“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

The first email was sent over 44 years ago.

The first commercial email for marketing purposes was sent in 1978 by a Gary Thuerk, Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp. Becoming the very first email marketing campaign, his idea was to promote his company’s machines to 400 users via Arpanet. It was a breakthrough event that won Digital Equipment Corp. $13 million in sales.

In 1991, the internet become widely available to the public and new systems of communication were born, including “Hotmail.” A free service, it gave every single person with a computer access to a new untapped marketing territory. Email adoption and use was still a novelty though. Over the next decade, marketing was still done face to face, through the phone, printed materials and through the postal system.

Email communication was still in its infancy. Most people communicated via phone or in person. A few relics of the 80’s might still send the occasional letter. That started changing a little toward the latter part of the decade.

By the late 1990’s businesses more heavily relied on email communication as a supplement to other forms of traditional communication. Marketers, however, where catching on. Inboxes inundated with clutter and junk emails resulted in the introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998, which required all email marketers to include an opt-out option. 2003 saw another round of email user protection laws and Europe started passing its own version of protective laws for email users.

Who doesn’t remember the sound of AOL connecting with a dial-up? By 1998, just about everyone was on AOL – businesses, families, students. AOL helped bridge email to households making it a part of everyday life for just about everyone with network connection. But AOL did something else. In 2004, they started handing back user information to the email service providers. Hotmail and Yahoo quickly followed suit. It was the start of data gathering.

The technology shift in the 2000s with the advent of social platforms in the mid 2000’s and smart phones in the late 2000’s meant that how people were exchanging communication shifted. While email marketing was still top contender, it was still struggling to vie for attention amidst a host of new social platforms. Social and email were two different worlds.

The evolutionary leap in email marketing really arrived in the last five years. Email had to adapt in four key ways in order to mirror and compliment the creative and social shift that was happening digitally. Email now needed to be well designed; it needed to be social-savvy, integrating social strategies with email strategies; it needed responsive marketing intelligence with proximity marketing, A/B testing, and segmentation; and it needed be comprehensive, a fluid extension that adapts to how people are engaging. It’s done all those things and more. In fact, email has out-performed social in terms of use and conversion. It has taken on the face of social through social enterprise solutions that are an extension of email in social form. And finally, email marketing is now adaptable to all forms of multi-media marketing. You can’t say that about any other marketing platform.