Parts of the online communications community have been abuzz the last couple of days over reports that Ben & Jerry’s ice crean is dropping its email marketing program in favor of Facebook and Twitter. Turns out, the change only affects the company’s fans in the United Kingdom; U.S. ice cream addicts can still get their inbox sugar fix (for now, at least). But the announcement drew attention in part because it goes against the conventional wisdom that social media marketing and email marketing complement one another and in fact work better in concert.
Ben & Jerry’s claims to be dropping email because of cost and the preferences of its customers, but those rationales seem sketchy. If people aren’t happy with the emails, for instance, why drop the list entirely? The company could have put resources into finding out why the emails weren’t delivering value, then turn around and revamp their campaign in response. As it is, they’re effectively abandoning tens or hundreds of thousands of customers, many of whom AREN’T on Facebook or Twitter and will hence lose any online connection with the brand.