Marketing’s Weekly Dose of the Truth

Ken Magill

About Us

Can We Now Please Shut Up About Gmail Tabs?


By Ken Magill

Okay, so can we now, once and for all, forever and ever, as long as we all shall live, agree never to talk about Gmail tabs again?

And if/when Yahoo! or Outlook implements something similar to Gmail tabs, can we vow not to flip out?

Can we also vow to ignore every writer who knows nothing about direct-response marketing who publishes anything claiming whatever changes Gmail, Yahoo! or Outlook implement in the future is a death knell for email marketing?

And by ignore, I mean mercilessly mock. Right in the comments section.

Email intelligence firm Return Path last week published the results of a study of 400,000 email accounts and 55 million email messages concluding Gmail tabs has had no real impact on Gmail users’ interactions with their commercial email.

“By shunting promotional messages into a separate tab, Gmail has effectively created a secondary inbox expressly for shopping, and consumers are using it,” the study said. “Four months after the widespread rollout of tabs left marketing messages a click removed from personal email, consumers continue to read them at roughly the same levels as before. Tabs have taught Gmail users a new and potentially more efficient way to shop from their inboxes.”

Moreover, marketers’ attempts at getting people to move their messages from the promotions folder to the primary folder were utter failures, according to Return Path.

Just 0.1 percent of messages from companies that initiated “move me” campaigns landed in primary folders in October, according to Return Path.

“Almost no commercial mail is reaching the Primary tab, but instead of ignoring marketing messages Gmail users are actively searching for them and reading them at almost the same rates at which they did before tabs,” the study said. “Gmail has essentially created a second inbox where users hunt for email offers.”

Got that?

When people started flocking to social media, a bunch of folks predicted the end of email.

To me that was akin to saying “People don’t send each other letters anymore. Therefore, direct mail is dead.”

Well, the mountains of catalogs people started getting about two weeks ago say different.

Just because people begin interacting with family and friends differently doesn’t mean the established commercial aspect of the way they used to interact personally has to die—though the US Postal Service is doing a fine job of killing itself.

Several years ago a Microsoft employee told me people had begun using their email boxes primarily to manage commercial relationships.

People don’t want to be spammed, but email is by far consumers’ preferred method of permission-based commercial communication.

According to a 2012 survey conducted by ExactTarget—not exactly an unbiased source, but still—77 percent of consumers said email was the way they preferred to get permission-based commercial messages.

Their second preferred channel was direct mail—at 9 percent.

Email is overwhelmingly a commercial channel and people want it that way. Rearranging inbox configurations won’t change consumers’ commercial communications preferences.

During a September talk I gave to a bunch of email marketers in Sweden for email service provider Apsis, I urged the audience to take an oath.

Here it is:

“I am a smart email marketer. And as a smart email marketer, I will never spend another moment of my valuable time thinking about Gmail tabs.”

I urge Magill Report readers to take the same oath.


Show: Newest | Oldest

Post a Comment
Your Name:
Please type the letters in the image above

Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Kirk Gray
Date: 2013-11-26 18:38:22
Subject: Amen!

We saw this same uproar a few years back when they introduced the priority inbox, the world went crazy - writers predicted unemployment lines and everything. Yet 3 months into it, nothing happened! It all stayed the same and we all adjusted and found ways to manipulate our readers/subscribers... The worst part is, you and I knew that this would happen, but no one listened.
Posted by: Jon Raney
Date: 2013-11-26 15:50:17
Subject: gmail tabs

I'm definitely RFLOL. Thanks Ken. Finally someone who thinks the way I do about G-tabs. Yes the stuff is going to the top of that tab and yes- users have a brain. they can pick and choose what to look at- just like they always did. Only this way the cream rises to the top - in that tab. Fancy that.
Posted by: Liz
Date: 2013-11-26 15:45:35
Subject: Thank You

Love it! I took that oath ages ago and am sending anyone that bugs me to this article.
Posted by: Josie Garcia
Date: 2013-11-26 15:42:30
Subject: Thank You

Amen, brother. Someone needed to say this!
Posted by: Andrew Kordek
Date: 2013-11-26 15:41:24
Subject: AMEN Brother Magill.

Can I get a hell ya Brother Magill!!