E-Mail’s Significant Brand Power

People ask me if e-mail marketing really affects brand. I don’t know if anyone’s truly bought into that theory (besides myself and key people like my family and those who work for me). If you’re are one of the skeptics, here’s a story for you:

My job is to expand and grow our e-mail practice on a worldwide basis. This is no small feat. This year, I’ve visited different countries quite a bit. Over the past two weeks, I traveled from New York to L.A. to New York to Prague to London and back home. That’s three different currencies, which means stopping at lots of airport cash machines.

Exhausted after taking the red-eye to London, I was looking forward to getting in a cab. So I headed to the HSBC bank machine, only to get an error when I tried to take out money. Odd, but there was another bank machine next to it, so I tried that one. No luck. In the U.S., it was only 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday. I called home, but everyone was asleep.

I took the Tube to the hotel instead of a cab, managing to pay with credit cards. I was extremely panicked about why my ATM card wasn’t working. How was I going to get money to buy food while away? Had someone broken into my account and taken all my money? My head went through crazy scenarios that could account for what was happening.

I got to my room and waited for New York to wake up so I could call my bank. After 10 minutes on hold, I got a representative who told me all New Jersey and New York were having a server upgrade. No one could get money from cash machines until at least 2 p.m. EDT. Relieved no one stole my identity, I moved into the infuriated-customer stage: When was this planned? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I asked the representative what the notification process was for this. Had someone sent an e-mail?

Her answer — and I’m not making this up — was, “Yes, an e-mail was sent to your online banking secure box. You should see it when you log on. You can’t log on now because the system is down. We didn’t send e-mails directly to you because we already send enough.”

Huh? I’d been out of the country for seven days. Why would I check to see if the bank had randomly sent e-mail to my online secure box? What good was it doing me now, anyway?

This lack of understanding of how consumers use and rely on e-mail seriously affected my perception of the brand. For all of you skeptics out there, here’s a loud and clear message from the consumer in me: e-mail really does have significant brand power.

Oh, and I’ve since moved my money to another bank.

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