E-mail isn’t a lost cause. But smart marketers must stay close to how it’s used, abused, and even manipulated.
My New Year kicked off with a sobering ritual: clearing out my email inbox. Unsure of what to save or delete, and a tad flustered over how much digital garbage had accumulated in the first place, I decided to channel a practical, unsentimental mentor.
Niccolò Machiavelli suddenly appeared. He accused me of being a naive email romanticist and noted the medium is laced with unmistakable tradeoffs: information pollution, Attention Deficit Disorder, consumer cynicism, and more marketing deception than TV’s first wave of clunky infomercials.
It’s not a lost cause. "Smart marketers in pursuit of the good," Machiavelli explained, "must first awaken to email’s internal trail of sinister trickery, power plays, audit trails, ego gratification, and marketing hyperbole -- especially in the work environment, where email is most intense."
Fascinated (and a wee bit self-conscious), I eagerly listened as he proceeded to deconstruct the bloated mess before me. "There are two frameworks for thinking about the intersection of email and power: practices and personalities," he said. "Both must be dissected and understood."
We started with a few of the practices:
Machiavelli then paused and shifted his attention to segmenting email personalities. Some are harmless, others are downright scary:
Before departing, Machiavelli left me with the following: "E-mail is hardly a lost cause, but you must always stay close to how it is used, abused, and even manipulated."
My advice to marketers: Heed his words. And let’s not forget to laugh at ourselves once and a while.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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Pete Blackshaw, whose professional background encompasses public policy, interactive marketing, and brand management, is executive vice president of strategic services for Nielsen Online, a combination of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a firm Pete helped cofound, and Nielsen//NetRatings. One of Pete's key focuses is helping brands interpret, manage, and act on consumer-generated media (CGM). A former interactive marketing leader at P&G and founder of consumer feedback portal PlanetFeedback.com, Pete cofounded the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). He authors several blogs, including ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com, and is the author of an upcoming book from Random House, "Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World."
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