Email Marketing Isn’t Dead, So Why Do We Keep Arguing About It?

Email Marketing Isn’t Dead, So Why Do We Keep Arguing About It?

Each Friday, the Commexis blog features a post from one of our experts about a trending topic in digital marketing. This week, Phillip Brooks, our digital and creative strategist talks about the absurdity of declaring email dead.


Have you ever argued with someone over a topic about which you both feel passionately? If you’re active on social media, odds are you have (especially in the past few months!)

There’s a much-maligned technique in debating called a straw man argument, where one of the participants uses false logic to refute a belief that the other party doesn’t actually hold. This phantom point is usually based on an exaggeration or mischaracterization of the first party’s stance.

So why am I talking about this in a post about email? Because so many in our industry have written (and continue to write) impassioned, well-researched posts about email not actually being dead.

The problem is that this assertion is a straw man argument. Look at the first-page results on Google for the search term “email is dead.”

email marketing is dead - Google Search

Holy cow! We’re crossing into meme territory, here.

Look, no one is saying email is dead. In fact, research quite clearly shows the opposite. So with whom are we arguing? No one. We’re not arguing with anyone. It’s a phantom rhetorical device.

And I’m not bashing any of the authors, really! These are thought leaders in the industry whose opinions I trust. But if you try looking at the situation from the eyes of a client, it’s confusing. If all these experts can’t agree on the (real) state of email, how can you as a marketing manager make an informed decision about how much of your time and budget should be applied to email marketing?

Here’s the straight truth: Email marketing isn’t going anywhere, it’s still an effective and necessary part of any full-scale marketing strategy and you shouldn’t need much convincing to add it to your strategy.

Don’t believe me? Look at the research:

Does that look like a medium that’s on life support? I think not. Email marketing is still a huge part of digital marketing budgets across all industries. So why do we keep trying to bury it?

To which you may reply, “Okay, so email marketing is growing, but its percentage of total ad spend budget has to have lost ground to social media and other paid channels, right?”

Nope. (I’m not above sneaking a little straw man in there once in a while, too.)

Email Marketing - Ad Spend Percent Change 2017-2021

Sure email marketing took a bit of a dive there, but it’s bouncing back to levels unseen since the early 2000’s. That’s because marketers are realizing that email marketing can still do the heavy lifting for all kinds of digital marketing campaigns.

If you’re a retailer and you’re not utilizing email marketing as part of your overall digital marketing strategy, you’re leaving money on the table. Did you know that email marketing was directly responsible for a huge chunk of Black Friday transactions in 2015? In fact, over 25 percent of ecommerce and retail of sales came from email marketing.

So the next time you read a post built on the premise that “Email marketing isn’t dead,” be sure to ask the author, “Who said it was?”


Phillip Brooks is Commexis’ creative and digital strategist. He has engineered content marketing strategies for hundreds of clients, including Electronic Arts, Turner Broadcasting and The Bancorp.

Phillip Brooks

Digital & Creative Strategist

Emails you will look forward to.

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