The Death of Email Marketing and a Bowl of Petunias

“Curiously the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias, as it fell, was, ‘Oh no, not again.’ Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly *why* the bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.” – The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I feel like that bowl of petunias every time we go through yet another round of the “email is dead” discussion. Oh no, not again! How many times do we have to dance this jig before it gets old?

The sad fact is that it will happen over and over again. We are in transition and email marketing is evolving. If it was dying there might actually be some hope that at some point we wouldn’t be subjected any longer to what seems like a never ending cycle of faulty pontification and the consequential hand wringing which follows.

Remember when the Wall Street Journal declared last year that email was dead? People fell all over themselves either trying to refute that post or substantiate it.

Oh no, not again.

It got even worse when Ben & Jerry’s in the UK announced they were going to focus more on social and HubSpot ran a post (lacking some information) which spurred countless erroneous tweets and blog posts suggesting email was being forsaken wholesale for social marketing. It turned out Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t dropping email marketing, but it gave some of us ice cream headaches.

Oh no, not again.

The latest round of virtual “whack-o-mole” was started by a comScore study which reported that web based email usage was dropping like the proverbial stone, especially among teens. Keep in mind that’s web based email they are talking about – when was the last time you used a web based email interface? The data was misleading but, dramatic and that made it good fodder for posts.

When heavy weights such as Simms Jenkins and Loren McDonald feel the need to step into the ring to punch something silly, you know someone said something really kooky. They both posted last week on the issue and give excellent perspectives on the latest round of drama.

Oh no, not again.

Young people coming into the workforce will adopt those tools which are best suited to attain the goals set for them. That’s not conforming, that’s just plain smart and today’s kids are damn smart. Smart enough to recognize and develop new channels (while using the current ones) for communicating and doing business, and establish those in the workplace as well. While we’re all focused on how well the young are adapting to our way of doing things, they’ll be busy changing how it’s done.

Young people are cross-channel animals and they already have adapted to communicating and interacting via multiple channels. They’ll use email at work, but I’m not sure they’ll find it any more relevant personally just because they use it professionally. It’s just one of many channels to them and it’s as relevant as the content it delivers.

Oh no, not again.

At times it almost seems that many of us want email to fail. Is that perhaps because we are finding it harder and harder to connect with consumers? Has the effort become so taxing that many of us secretly just want to start all over with a new miracle channel? Do we just expect that email marketing should make pennies rain down from heaven even if we just keep doing the same thing over and over? It’s not the channel which becomes stale and irrelevant first, but the content being delivered by it and whose responsibility is that?

Things don’t have to die to lose relevance. It’s not about how dead you are is it? It’s about how alive you are.