To Blast or Not to Blast?


Dave Hendricks

The concept of email blasting divides email marketers like almost no other topic – how do you view an email blast?

Are there political parties in email marketing?

Of course there are. Just check your inbox this week. As far as I can tell, email marketers span the political spectrum, from left and right. But we aren’t talking about the person you plan to vote for or where you’re registered to vote.

Ordinary issues like politics do not divide email marketers. From my experience, email marketers reflect society as a whole. But if you want to figure out what team an email marketer is on, just ask them one question:

“When’s the best time to send an email blast?”

With a single question, you can ignite a firestorm of debate among email marketers. It’s really quite interesting, because this question is so central to the role of the modern marketer.

“Blast” may be the “global warming” of email marketing.

There are those that claim it’s a looming issue, detrimental to the ecosystem and proof that a systematic change is needed. Some use the term for personal gain or profit. Others deny there is any problem at all.

No matter what the point of view, the term is controversial – and for good reason.

No one knows who used the term “blast” first. And no one claims it as his or her trademark. There aren’t too many companies that offer “per blast” pricing. No app that I’ve ever seen has a “blast” button. For a word you never see or hear, “blast” certainly inflames debate.

In an otherwise slow email marketing week – defined as a day when an email company isn’t being acquired by an enterprise software company to create another cloud marketing platform – Only Influencers founder Bill McCloskey asked the question: “Are we really in a time when we can talk about the death of the email blast?”

Here’s what some email marketers had to say about email blasts…See if you can guess who said what:

“I hate the word ‘blast!’ It implies no thought has been put into an email campaign. The term should be banished!””Just get email out the door and be surprised that there’s little results coming back…that’s blast and its effect.”

“The only people who seem to think that ‘blasts are dead’ are deliverability people who seem afraid of everything and vendors who sell ‘targeting’ solutions.”

“Don’t hate me but I’ve always said, ‘Let’s do a blast’ whenever I’ve deployed an email campaign :-)”

“Highly segmented lists with tailored offers are effective, but there are many campaigns that are very suited to large volumes, simple segmentation for example, where perhaps the time sensitivity is important and the content has mass appeal.”

“I frequently remind my co-workers – a blast is like barfing content on our consumers.”

“When we have smart content, I will happily send it in email to everyone on the list. That’s not a ‘blast’ to me.”

“Broadcast emails aren’t evil, they are typically necessary, and they work.”

“I have tended in the past to have a negative visceral reaction to the term ‘blast.’ But I have to admit that arguments by some about the efficacy of properly executed higher email frequency and the over-hype of segmentation have caused me to soften that position a bit.”

In a world where technology can let us segment a list and send an email to a segment of one, is there a role for the much-maligned blast?