Branded Email: Email Branding is the Next Generation of Email

All You Need is Branded Email
Or
Always Branded Email There to Remind Me

For the past 75 years, almost every form of popular communication has transformed from black and white to color. Newspapers, television, and computers are only a few examples. (Well, some computers went from green and white to color?)

That leaves this question: Why hasn't everyday email communication done the same? Think about it this way - your company probably spends quite a bit of money on building brand image. Billboards, newspaper ads, radio ads, jingles, TV commercials, logo creation, business cards, corporate letterhead, and websites are just a few of the places that corporate marketing dollars might be spent. Why leave out one of the most used (if not the most used) form of communication that you have?

Everybody Wants to Brand Their Email

Branded email can be classy enough for more conservative companies (legal, banks, medical, etc) and showy enough for businesses to highlight products or services that have to have that graphical edge. Most companies can develop a template (or set of templates) that's geared toward how you want to use them. The ability to choose from more than one template is also a nice feature to have, so you can vary the emails you send based on purpose.

Me and Branded Email Down By the Schoolyard

When you're considering a branded email system, do your homework. And if the company has a free trial, take it. You don't want to purchase something and end up hating it. Keep in mind, however, that most companies, however, won't develop a custom design for you to use during your free trail, so you won't get the full experience until after your purchase. But while you're researching, here are some things to look for:

  • Spam Filters - See what they say about spam filters. A good system can get past most spam filters (with the exception of extremely strict filters). If you're testing the system, can you send an email to yourself? (If you test lots of systems and none of them get past your filter, consider getting a better one, or making yours less strict)
  • Email size - If the system embeds or attaches the images to the email, stay far, far away from it. You don't want all of your emails going out at 300-1000k in size. That would be a long download even on a broadband connection. The typical plain text email is 5-10k; your emails shouldn't go over 100k, and even that is pushing it. - Do note that Outlook, by default, will embed any image in an email when you click send. You have to turn this off through the Tools > Options > Mail Format > Internet Format > HTML Options checkbox (MS Outlook 2002 and 2003)
  • Usability - Make sure the product is easy to use. The last thing you want to do is waste precious time trying to use a bad product while sending your email. You should be able to set your account up, and send emails like normal.
  • Functionality - If your email contains links to specific pages or areas in your website, you can send traffic directly to your catalog, your affiliate/reseller site, your online video, anywhere you want them to go. This is a much better opportunity than "Hey, go check out my site at www.EmailAppeal.com!" As the old adage goes, on the Internet you're always 1 click away from losing a customer.
  • Dynamic Capabilities - Be sure you can easily change your contact information, picture (if the system allows you to upload one) and any other sensitive information on your template.
  • Control - Do you have control over the aspects of the design, or can the user change the design at will? Brand control and consistency is a big deal in any business.
  • Security - Does the system require you to send your email through a different server or to a different email address? This is a security risk whether they say so or not, as your emails are all being routed through a third party server. A good system will work without requiring you send your email through a third party.

I Want to Know What Branded Email Is

Branded email can fall into the following categories, each works a little differently than the next:

  • Stationary - Microsoft Outlook comes with its own stationary tool, and there are quite a few other stationary companies. Drawbacks - These systems typically provide little or no customizability, no functionality; no usability; can be email size issues

  • Mail Redirect - This type of branded email system can use (or allow you to develop) a custom template, then in order for you to send branded email, you send an email to second- or third-party servers, via an email address like this one - your.recipient@company.com@MailRedirectCompany.com - which puts your message in the body of the branded email template, then send it to the recipient on your behalf. Drawbacks - low usability; not secure; hard to reply/forward email with branding

  • Web Based - Now we're getting to the more advanced systems. This type of system offers custom and/or generic templates that you can use with your email. You log in to their website and send your email through their site. Drawbacks - Most won't allow you to use your own email address; not secure; hard to reply/forward email with branding

  • IT Department or Design Department created - If you have an IT guy/department or a design guy/department you can probably do this in-house. Create the HTML template that you want to use, and add it into your client. Drawbacks - it takes time to change the templates if your contact information changes; you have to duplicate the design and change it for every person in your office; you have to host the images on your server, or attach/embed them to the email (size issue)

  • Integrated - This is the type of system you should be looking for. Integrated systems integrate with your mail client (Outlook, Eudora, etc) and allow you to send branded email just like you would any other email. Good systems allow you to do this with as few clicks as possible, and the best ones don't require you to start another program in order to add the branding aspects. Drawbacks - if you use an off-brand client, it may not be supported

It's the End of the Article as We Know It? and I Feel Fine

Branding is alive and well in the world today, and its next frontier is email. More and more businesses are switching to an email branding system, and plain text email is slowly losing its grip on business communication. Find a system that fits your business, and start branding today.

Copyright 2005 Jason DeVelvis - www.EmailAppeal.com

About the Author:
Jason is a long time web developer and the owner of Email Appeal, an email marketing company located in Holland, OH. You can contact him by calling 866-665-3887 or by visiting http://www.EmailAppeal.com

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