Should brands abandon e-mail for social?

Rod Witmond, SVP for production management and marketing at Cardlytics, and Oscar Padilla, director of interactive services at Vertis Communications discuss whether brands should abandon e-mail marketing for social media.


Rod Witmond

SVP for product management and marketing at Cardlytics, 15 years of marketing experience

when targeting young customers. The marketers that will win with the younger generation — the future buying power of America — are those who use the channels most relevant to their daily lives. E-mail is for their parents.

Younger generations have a filter for “traditional advertising” and clutter. They have replaced e-mail with technology that is integrated into their lives for communication, such as mobile and SMS. This also holds true for entertainment, through the use of video games and YouTube, and personal management with online banking and shopping. In fact, studies show that consumers between the ages of 13 and 24 spend 16.7 hours a week online, not counting e-mail, and send or receive 2,484 text messages a month.

Young customers want real-time access to relevant marketing messages that help them save money. They don’t want to clip coupons, scan barcodes or even enter promotional codes to get savings, which drastically inhibits e-mail tactics.

A recent report from comScore also showed that teenagers are abandoning e-mail for other technologies. E-mail use in 2010 among consumers ages 12 to 17 dropped 59%, according to comScore. E-mail use was also down 18% among consumers ages 18 to 25, and it decreased 8% among consumers ages 35 to 44.

The real-time nature of such promotions positions marketers to solve what has traditionally been one of the biggest challenges in direct marketing: customer evolution. Time has a way of changing what a person wants and needs. As a result, e-mail lists become outdated almost as soon as they are created.

Younger generations expect to be targeted based on who they are and what they need today. New channels enable marketers to better meet that expectation. Furthermore, the instant nature of such communication lends itself to being adjusted and tweaked during a campaign to maximize performance.

E-mail marketing was once an integral part of direct marketing, but as far as today’s young consumers are concerned, it has grown largely irrelevant. Marketers should be eager to embrace more advanced marketing channels to improve performance and maximize ROI among this key demographic group.


Oscar Padilla

Director of interactive services at Vertis Communications, 12 years of marketing experience

One of the most popular questions asked in marketing and communication circles is “Is e-mail dead?” I say “No.” E-mail is alive and well, even among members of the desirable and sometimes elusive Millennial age group. The key to successfully targeting young customers is to give them the power to choose how to engage. Although the use of e-mail is changing — we’re witnessing a distinct shift to social platforms for peer-to-peer interaction — e-mail remains a primary communication tool for young consumers to engage professionally, educationally and, in many cases, socially.

I am a big believer in using the functionality of e-mail to introduce social elements, such as one-click posting to Twitter or Facebook, or personalized URLs that direct consumers to landing pages designed specifically for them. This approach helps young consumers create balance between e-mail and social platforms, giving them the option to interact on their own terms, while providing marketers critical information they need for better targeting and segmentation in future marketing campaigns.

One of the greatest attributes of social platforms is highly customized content. For e-mail to remain a viable channel, marketing data should be strategically applied to enhance personalization, thus increasing your performance metrics. E-mail is an enormous opportunity for cross-channel interactivity with young consumers, but for those benefits to extend into the future, the way we use e-mail must continue to evolve to better meet the behaviors and needs of the consumers being targeted. As with any marketing campaign, using a single-channel approach can be detrimental to its scope and effectiveness. To maximize results of e-mail marketing, it should be integrated into a multichannel strategy that leverages the power of e-mail, social and traditional marketing channels.

As marketing channels such as social media continue to emerge and evolve, the industry is constantly looking for the next big thing, and that’s perfectly acceptable. When creating a truly effective multichannel marketing campaign, we can’t forget that sometimes the old, reliable channels, including e-mail, can be extraordinarily effective as long as they are appropriately adapted to users’ current behaviors and needs.

Direct Marketing News’ Decision

Marketers took notice when comScore published a report stating that e-mail use dropped 59% in 2010 among consumers ages 12 to 17, indicating that brands should develop their social and mobile marketing. However, it’s far too early to abandon e-mail, which remains a strong communications medium among most consumers.

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