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The curious incident of the flashing Blackberry in the Night Time

james smee

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The curious incident of the flashing Blackberry in the Night Time

I love email. I really do. I find it fascinating. If you stand back and look at what it’s become to the modern world it’s fairly staggering. It’s ingrained itself into cultures and societies the world over. It’s shaped how we talk to one another and share information. It’s developed its own unique code of conduct and etiquette – one that is multi layered, intricate and laced with nuance. The lure of the flashing ‘you’ve got new mail’ LED light on the Blackberry can break the hardiest, most resilient of people at 3 in the morning when you catch a glimpse of the phone on the bedside cabinet. The golden envelope in the system tray can be the single most disruptive thing on the day you have to get that document written. It’s powerful stuff.


For example, I had an internal debate that lasted the best part of 30 minutes the other week over the fact that someone had omitted the ‘kind’ from the ‘regards’ in a sign off to me. You might think it’s not that weird, millions of people opt for the colder, more abrupt signoff however in this instance it was from a person who always, always signs off with a ‘kind’ in front of the regards. Therefore I was left paralysed in front of my laptop, mind reeling, desperately trying to understand the true meaning of this omission. “Are they angry with me?” “Is this the sign that the relationship is coming to an end?”. Once the fear and paranoia subsided I started to become more rational and entertain less dramatic theories i.e. the sender could have just been having a bad day and everyone was getting the same treatment or they were suffering from a dose of fat fingers and deleted the ‘kind’ by accident. Now, I might be slightly over-dramatising for the purposes of this blog posting but my point is to demonstrate the emotional and psychological clout email has as a communications vehicle. We’ve all re-read emails 10 times or more desperately seeking to understand the true meaning of the email, isolating then analysing individual phrases or sentences as we search for enlightenment. This power, when harnessed and channelled correctly can deliver a huge amount of value to marketing campaigns and strategies.

Brands still neglect the use of email. Still send out generic, one size fits all communications to all and sundry. Why? Well, I’ve seen cases where email campaigning has such inertia that it’s become a communications juggernaut bulldozing its way through a yearly comms plan. In these instances it can be a difficult beast to tame. But tamed it must be. To state the obvious email is a vehicle to take a highly personal, relevant, 1-2-1 conversation to the customer/prospect/employee/etc. It can be subtle and deft in the way in which it engages and influences behaviour and action. It can be hard hitting and blunt. It can be what you need it to be you but it requires careful thought and an understanding of the medium. And don’t forget you can test, test, test – don’t burn your data in one hit because you’ve ‘got to get it out of the door’. Plan ahead. Think ahead. Get yourself seen. In the dark make it light.

We all know that email has been around for a fair old while now. It is a founding member of the digital age and has well and truly earned its stripes. It has pretty much guaranteed itself a seat at the table of most modern day marketers when grand plans are hatched. Developments and new technologies in the digital space have eroded its potency but in the same breath augmented its all round usefulness. Take mobile for instance, smart phones have meant that email is consumed everywhere (quite literally) but in the same breath advancements around ‘push’ technologies omits email from the communications loop. Give and take. Social media platforms report every interaction with triggered emails ensuring the ‘yo-yo’ effect hauls you back in. So, all in all email is alive, healthy and evolving. This is especially impressive when you consider the technology hasn’t really evolved in the last few years but the application and use of it has.

Has it got the staying power to still be around in 10 years time? Undoubtedly yes but in what guise and to what degree I’m not quite sure. Anyway, must dash, need to check the old inbox.

social media•customer relationship management•customer engagement•agency