Domain Shame: Your email branding
A prominent journalist with whom I occasionally correspond recently surprised me. His e-mail address changed.
Since I met him in 2008, I had corresponded with the 50-something journalist at LASTNAME@aol.com. Earlier this year, I got an email from him at a new address: LASTNAME@gmail.com.
I asked him why he made the change. It was not Gmail’s superior storage system or chat features. He responded, “My nephew told me AOL was rotten for my image: made me look like an old fart. That’s all it took.”
It was a good change for another reason — he’ll look better to potential creditors.
Credit Karma has done a study of credit scores and email addresses and discovered that gmail users have the best credit while yahoo users have the worst credit. AOL users came in second to last on the credit score matrix, with an average score of 660. (Hattip: Mashable)
What else does your email address say about you?
When I first started writing for Above The Law, I used a hotmail address to correspond with readers. (I preferred to reserve my primary account — a gmail account — for personal correspondence.) In response to my first post sharing my hotmail address, one reader commented:
So far so good, but really, she still uses Hotmail?
Gmail is hot. Hotmail is — ironically given its name — not. Anecdotally, Yahoo, Comcast, Bellsouth, and AOL also fall into the “not hot” category. You’re prejudged if your e-mail lands in someone’s box with one of those domain names. Don Fernandez spotted this email prejudice way back in 2005, calling it “domain shame.”
Addresses originating from Hotmail, Yahoo and America Online are often painting a picture of the user.
Cheap, naive, unsophisticated, amateurish, low-rent. Or perhaps the most dreaded label of all – spammer.
Granted, a large chunk of the almost 123 million Americans zapping e-mails daily might care less about the label on their correspondence. But others are casting a judgmental eye.
“When I see a Yahoo or Hotmail domain, I think not only cheap, but also disposable and possibly porno, because of the anonymity of those domains,” Elizabeth McDaniel said. “And I think ‘dumbo’ when I see someone nowadays with an AOL account.”
Having worked with people abroad, I can say anecdotally that Yahoo tends to be the email provider of choice for non-Americans; it’s especially popular in Africa. Maybe some of our prejudice against Yahoo is of the xenophobic variety.
Back in 2005, Fernandez wrote that people pooh-poohed free accounts like those offered by Hotmail and Yahoo, but that Gmail remained cool because of its exclusivity — you had to receive an invitation from an existing user to sign up.
That’s not the case anymore but Gmail still remains associated with the tech-savvy set. I think this is due in part to Google’s overall coolness.
But where does cool come from? BrandTags is a site that allows people to play word association with brand logos. According to the site, “the basic idea… is that a brand exists entirely in people’s heads. Therefore, a brand is whatever they say it is.” Check out user impressions for Google (awesome, cool, fun, fast, though also evil) versus Yahoo! (annoying, boring, crap, dead, lame, old, and outdated.) AOL fares similarly.
But even if you’re still rocking an @aol.com or @yahoo.com email address, I’ll still be your friend. Though I might not loan you money.