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Martin Lindstrom
Branding Your E-Mails, Part 1
› › ›  Brand Marketing

Build an Online Store

BY Martin Lindstrom | 1-7-2003

Here's irony. I not only remember, but still possess, an artifact from the '80s: a special "letterhead book." These publications accommodated thousands of letterhead, envelope, and label designs. Designing a letterhead had become a work of art, honed by the imperative of clearly reflecting a company's brand image.

By 1998, most Western countries noticed electronic mail exceeded the "snail mail" output and input. Suddenly, e-mail replaced regular mail. This signaled the demise of good old, paper-based letterhead.

Why has virtually no attention been given the design of electronic letterhead? If I review the approximately 300 e-mails I receive on a daily basis from various companies all over the world, just five -- yes, you read that right: five -- e-mails are equipped with brand markers. By brand markers, I mean something beyond a signature line in Courier New font.

How many business e-mails do you send daily? 100? More? How many letters do you send every day? 10? Fewer? In all likelihood, you send 10 times as many e-mails as you do paper mail. Yet, I'll bet the first thing you did when your company opened its doors was to print... yes, letterhead! Right? Why wasn't the first thought designing e-letterhead? An e-mail template to reflect your company's spirit. You must have known you'd use e-mail in communications many times more frequently than any other medium.

We are overlooking e-mail as a branding tool. Many e-mails in my inbox, sent by people at some of the world's most respected brands, don't even display consistent signature lines. They change from message to message. Worse, often there's no signature line at all, just the sender's name (which, by the way, seems to become abbreviated to just a first name when the dialogue is friendly). Brand is 100 percent invisible. The person sending the e-mail is a more visible brand than the company at which they are employed.

Five features should characterize e-mail in the future:

  • A well-designed e-mail template. This should be something simple and memorable that reflects the brand's values without overpowering the e-mail message.

  • Consistent use of that template by everyone in the company.

  • Guidelines for template use, such as variations on the template for separate divisions, countries, products/services, and so forth.

  • A backup template for recipients whose technology can't read the fancy edition.

  • Significantly, investment in creating guidelines for e-mail writing; subject lines; signatures; font choice; and content emphasis in a consistent, brand-led manner.

Your brand is not merely your logo. It's every consumer touch point. That includes e-mail.

My letterhead book is collecting dust on a bookshelf. But it's waiting for a companion edition: an e-letterhead book. How long will the space beside that letterhead book remain empty? When will the corporate world care about the look and the message of its e-mail?

This is a big topic. Over the next two weeks, I'll focus on the art of constructing effective, branded e-letters. E-letterhead is just one essential. Effective communication of content in each e-mail is another.

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Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world's primary on- and offline branding gurus. He is the author of several best-selling branding books including the highly acclaimed BRANDchild with Patricia B. Seybold ( and "Clicks, Bricks and Brands" with Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D.

Article Archives by Martin Lindstrom:
     ›› Tweenspeak: The World's Newest Language  4-1-2003
     ›› The Real Decision Makers, Part 1  3-25-2003
     ›› Five Steps to Online Trust for Your Brand  3-18-2003
     ›› Does Your Brand Have a Sense of Humor?  3-11-2003
     ›› Is It a Boy or a Girl?  3-4-2003
     ›› Do You Provide Customer Disservice?  2-25-2003
     ›› Bring the Background Forward  2-18-2003
     ›› The Emotional Tie  2-11-2003
     ›› Goodwill: Good Thinking  2-4-2003
     ›› Real-Life Branding  1-28-2003
     ›› The Art of Asking the Right Questions  1-21-2003
     ›› Branding Your E-Mails, Part 2: Find Brand Loyalty Close to Home  1-14-2003
     ›› Branding Your E-Mails, Part 1  1-7-2003

MORE ...


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  Tuesday April 1

Tweenspeak: The World's Newest Language
    ››  Brand Marketing

To influence the folks who are influencing major purchases, you've got to speak their language. - Martin Lindstrom

Waive the Banner!
    ››  Agency Media Strategies

Size matters: why we still don't have it right with online ad sizes. - James Hering

Merchants of Death?
    ››  Analyzing Customer Data

Marketing in wartime: Most marketers are responding with extreme caution. But some online properties seem to be exploiting the war for profit. - Mark Sakalosky

Advertise During War Time? - Gary Stein
Whitelists and Filters - Ben Isaacson
I Want My HD&iTV;! - Jeremy Lockhorn


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