When Too Much is Too Much: The Art of Email Marketing
Aaron Perlut | Partner

I am not an email marketing expert, and as an agency, we do not consider it a core competency. When companies have come to us for email marketing services, depending on the depth of support they need, we’ve periodically sent them elsewhere.

I am, however, a consumer, as well as a rabid email user (apparently I send and receive the most emails of anyone at our company). I also manage our Rubber Soul email newsletter that we send to clients and industry folks roughly every month or two.

Thus, I pay close attention to how brands engage with me through email and here’s what I think I think:

  • Regardless of channel, the essence of building and growing a brand is through the cultivation and maintenance of an engaged audience.
  • Email marketing is not conducted through blunt force trauma. There’s an art to it. Either the brand or consumer has instigated what should be a two-way conversation where they are (ideally) exchanging information, perspective and, hopefully for the brand, dollars and cents.
  • According to DMA’s 2018 email benchmarking report, email open rates for marketing emails average 18.1 percent and utility companies send the least opened emails (14.7 percent).
  • According to MediaPost, unsubscribe rates are roughly .17 percent, and of course, that may be low because it took me TRYING TO UNSUBSCRIBE MORE THAN 10 TIMES from MediaPost newsletters and I still somehow manage to get them.
  • Expedient customer service through email matters and you should make sure that if you can send an email to someone — they should be able to respond to you and get an answer within an hour or two.
  • If you send email too frequently, you will annoy your audience and they will unsubscribe, thus reducing your access to them.

Which brings me back to my email inbox.

I am a passionate Chicago Cubs fan and admittedly like to look at apparel online. For years, I have tolerated the Cubs sending me some two-to-three emails weekly; and recently after clicking through Instagram ads for Seavees (shoes) and CityLocs (hats), and then signing up for emails, I became inundated with daily messages from both companies. Daily!

In all three cases — including my favorite freaking sports team — I finally reached a breaking point, lost patience and unsubscribed. I was not having a two-way conversation with these brands. They were fire-hosing me far too frequently and exhausted to me to the point where I became disenfranchised.

So what’s the lesson here?

It goes back to “the essence of building and growing a brand,” as noted prior. Brands must continually cultivate and maintain engaged audiences. But because they didn’t realize that too much was too much — all three brands — the Cubs, Seavees and CityLocs forgot it was about both of us, and ultimately, turned me off as a consumer.

Aaron Perlut

Aaron Perlut is a cofounding partner of Elasticity with some 25 years of diverse experience in journalism, public relations and digital marketing. He is a former senior reputation management counselor at Omnicom company FleishmanHillard, as well as a communications executive for two of the nation's largest energy companies. Throughout his career, Perlut has counseled a range of organizations – Fortune 500s, state governments, professional sports franchises, economic development authorities, well-funded startups and large non-profits – helping manage reputation and market brands across a diverse channels in an evolving media environment.

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