peggy Noonan in today’s Wall Street Journal is a great follow-up to my rant yesterday about how blogging isn’t going to eviscerate commercial email.  This is what blogging is all about, not replacing marketing tools and techniques.

Filed under: Email

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Aug 052004

Challenge Response: Oy!

I don’t think the news about AOL buying Mailblocks and its challenge response anti-spam product is such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But it does give me a quick opportunity to rant against challenge/response.

First, I don’t think the world is in danger of mass adoption of challenge/response. Earthlink, which in general has much more sophisticated customers than does AOL, has had a hard time gettings its adoption level of this up to the 7-10% level over a period of at least two years. I think it will be even tougher for AOL. I applaud AOL for trying to do more to help members fight spam, but I don’t think this is the answer.

So onto the rant. Challenge/response is a pretty poor solution to spam. Or, rather, I should say it’s an excellent solution to spam with humongous side effects. Some are documented in Pamela Parker’s article in ClickZ about this, but my top three issues are:

1. Challenge/response effectively eliminates everything other than personal email from people who like you. In other words, no emails from people like Fred who don’t have time to respond or work offline, no newsletters, no Wall Street Journal email alerts, no Amazon shipping confirmations, no eBay bid responses.

2. The flip side of the previous point is that for publishers and marketers, challenge/response is a nightmare. Manually responding to dozens of emails is hard enough — that is, if the marketer/publisher can find them and respond to them before they “expire.” But when the volume gets into the hundreds or thousands, it becomes a nightmare cost of being a non-spammer.

3. My final pet peeve? David Daniels nailed it in his quote in Pamela’s article — it solves the problem of too much email by tripling the volume of email (one email, one challenge, one response)!

Overall, it’s a crude solution to the problem, and one that I think will be obviated over time.

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