E-Mail the Future

Remember when you were in grade school and your class made a time capsule? I’ve heard many versions of how schools do this. Some schools make the time capsule to be opened 30 to 50 years later, while others make a capsule in first grade and open it at the end of eighth grade. And in some cases, students make a time capsule for the future and open one from the past. Regardless of the different approaches, people think making a time capsule is a fun and exciting idea.

What would happen if you created an e-mail time capsule, something that would allow you to create e-mail messages now to be received in the future? Wouldn’t it be interesting to receive an e-mail in 2020 that you sent in 2008? Would the technology even be relevant at that point? Would you receive that e-mail by pressing your fingernail and having it display on the wall instead of even needing a device?

Sounds kind of crazy, right? Well, two guys decided to take this project on. It’s kind of odd but very interesting to get a glimpse at what people have chosen to e-mail themselves or others in the future. You can go to FutureMe.org to check it out. About 15 percent of all e-mail “to the future” are open to the public to review.

The site has been up for quite a while, at least since 2003. Over 600,000 e-mail messages have been sent to the future. Most of the public e-mail messages show some shocking trends in messaging. Many people are writing to themselves. Of these, many are hoping that their lives have gotten better, that they have finally found love. Some are downright disturbing. It’s like a cross between reading someone’s diary and watching a car wreck. You don’t want to keep reading, but you can’t help it.

Here’s one of the more standard entries:

    Dear FutureMe,

    What’s life like now? Are you still waiting for someone to prove you wrong about love? Have you finally made all the changes you swore that you would? Are you going to that dream school and pursuing the path you’ve always wanted? Are you happy?

    Or are you settling for something less than you deserve? Unhappy and alone? Can you still not trust another soul? Do you say you’re in love only because you found someone who loves you, and believe you can’t find someone else who can have those feelings for you?

    I hope you’re more honest and open to others now than in the past. I hope you sleep better at night.

    I hope you made the right choices.

    (written Sat Aug 19, 2006, to be delivered Wed Dec 31, 2008)

What does this have to do with e-mail as a marketing tool? We already know that it’s getting more difficult to maintain our readers’ interest. In the past, we weren’t able to see exactly what other types of e-mail messages, or even thoughts, we were competing with for attention. Now we do.

Especially interesting is the theory we’ve discussed for over 10 years in e-mail marketing (which is spoken about very frequently by my friend David Daniels): personal relevancy remains strong. Many of these public messages share insights about what people hold dear to them: fame, family, and fortune. People seem to be searching for help and guidance to achieve these three goals. If your e-mail content can be positioned in a way that it demonstrates personal benefit, you may just have a stronger chance of being read and remembered and driving more revenue.

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