[Sara La Battaglia just graduated in Communication and Advertising for Organizations from the University of Urbino, with a thesis entitled ‘The evolution of email marketing in the transformation of its culture’ (mentor Giovanni Boccia Artieri). For her thesis, she interviewed Gianluca Diegoli, Mafe de Baggis, Luca Conti and me. The interview is published here with permission]
The data tell us how email marketing is increasingly used in a one-to-one perspective to establish intimate relationships with one’s own personae. In your opinion, was there a triggering moment that created a watershed between the one-to-many approach and the one-to-one approach in using this medium?
I don’t think there was a specific moment or episode that brought about this change in perspective, but rather that it became increasingly evident that each channel should be used for its peculiarities.
To put it simply, email performances when used as a general broadcast medium are constantly decreasing. Indeed, it is annoying people. People have less and less time every day to sort and filter a growing number of messages and, of course, they prefer to read something that has been customized and that is addressed to them, because there is a higher probability this is relevant to them.
Considering the one-to-one approach, what is the relationship today between the communication made by brands on their social network profiles and the use of communication made through email marketing?
Even when there is an overlap between those who follow the brand on a social media channel and those who subscribe to the mailing list, it is the context that determines (or at least should determine) the variety of the contents.
When we come across a brand post on a social media, we are in an “open” context, where our reactions and comments become public and in which the posts are or can be the subject of collective discussion. It is true that in distribution, where the paid component is becoming more and more relevant, the brand has the possibility to select the audience, but it is nevertheless true that it is speaking to many, or, at best with many.
Furthermore, social platforms, due to their public nature, are perhaps the most important space for working on increasing brand awareness and influence, because they provide us with mechanisms for finding persons similar to those who already know and appreciate us.
Email marketing is much less suitable as a first-contact tool (no one likes cold calls, let alone in the inbox where they are easily classified as spam), but its possibilities for segmenting recipients, personalizing messages and implementing automations make it extraordinary in the nurturing phase of a new contact and for client retention.
Obviously, when I work on a client’s publishing plan, I always ensure there is consistency in the brand identity, topics and tone of voice across all channels. But at the same time, I want the mailing list subscribers to maintain the impression of being the recipients of a content that, in some way, can only be found there, either because it is distributed as a preview, or because it is personalized, or because there are advantages or benefits for which it was worth the effort to subscribe.
Can a mailing list be compared to a specific niche of enthusiasts requiring specific content curation, pursuing a brand storytelling?
This is what should happen when we have a project, we are good at communicating it to attract the right people, and we make it grow by taking care of it like a flower garden! Unfortunately, most of the mailing lists I see around are lists of customers to whom the companies spam fake exclusive offers :-D
Can newsletters become conversational habits for the audiences, i.e. capable of triggering analyzable online public conversations, linked to the sending frequency?
In some cases yes, I think for example of the two and a half years during which Francesco Costa wrote his weekly newsletter on US politics: every Saturday, after receiving it, many of us commented on it and quoted it on Facebook and Twitter, or joined the conversation under the author’s post. Naturally, for this to happen we need excellent content, or rather a ‘social object’ that can connect people who, even without knowing each other, recognize themselves in an interest, a passion, admiration for someone or something.
The ‘Collettivo Senza Rossetto’, an independent feminist culture project, motivated the launch of a personal newsletter in the following manner: ‘Among the many that we could have used, we chose the medium of the newsletter, firstly because it is a space that lends itself to further elaboration and secondly, because newsletters are coming back into fashion, and for the most part it is about women: many of the most successful newsletters of the moment, on the most diverse topics, are written by women’. What do you think of this statement?
Yes, there are many newsletter projects written by women, individually or in groups. And luckily, at least in the digital sector the glass ceiling is not that relevant, and the more women speak the more we will all get used to conversations with a high rate of diversity and blending.
Are you registered to cultural newsletter services, where by ‘cultural’ we mean newsletters with purely informative purposes or personal projects that you consider interesting?
Yes, many! Partly for the projects themselves (what they teach or tell) and partly out of professional curiosity :-)
A personal literary project that I really liked is ‘Boy meets girl’ by Silvia Azzolina, a series of stories distributed via email, but only to those who really want to read them.
A particularly rich professional newsletter is Carola Frediani’s on cyber-security, even if sometimes the amount of links makes it difficult to read with the attention it deserves!
Business writer Annamaria Anelli in her monthly newsletter interviews women with interesting and uncommon stories: they can be doctors, magistrates, but also street vendors and bus drivers, a real journey out of our usual cognitive bubble.