I read somewhere that Michael Jordan used to get $30,000 every time he sneezed. He wasn’t getting paid to sneeze, of course, that’s just how much he would make every microsecond of the day based on his annual dollars from salary and sponsorships. Much of it came from retail fashion (sports apparel) – an industry that has integrated "brand placement" into their products better than most. People wear clothes proudly displaying the makers brand logo or tagline all the time. What better way to advertise your product than to get people to wear it, and pay you for the privilege?
Online, email has begun to offer similar placement opportunities. My email address has a "@yahoo.com" tag at the end of it. Every message also states "Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around" at the bottom. Blackberry has their tag line too, which is also becoming something of a subtle status symbol (ie – "I am too busy to respond to your email from an actual computer, but I’m important enough to have a Blackberry to respond"). At the launch of Gmail last year, it was instantly treated as a geek-status symbol. But if email has such potential for brand integration, why doesn’t nike.com offer customers their own addresses? Where are the big advertisers when it comes to offering their own branded email?
One explanation for the absence of initiatives like this could be the overhead required to develop a service, set up mirrored servers, implement and update security patches or any other technical difficulties inherent in launching email services. The same challenges exist for in-house search engines or keyword marketing. The difference is that providers like Google and Microsoft offer the ability to syndicate and rebrand these services to roll out as an integrated part of a site. What if email could become a commodity service like this? Imagine if marketers could not only register users’ email addresses, but provide the actual addresses in the first place. That could be the next big level of relationship marketing online.