In 1991, I worked at the regional offices of JCPenney in Pittsburgh. We didn’t have email. But, I did have the job of taking floor plans around and marking off outlets to get ready for our “desktop PCs” that we were getting. I was then sent to Dallas for training on how to use a PC for work. The trainer told us that if you can’t see the cursor “your mouse’s balls might be dirty.” We still snicker at that.
In 1995, I ran corporate customer relations at JCPenney. While we had computers, intranet communication systems, and a bit of email. Email was used to receive inbound messages sent to email@example.com. Once I saw the very first email, I knew my life was changed forever. The first email I received was from a woman asking if we could help her get a pair of red shoes for a wedding she was going to. Her store was sold out. And within seconds, the vast JCPenney empire, spread out around the world, transitioned into a personal world centered around an intimate conversation with one person named Louise. It was brilliant. From that day on I knew that email was going to change our world.
Twenty years later, email is…well, it just is. And it will always be, as long as electronic communication exists. We all know that, but what might not be so well-known to many is how email has inspired the initiation of other digital vehicles.
Think about it: mobile, social, Foursquare, and even digital publishing. These are just four channels where electronic messaging defies all prior logic in order to create intimate and personal conversations between a brand and a body. The thrill of getting a text from your airline letting you know your seat has been upgraded creates a strong and immediate bond. The delight of getting a free appetizer at a restaurant when you check in on Foursquare pretty much guarantees you will return. Seeing a brand RT or DM you regarding something you said turns you into an immediate brand ambassador. And finally, being able to access your favorite content, on whatever device you happen to have with you while you are waiting, waiting, waiting in line ensures a renewal of that subscription. In all of these cases, a brand has been able to build a stronger relationship with their consumer due to more personal, immediate, and convenient digital communications.
So is the end of email near? Absolutely not! Email will continue to thrive and inspire us all in new and unique ways. But the end of me writing about email is near. It’s time for me to use the inspiration email has fueled for over 20 years, to inspire and drive growth in the field of digital publishing. Thank you to all of my loyal fans and readers. I hope you will read my new column called Publishing starting April 22.
And don’t worry – I am leaving you all in good hands as my dear friend and co-author David Daniels will begin writing this column beginning April 25.