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The PR risks of sending too many emails—which brands top the list?

by | Dec 14, 2022 | Public Relations

Email marketers claim emails are all about building relationships. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? It’s what they do for a living, after all. What I do for a living, on the other hand, is conduct research that ensures brands to better engage customers, increase loyalty, and grow their customer bases and profits, whatever platforms they use.

Based on a new survey updating a 2018 benchmark wave, Brand Keys can confirm too many emails can be bad for a brand’s engagement health. We’re not talking SPAM. No, these insights are according to 2,208 consumers, 16 to 55 YOA, who initiated the emails from the brands they evaluated. So, just to be clear, not SPAM.

The bottom line hasn’t changed from what we discovered four years ago—too many emails results in brand disengagement

It reduces loyalty and positive behavior toward the brand. What is new is that 40 percent of the brands appearing on the 2022 list are new.

And, although Amazon and Groupon appear at the top of the Too Many Emails list, they were the only two brands where consumer engagement was significantly increased (as they did four years ago). All other brands showed significant or directional decreases in consumer engagement, which correlates with lower levels of consideration, purchase, and loyalty.

In ranked order, brands consumers indicted they felt they were receiving too many emails too frequently included the following. Numbers appearing in parentheses indicate where they ranked in 2018.

  1. Amazon (1)
  2. Macy’s (9)
  3. Groupon (2)
  4. GAP (3)
  5. Home Depot (10)
  6. Expedia (new)
  7. Uber (new)
  8. Booking.com (new)
  9. Airbnb (new)
  10. Walmart (12)
  11. CVS
  12. Facebook (new)
  13. Banana Republic (new)
  14. Apple
  15. Overstock (6)

Based on the Brand Keys psychological assessments, consumers categorize emails into four classes:

  • Replies: Consumers asked, brands replied.
  • Good News: products shipped or were returned successfully or prices were lowered or money returned to me
  • New News: Brand actually had something new to tell me that interested me.
  • No News: Not quite SPAM, but SPAM-like outreach.

The COVID pandemic changed the marketing paradigm for a lot of brands, just as it changed consumer behavior. But what Brand Keys can say unequivocally is while there may not be a perfect formula for how many emails are too many emails, there is a proven methodology to measure how emotionally engaging a brand’s email programming is going to be.

Happily, it can also inform your brand planners how often they out to reach out to consumers—without disengaging them

Because consumers don’t think how they feel, don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say, we try and get under-the-radar assessments using a combination of psychological research and a three-step higher order statistical analysis. This allows us to identify the intersection of brand engagement and (in the case of excess emails) brand messaging consumption and the effects such marketing has on the brand.

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Robert Passikoff
Robert Passikoff is founder and CEO of Brand Keys. He has received several awards for market research innovation including the prestigious Gold Ogilvy Award and is the author of 3 marketing and branding books including the best-seller, Predicting Market Success.  Robert is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.

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