Is Email the Missing Link?

The durability, usefulness, and breadth of email never fails to impress me. The community of email marketers impresses me even more in its ability to keep pressing on toward the original mission with such zeal.

Unlike so many ad technology categories, there seems to be an addressable – and profitable – market for more email companies than you can imagine. I’ve counted at least 359 email marketing companies in existence. Since I began counting, I’m guessing that another couple got started, and of course Amazon just launched a new service to replace the backend Exchange server. When Amazon decides to enter a market, it’s because it expects the market to be durable and long-lasting. Why work on something ephemeral? In short, what Jeff Bezos recommends is to “Instead, ask yourself what won’t change, and then put all your energy and effort into those things.”

To many observers, email represents an industry that hasn’t changed very much since it was commercialized in the early 1990s. In an effort to map the shifting email industrial complex, my friend Jordan Cohen tried to create a version of a so-called Lumascape (a slide containing companies grouped by function within a category like “mar-tech”).


If you somehow missed this post on Bill McCloskey’s Only Influencers community page, you will likely react like everyone else who saw it did. Comment below if you think that you’ve been overlooked; it’s a great way to get your email business noticed. It’s clear that within the confines of traditional email marketing, there has been quite a bit of innovation.

Since posting, Cohen’s SlideShare has had more than 1100 views, and it’s bound to get more views after this article. It will be a topic of discussion at this week’s Email Evolution Conference in Miami. Do people outside of our fraternity pay attention to our analyses? I’m not sure, but outsiders are definitely thinking about us behind our backs, if only because we are not reading their articles and attending their conferences either.

It’s time for email marketers to pay attention to the world of Mar-tech and ad-tech.

Just a week after Cohen’s chart was released, the real creators of the Lumascape – Terry Kawaja and Brian Anderson – were presenting at the AdExchanger Industry Preview 2015. In a room filled with ad technology executives – and largely devoid of anyone from the email marketing community – a stunning revelation was made on stage by Brian Anderson: Email is the connective tissue of the Internet.


Buried within the 46-slide opus, dubbed “The Changing Digital Marketing Technology Landscape,” Brian Anderson scoped out the massive shifts that are occurring within digital advertising, and how the intersection of ad-tech and mar-tech (email falls into this category) is creating a new omni-channel category. Guess what is at the heart of this? Email. But not sending email. Email data.

The important distinction here for the email industry is that the most important element of email seems to be the least exciting to so many current email marketers: the data. The email address and its application in media and advertising.

Email marketers, ask yourself: have you ever recommended a custom audience or tailored audience campaign to your clients? Have you consulted with your clients on proper email collection tactics? Do your clients have clear title to their data? How can they use it?

There is an entire population outside of the email marketing industrial complex that is interested in what email marketers are doing, but they don’t care much – or even know – about deliverability, or Gmail tabs, or DMARC, or Open Rates. They care about data provenance.

There is a new world emerging from the foundation that has been well established by legacy email marketers. Large publishers like Facebook and Twitter, as well as large enterprise software companies like Oracle, Salesforce, and IBM, are laying the groundwork for the future. They all know that email is no longer about sending email – it’s about the email address and its emergence as the digital connective tissue.

The ESPs and email marketers who figure this out are the ones who will escape walled gardens and go on to become the darlings of the CMO of the future.

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Flat business devices communication with cloud services isolated on the light blue background.