Sometimes, a big shock causes us to change behavior.
In the days after September 11, many e-commerce brands instituted a Red Cross landing page, asking for donations. Brands suspended commerce in favor of a greater cause. E-mail marketing campaigns advertised Red Cross donation opportunities.
Funny, you don't read a single thing from the e-commerce and e-mail best practice community about Red Cross landing pages, or about giving, do you? And you didn't read anything about it prior to September 11, 2001 --- you would have been considered a moron to suggest anything so odd as the diversion of potential e-commerce sales to the concept of giving --- that's like encouraging shopping cart abandonment!
It took a few folks with a unique combination of sensitivity and horse sense to understand that e-commerce would not be compromised and doing good could be promoted, given the circumstances of September 11. Then the masses followed, and for a brief moment in time, you had a new best practice.
There are a lot of things that were surreal about that day. I drove to work at 6:30am and found that my local radio station was simulcasting radio from NYC, that was odd. I couldn't get into any media websites from work that day. We had employees who were stranded in NYC. Military ships patrolled Puget Sound. Co-workers missed meetings, crying, worried about loved ones who were in New York, or who were currently on an airplane. We let employees leave the office at about 1:00pm.
It was just as surreal to see e-commerce suspended in favor of a new best practice called "giving", followed by the anthrax scare. Then it was the holiday season, and we stepped back into the world of e-commerce, trying to protect annual profits, reverting back to what we used to do.
For a brief moment in time, e-commerce changed, best practices changed. I think everybody in America changed after that day. In some ways, it is a shame that the changes in e-commerce were not permanent.