Email marketing works on the principal that your inbox is like your house and that marketing emails are like salesmen. It's your house, your rules. You alone decide which salesmen have permission to enter, which ones should stay outside, and which should never even try to grace your doorstep again.
In the last two months, Google has trampled on the rulebook with the introduction of its Promotions tab in Gmail and the addition of email-style advertising. In effect, Google is taking back the house. And for the right price it can hand the keys to anyone so they can come in and start selling to you without your permission.
A new webmail aesthetic means a new kind of experience
The war for the ad dollar has heightened over the past few years: With more channels than ever, marketers have had the opportunity to spread their ad dollar across multiple new areas, including a focus on social media. Accordingly, Google's core revenue generator, search, has come under major threat.
As part of its retaliation, Google has deviously—and, admittedly, ingeniously—changed its Gmail advertising strategy, now making advertising a natural part of the classic inbox.
By implementing several new "tabs" as part of Gmail design, including a Promotions tab that now siphons advertisements and commercial interests, it has changed the language of not only what it means to advertise via email but also how consumers then receive direct advertisements.
It's important to keep in mind that Google has basically introduced "emails" that circumvent spam laws.
Yes, you may argue that it's "advertising" and these "ads" don't fall under email spam laws, but let's be realistic: They are "sent" to your email address, they are delivered to your inbox, they have a sender field and a subject line, they are coded in HTML, and they can be saved and forwarded. That's the very definition of an email. However, they're also spam by many people's definition: They're unsolicited, and opting out of them is complicated and confusing.