Going cold on email

Ben & Jerry’s has raised eyebrows by dumping its email campaign in favour of social media. The brand used to send out monthly newsletters, but recipients apparently told it they would prefer to be contacted via Facebook and Twitter, so it is now sending out only one email communication a year.

It’s part of a trend that Gartner flagged up in February, with research showing that a fifth of organisations will be relying on social media within four years (see our post here).

But is it wise to simply switch from one to the other? E-mail has been a hugely successful marketing channel in the past decade, and it’s hard to feel that it could have suddenly become irrelevant. Surveys have consistently shown that businesses that incorporate email as part of a multi-channel marketing strategy get better responses than those that don’t.

It’s easy to get mesmerised by the exponential growth of Facebook – it seems only like last week that it passed the four million user mark and already it’s up to five million. But these are small numbers compared with email users. In addition, the techniques for targeting and addressing them and measuring the outcomes have been honed over years, and are far more sophisticated than anything that social media can yet provide.

A funky ice-cream brand may have particular reasons for wanting to focus on Facebook and Twitter, and it could well be a viable approach for smaller brands with modest resources. But big brands should keep all their bases covered.

One Response to “Going cold on email”

  1. Stephen Pritchard Says:

    It comes down to how precise your marketing needs to be. How generic is your product, and does it appeal to a wide range of customers?

    Most people like ice cream. Ben & Jerry is premium ice cream, but it’s still an impulse purchase. And it’s something most people can buy. So the people selling B & J don’t really need to know much about the people they are selling to, as long as they eat ice cream.

    It is very different if you sell cars, alcohol, medicine, financial services… the list of products where restrictions apply is long. Social media, as yet, lacks the tools to know who your message is going to reach, let alone whether the people to read it, are then going to buy the product. And that’s even before questions of budget, taste and demographics come into play.

    Ben & Jerry might have cut back on their email campaigns, but have they cut down on their above the line advertising? That, along with point of sale and packaging, is where a lot of consumers find out about a brand’s social media presence in the first place.

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