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The evolution of email: From success to spam

It’s 40 years since the first marketing email – a B2B message, no less – was sent. We’ve come a long way since then, but have we become anaesthetised to its effects? Rebecca Ley speaks to marketing leaders and email experts to find out where the channel goes from here.

An unsolicited email pinging into your inbox is not a recent phenomenon. In 1978, marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corporation Gary Thuerk sent an electronic message (as it was known then) to 400 users of ARPANET, a forerunner of the internet, promoting his company’s computer products. While the initiative resulted in $13 million worth of sales for Thuerk, the message provoked anger among users and a reprimand from the network’s administrators. This earned Thuerk the unwanted moniker of the ‘father of spam’.

This ‘batch and blast’ approach has proliferated because a small percentage of recipients will still buy the product being marketed to them, but 40 years on from Thuerk’s email, we’ve reached saturation point. So where do we go from here?

This feature has been written exclusively for our members. Membership is free and only takes five minutes to complete, giving you access to the following:

  • 5 ways to boost your email personalisation.
  • A timeline of email marketing.
  • Alternative approaches to email.
  • How to get empathy right in your communications.


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