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Marketing’s Happy Marriage, Creative’s Dysfunctional Relationship: How we work with email

Last updated on June 13th, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Marketing is happily married to email, but Creative is stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with the old-fashioned tool.

Results of two studies released this week, one by an email marketing company, one by a provider of a collaborative work-space communications solution, show two very different views of how we use email and what that means in our work lives.

The studies & those who commission them

The studies, Adestra’s 2016 Consumer Adoption and Usage Study and Hightail’s survey of creative professionals called “Is Email Killing Creativity?” have a lot to say about how email is being used in the workplace and how we feel about it.

Martech company Adestra is an email service provider and marketing firm. It is best known for its MessageFocus, system that combines strategic and technology services for creating and managing email marketing campaigns and tracking project and campaign data.

Hightail started as a solution to send attachments that were too large for email. The company now offers an online sharing, storage and file collaboration tool. Its study was released in advance of its new product, Untangler which allows users to pull attachments and comments from any email thread and add them to the company’s customizable collaborative creative online workspace.

The topline results of the two studies presents an interesting contrast in terms of how we use email to work and our perceived levels of productivity.

Populations and findings

The Hightail study surveyed its users, most of whom work in marketing, advertising, web design, architecture and photography and got 400 responses. According to the company, “the majority felt that their team’s creative process was either broken, or missing altogether, or most singled out email as the main reason for their team’s dysfunction.”

Results from the Hightail survey include:

  • 66% said that their creative projects are managed primarily within email. Of those, 70% say that email is an ineffective tool for managing creative projects
  • 1 in 3 respondents said they’ve worked on projects that were over budget or behind schedule in the last 12 months
  • 75% of respondents report their team has “no effective creative process”
  • 86% have difficulty getting final approval on their projects
  • $600 billion worth of media spend is affected this year

When combined with independent data from the CMO Council, which estimates nearly $2 trillion of global media spend for 2016, then Hightail posits that because ~30% of creative projects are brought in behind schedule or over budget, then the inefficient use of email results in costs of over $600 billion.

“One of the dynamics you see, especially in creative projects,” Hightail COO Mike Trigg says, “is that teams are formed across organizational boundaries in terms of departments and location. We’re seeing a move away from horizontal communication toward feedback and comment and collaboration spaces where communication happens in its context.”

That doesn’t mean email is necessarily going away.

“It’s been widely assumed that email would fade away because Millennials and teens weren’t going to use it, says Adestra VP of Marketing Insights Ryan Phelan, “the opposite is true, email continues to be part of everyday life”

The Adestra study surveyed 1200 consumers about their email usage in daily life – including their work lives. The company examined generations at opposite ends of the demographic spectrum ranging from teens ages 14-18 and 19-34, who represent “the most native of the Digital Natives” and older users between 56 and 67 who represent fi­rst-generation email users.

Topline results from this study include:

  • 68% of teens and 73% of Millennials prefer to receive communication from a business via email. Of those, more than half rely on email shop online. The same result as for Gen X and Baby Boomers
  • Half of teens said their parents set up their email accounts for them, but the other half set up and run their own accounts
  • While 41% of all survey respondents said that they have an email account for work purposes, that was true for 39% of teens and a higher proportion of Millennials at 48%
  • More than 50% of email messages are read on mobile devices

If anything, the two studies show that we can love what hurts us and love what is simply part of life and work. All relationships with steady old email certainly reflect that contradiction.

Photo credit: Jon Evans


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Kate Baggott
Kate Baggott
Kate Baggott is a former Managing Editor of B2BNN. Her technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun and the Bay Street Bull. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories. Find links to recent articles by following her on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-baggott-9a0306/