Email — a workhorse tool you rarely think about but can't live without — has been recast by Google as cool, useful and, most importantly, as relevant as ever despite the dominance of social media. 

How? Email is the driver behind one of the new tools Google unveiled for Advertising Week, which runs through Friday in New York City. The new product is called Customer Match.

Using it, a company can target customers on a trifecta of important channels — Google Search, YouTube and Gmail, Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice president, Ads and Commerce, wrote in a blog post.

How It Works

A user uploads a list of email addresses, which are matched to signed-in users on Google "in a secure and privacy-safe way," he wrote.

"From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience," Ramaswamy continued. "Users can control the ads they see, including Customer Match ads, by opting out of personalized ads or by muting or blocking ads from individual advertisers through Google Ads Settings."

Ramaswamy gives the example of a travel brand that has a rewards program. When members of this loyalty program search for, as an example, "non-stop flights to New York" on, the marketer is be able to target him with relevant ads at the top of search results on any device.

Likewise when that person is watching a video on YouTube or going through his Gmail, "you can show ads that inspire them to plan their next trip," Ramaswamy wrote.

Another way Customer Match can be used is to generate new business by showing ads to prospective customers with similar interests as the rewards members as they are on YouTube and Gmail, he continued.

"With Customer Match, your brand is right there, with the right message, at the moment your customer is most receptive," Ramaswamy concluded.

Keeping Email in Marketing

We will leave aside the question of whether consumers want to be targeted with ads in their personal Gmail accounts or as they watch a video on YouTube.

Customer Match is a major endorsement of the email marketing platform, Bob Sybydlo, director of Intelligence Products at Portland, Ore.-based Yesmail, told CMSWire.

"Customer Match brings a new dimension to it," he said. "Three new dimensions actually," he said, referring to the search, YouTube and Gmail connectivity.

For email marketing, the product will highlight and enhance the value of a solid, current — and above all clean — email marketing list, he said.

"A lot of companies don't keep on top of their email marketing lists but that could change with Customer Match," Sybydlo said.

As for Google, Customer Match will clearly ratcheted up its targeting bona fides, even if only slightly, as it continues to battle Facebook in this area, he said.

Now here's what it won't do: diminish social media's role in online ad targeting.  "Social media is just too important for consumers, and brands too." But if he had to pick one, Sybydlo admits, he would opt for email as the most durable channel through which to reach customers.

Title image by Jonas Vincent.