In June last year, the late David Carr of The New York Times published an article about a not so new phenomenon — the email newsletter. No longer an after thought in communication, the newsletter was “very much on the march.” Navigating through his inbox, Carr put forward a case for this subtle resurgence. “Newsletters”, he said, were “clicking because readers have grown tired of the endless stream of information on the Internet, and having something finite and recognizable show up in your inbox can impose order on all that chaos.”
Ironically, around the time this article was published, I decided to take a break from my own inbox. Numbering 3000 unread emails and counting it had become a dumping ground for useful/less information that seemed to only contribute to the chaos it could supposedly order. I wasn’t the only victim of subscription addiction. A quick poll of friends and colleagues told a similar story and with daily binges on social channels, acute content exhaustion had finally taken hold.
A brief rehabilitation period followed, before I experienced a newsletter renaissance. I jumped back onto the wagon and started subscribing again. This time, my inbox became a carefully curated source of invaluable information.
The latest addition, and the prompt for this article, will arrive in the autumn. The source coincidently is Carr’s regular dinner companion, Lena Dunham. Lenny, defines itself as a number of things, but most striking are the final four words of the manifesto. “Lenny is your friend.” What struck me about this sentence, is that it perfectly summarizes how I feel about my new found subscriptions and yet, when I fall back off the wagon, into old habits (they die hard) and subscribe to emails from brands, I find they are anything but friends.
In a similar vain to garish leaflets posted through the letterbox, many brand newsletters aim for one thing — self-promotion. The frustration is that ‘you are what you sell’ is no longer the only mantra for brands to live by. Instead, in a noisy market, being able to demonstrate values and personality will enable a true connection with an audience.
Unlike social media channels, email provides a long(er)form format that allows a brand to explore various elements of it’s philosophy, build it’s character and communicate beliefs, in turn generating loyal followers and advocates.
In email, brands have a golden opportunity to connect with their core audience. An inbox holds a captive readership that can over time build a relationship and provide diverse, worthwhile correspondence. To see email as simply self-promotion is to cheapen something that could have so much brand value.
For inbox inspiration, visit the True North Blog.