The Lucrative History of Email Marketing

It started as one employee going rogue 50 years ago, but email marketing has grown into a multi-billion dollar tool businesses depend on for nurturing leads and increasing sales.

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The Lucrative History of Email Marketing

Would you believe the first email was sent way back in 1971?! It was just the random pressing of QWERTYUIOP across the top of the keyboard by a man named Ray Tomlinson as a test. For the next several years, messages sent via email followed suit–a direct communication from one user to another.

In 1978, Gary Thurek changed all that. He sent an email to over 400 people (laboriously plugging in each email address!) to promote a new product for the company he was working for. It read:


We invite you to come see the 2020 and hear about the decsystem-20 family
at the two product presentations we will be giving in California this month.  The locations will be:

Tuesday, May 9, 1978 – 2 pm
Hyatt House (near the L.A. Airport)
Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, May 11, 1978 – 2 pm
Dunfey’s Royal Coach
San Mateo, CA
(4 miles south of S.F. Airport at Bayshore, Rt 101 and Rt 92)

A 2020 will be there for you to view. Also terminals on-line to other decsystem-20 systems through the arpanet. If you are unable to attend, please feel free to contact the nearest Dec office for more information about the exciting decsystem-20 family.


The message caused a great deal of outrage from the recipients, earning Thurek the nickname the “Father of Spam.” His email, however. was also credited with earning the company $13 million in sales, and thus, email marketing was born!

Image Source: Edwin, Medium


It would be years and many stepping stones before email marketing got to where it is now.

Building Blocks

Those timely, segmented, and colorful e-blasts had ancestors too. In 1988, Microsoft debuted MSMail, a predecessor to Outlook. This was an indication that email was on the rise and coming for everyone’s workplace. It was also the same year that “spam” was added to the Oxford Engilsh Dictionary.

In 1991, astronauts sent the first email from space!

“Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!”

Email in the Internet Age

Even more importantly, 1991 was the year the Internet was born, giving marketers an entirely new way to reach potential customers.

From there, it was off to the races; the late 90’s were a huge boom for email. The invention of HTML allowed the messages to become more aesthetically pleasing.

In 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act was signed into law, placing restrictions on how commercial emails could be sent and what information must be included. This brought some much-needed boundaries!

Email Marketing in 2022

Today, the world of email marketing is booming and is being utilized in increasingly clever, well-designed, and targeted ways. The impact is significant, even if it may be easy to dismiss– practically everyone has ignored promotional emails in their inbox from time to time. The market for global email marketing was estimated to be around $7.5 billion in 2020, and it is expected to rise to $17.9 Billion by 2027. (Statista Research Department) There are an estimated 4 billion daily email users worldwide, and marketers love email for nurturing leads. In fact, ⅘ marketers said they would give up social media before they give up email marketing! (Litmus 2020)

What started as one employee going rogue 50 years ago has grown into a multi-billion dollar tool businesses depend on for nurturing leads and increasing sales.

Is your business using email marketing to its fullest potential? We can help with that!

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The Lucrative History of Email Marketing

It started as one employee going rogue 50 years ago, but email marketing has grown into a multi-billion dollar tool businesses depend on for nurturing leads and increasing sales.

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