Email @ 50: Email Marketing Still Works... Half a Century Later
Email Campaigns

Email @ 50: Email Marketing Still Works... Half a Century Later


Nick Wunderlin
Nick Wunderlin

on 4/20/2021

Email marketing has been around pretty much since the inception of the email. The first “spam” email was reported in 1978 when Gary Thuerk advertised the availability of a new model of Digital Equipment Corporation computers to 393 recipients on Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), the precursor to today’s “Internet.” However, not all marketing emails are spam, and this article will illustrate the impact well-executed marketing emails can have on your business and goals.

Fast-forward several decades, and email is not only one of the most used communication methods, but is a reliable tool for advertisers. A lot has changed in terms of the technology and use of email since its inception. For example, now we can access our personal or professional email accounts at any given moment with a few taps on our smartphones, especially when we wake up in the morning. Email marketing has also weathered legal changes; remember the panic surrounding 2014’s Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL)?

But regardless of all of the changes email communications has endured over the last 50 years, email has been a reliable marketing channel for advertisers of any scale. Let’s dive into the macro events and practices that make it so effective, as well as some of our own examples from work we have done with our partners using email.

What Makes Email Marketing Work So Well?

So why is email marketing so effective? Like any marketing tactic, the success or failure depends on various factors unique to each client and campaign. However, this marketer has a few thoughts…

First, email marketing should now only be conducted with users who have offered “affirmative consent.” Meaning, you should just be sending marketing emails to users who have agreed to receive the messages, either in response to a request from your organization or at the recipient's request. Therefore, your email marketing efforts should only be reaching people who have already stated and acted up an interest in your organization. Gone are the days of purchasing lists and blasting your message to an unsuspecting audience.

Second, email can reach us anywhere and anytime. As previously mentioned, with the rise of email on smartphone devices, we are never far away from an opportunity to check our email. It is estimated that 2.2 BILLION people used mobile email in 2018, and indeed, even more people will use mobile email this year. Email gives marketers the ability to reach a broad audience anytime and anywhere with customized content and offers.

Lastly, speaking of customization: personalization of email marketing is easier than it has ever been. Just about every email marketing service offers some form of personalization functionality. Basic personalization features like including a user’s name in the subject line or body of the email can make the communication feel more personal than, say, display ads or broadcast television. Email personalization goes way beyond just including a user’s name in the email too. Savvy email marketers can change email copy to match a user’s regional dialect, email deployment times can be staggered to ensure communications are reaching users at optimal times across all time zones, and automated programs like cart abandonment or purchase reminder emails can ensure users who may have fallen out of your marketing funnel can quickly get back in.

Don’t Take Our Word for It - Ask Our Clients!

We deploy email marketing efforts for our own marketing purpose as well as for many of our clients. Our scope ranges everywhere from getting a client onboarded with an email marketing platform and letting them take it from there to planning email marketing campaigns, creating content, and deploying eBlasts on behalf of our clients.

Regardless of our role in the process, one thing remains, email marketing is an effective and relatively easy digital communication channel.

In 2020, Foxhollow Farm site users coming from emails sent by their team made purchases at a rate of 5 times greater than site average for their main site and 3x times greater for their delivery site. Foxhollow Farm is an excellent example of the simplicity of email marketing; when the farm has a new product or promotion they want to communicate, the team drafts an announcement email, hits deploy, and users well acquainted with their brand can be informed and act upon this new information and purchase quickly.

For Louisville Parks Foundation, we helped our partner effectively communicate changes to their two premiere fundraising events, Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular and Winter Woods Spectacular, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and sell tickets using a variety of tactics ranging from social media to television to email. VIA Studio helped Louisville Parks Foundation grow its email list by more than 120% throughout the campaign. This growth in email audience paid dividends as email users were the best converting audience segments for both websites. Aside from ticket sales, a larger email list for the organization will help future fundraising and marketing efforts.

Lastly, for Louisville Institute, we used email to help support remarketing campaigns for their various fellowship and grant opportunities. Louisville Institute had several programs seeking applicants; prospective applicants typically require several touchpoints before a user applies. Users accessing the Louisville Institute from email were more engaged with the site and had a higher conversion rate than the site average. Additionally, emails sent at the start of each fellowship or grant application period helped fill remarketing audiences and helped drive users back to the website to complete their applications.

Email marketing can be an effective tactic for organizations of any size or budget. It can be used independently or in support of other marketing tactics. Additionally, its use of personalization and data can turn what would otherwise feel like “cold call” communications and turn them into a much more personal and friendly experience for the customer.

View All Entries in the Email @ 50 Series:

Intro: Email @ 50: A Brief History

Part II: Email @ 50: The Art of Email Design

Part III: Email @ 50: Email Development

Part IV: Email @ 50: Retrospective + The Future of Email

Share to

Related Posts

Email @ 50: Email Development
Email @ 50: Email Development

By:Nick Stewart on 8/6/2021

Email development has always been the bane of a web developer's existence. You have to use outdated methods and don't have access to the full modern web to create a nice looking email that thousands of people will see. It's like asking a Nascar mechanic to create a car using only tools from the 90s - it can be done but its more than a pain.

Read More »
Email @ 50: The Art of Email Design
Email @ 50: The Art of Email Design

By:Morgan Plappert on 8/6/2021

I remember when I first started out as a designer (professionally), having to play Photoshop Tetris with cut up image blocks to piece together a full email layout. As a UX designer, we are taught that nothing is more important than usability and utility … and let’s just say, nothing puts those things to the test quite like Photoshop Tetris. Thankfully we have more sensible solutions now, but email design still comes with its added constraints and limitations. Luckily, I’ve had enough time and practice to be able to share a bit of knowledge, tips & tricks with you fine folks. So, let’s cut it up.

Read More »