Gmail’s Decade-Long Evolution

Gmail 10thIn the approach to Gmail’s 10-year anniversary, I spoke with Direct Marketing News Associate Editor Elyse Dupre about Gmail’s impact on the email industry. One of the things that I told her is that Gmail has been a pretty tireless innovator—perhaps a little too much so for some marketers.

From her discussions with me and others, she wrote a great article outlining all the major changes at Gmail over the years and discussing the change’s impact.

>> Read “Growing Up Gmail: 10 Years of Email Marketing Lessons”

In a separate article, she wrote about eight ways that marketers can better target Gmail subscribers, with much of that advice applicable to subscribers at other ISPs too.

I’m a big fan of Gmail and their relentless focus on innovation and user-centricity. For more of my thoughts on a decade of Gmail, check out my column in Celebrating Gmail’s 10th Anniversary, which also includes great pieces by Carlo Catajan, Andrea Smith, Tom Sather, and Julie Brown.

The Last Word on March 2014

The Last WordA roundup of email marketing articles, posts, tweets and examples you might have missed last month…

Must-read articles, posts & whitepapers

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Prominent Email Unsubscribe Mechanisms (ClickZ)

10 Steps to Keep Bad Email Addresses Out of Your Database (Silverpop)

The ultimate mobile email statistics overview (EmailMonday)

A Guide to Animated GIFs in Email (Litmus)

5 Ways Marketers Are Mishandling Data (Adweek)

Insightful & entertaining tweets

@lukew: “The issue isn’t whether the call to action is visible…”

@Coolz0r: Creating loyal customers is mostly about picking the right customer. (@ducttape) #SMMW14

@ChrisMatyszczyk: my thoughts on the 11 percent of Americans who think HTML is an STD. I admire them.

@alc0traz: “Worrying about a computer reading your email is like worrying about your dog seeing you naked” #lickmyballs

@iamelliot: working in UX ruins the world in the same way that working as a dj ruins other nightclubs

Great additions to the Swipe File pinboards

Rabbit multi-email birthday program sent in 1/2014 >> View the pin

Volkswagen Daylight Savings email sent on 3/8/14 >> View the pin

Havaianas Australia animated email sent on 7/25/13 >> View the pin

Walgreens social opt-in capture post–email clickthrough >> View the pin

Noteworthy subject lines

FansEdge, 3/24 — Welcome to the Round of 16!
Sephora, 3/12 — Who made our final four?
Sony, 3/27 — Have Questions? Find Answers | New Sony Community Poll, Tips + Tricks
J.Crew, 3/18 — How to look like a J.Crew model
SkyMall, 3/9 — Are Your Clocks The Right Time?
Drs. Foster & Smith, 3/26 — Is it time to refill your pet’s Heartworm Rx?
Hayneedle, 3/27 — Get excited: It’s grilling season!
Zappos, 3/21 — It’s sink or swim time…
Levi’s, 3/12 — You need a vacation. (+ exclusive offer for students)
J.Crew, 3/12 — It’s Sunny Somewhere: 25% off swim, shorts & tees (and lots of other vacation styles)
Drs. Foster & Smith, 3/8 — Flea & Tick Season Survival Guide
Barneys, 3/8 — Jump Start Spring: Shop Sandals and More Now
Godiva Chocolatier, 3/27 — The Best Idea Ever – PEEPS® Dipped in GODIVA, 3/8 — The LEGO® Easter Gift Shop Is Now Open!
Sony, 3/8 — Reserve Your Mother’s Day Catalog | Pick The Perfect Gift for Mom
ModCloth, 3/5 — Get seen in green!
Saks Fifth Avenue, 3/17 — Introducing: FREE SHIPPING, EVERY DAY, EVERY ORDER
Threadless, 3/4 — The Threadless app is ready for download!
Coldwater Creek, 3/7 — Chad, set your alarm! 40% off + an EXTRA 10% before 2 p.m.
Dell, 3/31 — $299.99 laptop. Webcrasher deals start NOW.
The Container Store, 3/31 — Exclusive and ★★★★★
Threadless, 3/31 — A tee with real googly eyes? You know it!
Lululemon Athletica, 3/18 — function, meet fashion
Lenovo, 3/5 — Meet your manufactured soul mate
Etsy, 3/5 — So Hot Right Meow
Etsy, 3/24 — Because I’m Happy
Lenovo, 3/1 — Lions, horses, and tablets – oh my.
J.Crew, 3/1 — Need new jeans?

Most popular posts on

1. The Many Uses (and 2 Drawbacks) of Animated Gifs

2. The 1, 2, 3 of Defensive Design

3. Email Marketing Rules published 1 year ago today

4. The One-Two Punch of Subject Lines and Preheaders

5. 100 Inspiring Subject Lines: 4 Subject Line Personalization Examples

Celebrating Gmail's 10th AnniversaryFrom Day 1, Gmail has had a palpable distain for the status quo. Experimentation and user-centricity are the central pillars of the service, which has consistently been home to marketers’ most desirable subscribers and has regularly given marketers fits and sleepless nights.

Beginning as an invitation-only service on Apr. 1, 2004, Gmail’s dedication to experimentation has been truly epic. But there are three areas of contribution I think are particularly noteworthy:

1. Inbox Bifurcation: Since its creation, the email inbox has followed the rule of “last in on top,” which meant that the most recently received email had the most prominent placement at the top of the inbox. This simplistic hierarchy has never sat well with Gmail, which knew that delivery time was a secondary value indicator.

2. Social Integration: While social has taken a backseat to mobile lately, it’s still having a significant effect on inboxes, with much more to come.

3. Interaction Flow Disruption: The classic email interaction model says that a recipient first engages with the envelope content (from name, subject line, and snippet text), then the body content of the email, and then the landing page. Gmail has taken aim at this paradigm as well.

For my full thoughts on Gmail’s 10th anniversary—as well as those of Carlo Catajan, Andrea Smith, Tom Sather, and Julie Brown—please…

>> Read “Celebrating Gmail’s 10th Anniversary”

100 Inspiring Subject LinesSupport for special characters is good enough that they’ve become common in subject lines over the past 24 months or so, opening up many new creative opportunities. Our 100 Inspiring Subject Lines includes some great examples of ones that use special characters:

Subject Line #69, 12/10/12 — They want to ██████ the Internet
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #70
Neiman Marcus, 11/12/12 — ❼ shoes for a well-rounded wardrobe
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #82
Jeep, 9/5/13 — ●|||||||● Your Jeep newsletter is here.
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #90
Vera Bradley, 7/1/13 — Summer checklist: ✓ Sarong ✓Beach Towel…
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #91
Delta Air Lines, 4/1/13 — ❶ Register. ❷ Spend $50 dining. ❸ Earn 150 miles.
[Click to Tweet]

For a discussion of each of these subject lines…

>> Read the entire post on the ExactTarget Blog

View all of Chad's MediaPost columnsEngagement is critical to email marketing success. It’s so important that when our regularly scheduled broadcast emails fail to engage, we launch reengagement campaigns to reactivate inactive subscribers or those in risk of becoming inactive. That’s smart because reengagement efforts improve deliverability and extend the time that subscribers are on your list, boosting their subscriber lifetime value.

However, as much time as you invest in reengagement, you should be investing even more in “super-engagement”—messaging tactics that further engage subscribers who are already highly engaged.

Super-engagement is…

>> Read my entire Email Insider column on

View all of Chad's MediaPost columnsIt was seven years ago this month that I started regularly writing for MediaPost’s Email Insider blog. My column tomorrow will be my 149th and I’m particularly excited about the concept I discuss in it, so I hope you’ll check it out. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share five other columns that I’m particularly proud of:

Why You Shouldn’t Ask Your Gmail Subscribers To Re-Tab Your Emails (Aug. 13, 2013)
Our industry is very dynamic and lately Gmail has been giving marketers fits. But in this column I urge calm in the wake of the launch of Gmail Tabs, which ultimately turned out to be a plus for marketers with good permission practices and processes in place to ensure that they send relevant email.

Leap Ahead: Email Marketing in 2016 (Feb. 28, 2012)
Speaking of the dynamic nature of our industry, in this column I imagine what things will look like in a few years—and obviously had a bit of fun in doing so. With two years having passed since I wrote it, a number of these changes are well on their way to becoming reality—while perhaps a couple of them will take a bit longer than expected to come to pass.

‘Best Practices’ Are Dead (Nov. 9, 2010)
This column was the genesis of my book, Email Marketing Rules, which breaks down email marketing into 108 best practices, 10 of which I deem “Imperatives” and the rest “Guidelines” that should be your default. I wouldn’t be surprised if my next book starts as an Email Insider column as well.

Once Again, I Double-Dog Dare You! (May 20, 2013)
I’m a huge fan of email testing as a path to more relevant emails and this column is actually the third where I challenge marketers two try some more adventurous tests. The second and first ones were I Double-Dog Dare You! (Apr. 13, 2010) and Why Aren’t We More Daring? (Sept. 18, 2008).

When Subscribers Use SWYN, You Win (Oct. 30, 2008)
In this column I coined the term “share with your network,” or SWYN, which awesomely is now a common phrase, with more than 2 million hits on Google. I was an early advocate of the social sharing of email content and continue to be a strong supporter.

Thanks to MediaPost for making me an Email Insider and for putting me in the company of so many of the email marketing industry’s greatest minds.

First there was the Email Swipe File. Then the Audience Growth Swipe File. And now there’s the Social Swipe File.

On our latest Pinterest pinboard, you’ll find examples of the hottest social campaigns, as well as under-the-radar gems, from across the social media spectrum—from Facebook to Twitter, and Instagram to Vine. We already have nearly 60 examples live and we’ll be pinning dozens more in the next few weeks alone.

>> Get Inspired

View the Social Swipe File

The Design ToolkitEmail design is like nothing else. To ensure that you have a solid design foundation, we’ve created the Design Toolkit, a 3-part report will help you create email that…

Look good. In Email Design Basics, I give you a crash course in the essentials.

Work well. Get a general guide to writing HTML for emails in Email Coding Fundamentals.

Get results. Data for Designers shares exactly how to take a strategic, data-based approach to the way you design.

>> Download the Design Toolkit

100 Inspiring Subject Lines has some fantastic examples of various subject line strategies, from newsjacking to puns, and personalization to special characters. However, for me there were four that really stood out as the best of the best. I share them in this short video:

So those are the ones at the top of my list of my personal favorites, but I’d love to know which ones you thought were the best. View the collection and use the “Click to Tweet” link to let us know which ones are your favorites. We’ll tally those up and share them in a future post.

100 Inspiring Subject LinesWhile first-name personalization of subject lines can still be effective when used prudently, it has become clear that subject line personalization has moved beyond first names. At this point, knowing a subscriber’s name is just not very impressive, and not a convincing indicator that the content of the email is personalized and targeted.

Subject line personalization needs to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the subscriber. Our 100 Inspiring Subject Lines includes some great examples of subject line personalization taken to the next level:

Subject Line #50
LinkedIn, 1/13/11: Chad, 118 of your connections changed jobs in 2010.
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #51
FetchDog, 8/9/11: Add more fun to your walks with Suki
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #86
Kiva, 10/10/13: $62.14
[Click to Tweet]

Subject Line #87
Moosejaw, 12/6/13: You have $37.90 in Moosejaw Rewards Points Waiting to be Spent
[Click to Tweet]

For a discussion of each of these subject lines…

>> Read the entire post on the ExactTarget Blog