Email Marketing – A Brief History – Covering The Last Five Decades

letters, email, mail

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the “email.” In 1971, the first electronic message or mail went out. Soon after the inception of email, email marketing also appeared on the digital horizon as one of the most innovative ways to promote businesses and products.

forward, road, away

Today, email marketing is the oldest yet most effective weapon in the arsenal of digital marketing. Since it is the golden jubilee anniversary of the email, it would be fitting to have a quick look at email marketing history.

An outline of the history of email marketing and the significant milestones, by decade, would go something like this:

The 1970s

Just one year after the invention of email, the first email management system showed up; in 1972. This system enabled users to list emails and forward them as well. This email management database also gave marketers a glimpse of email’s potential as a marketing tool.

The first email marketing campaign was launched in 1978 and spearheaded by a marketing manager of a digital equipment company.  The campaign involved sending a total of 400 marketing emails to advertise machines. The campaign claimed resounding success.

The 1980s

The 80s also experienced some “firsts” for email and email marketing. For instance, people started calling electronic mail messages “email.” Also, unsolicited email messages began to be labeled as “spam.” By the decade’s end, the first email software service launched. It further improved the exchange of emails.

The 1990s

The 1990s saw two of the most significant developments in terms of the evolution of email marketing. First, the internet as we know it today was introduced to the masses in 1991. This widespread availability of the internet made email a more effective marketing device because its outreach had vastly increased. It allowed marketers to use email for B2C marketing as well.

network, internet, connection

The second development was the launch of Hotmail and Outlook by the end of the decade. Also, HTML was introduced at the same time. This new web script helped make emails more visually interesting with custom colors, graphics, formatting, and fonts.  

The 2000s

Email marketing was thriving as the world entered the new millennium. With content marketing still in its beginning phase, email was the only fully-developed digital marketing tool. The prevalence and popularity of email marketing made spam a big concern for both businesses and individuals. As a result, the CAN-SPAM Act was ratified by the federal government in 2003. The law was introduced to regularize email marketing, which was unregulated until that time.

Automated or triggered email systems also arrived during the 2000s. It proved to be of great assistance for marketers carrying out extensive and multifaceted email marketing campaigns.

The 2010s

By the end of the 2000s and the beginning of the 2010s, the responsive email arrived on the scene. It is an interface feature that ensures that emails appear on different devices (desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones) while retaining a good user experience.

content is king, online marketing, google

As things stand today, after five decades, email marketing is still helping businesses reach out to their potential clients. It offers the best ROI among all digital marketing means and is considered one of the most effective B2B promotions and developing sales funnels tool.

If you want custom-built lists or an entire email marketing campaign for your business anywhere in the world, get in touch with Marketing Results; they can help.


Clifford Woods is the President and Financial Manager of Marketing Results International.