Much hand-wringing and apocalyptic angst has attended the roll-out of Gmail’s tabbed interface. Prognostications from the digital chatterati range from severe depression of open rates to the end of online marketing as we know it.
The issue is the new “Promotions” tab, which brings together email offers from your favorite retailers, along with action alerts, solicitations, and other emails from the causes you follow.
Now that we do-gooders are in the commercial email ghetto, what will become of us?
I think we’re going to be just fine.
Let me tell you a story.
A couple decades ago when I was first learning how to do focus groups, I worked for a think tank that worked on urgent policy issues. Things like Central America policy, nuclear proliferation, and the budget deficit. During these groups with concerned Americans, every time we’d be discussing Sandinistas or nukes in Pakistan or the budget deficit, if anyone happened to mention their favorite coffee brand or a movie they saw recently, the group would hurl itself down that conversational side street. I had to struggle to get them back on topic.
My focus group mentor, who had loads of commercial and non-profit experience, remarked after one such group, “people are far more likely to get passionate over whether their toothpaste comes in a tube or a pump than they are about the issues of the day.”
I have seen the truth of that play out over and over. And it’s why I am not so nervous about being in the “Promotions” briar patch along with Nordstrom’s, REI, and Amazon. People for the most part love the non-Spam commercial communications they get. They want to know about the sales. They want the coupons. Commercial emails are generally better-written and more personal than non-profit ones.
You may find it depressing to realize that your donors care more about the logo on their clothes than they do about your latest action alert, but for the most part they do. Good marketers live in the world we have, not the world we want.