State of the GOP Candidates' Email Campaigns

How do the GOP candidates’ email programs compare with classic B2B and B2C email marketing?

I've been studying the email habits of the Republican candidates for president as they campaign for votes and money on the road to the Republican National Convention in August, and overall they are doing reasonably well.

Here are some specifics:

Opt-in program. Savvy email marketers know that a good opt-in experience starts the email relationship off right. I'm a big fan of the welcome message, but only the Michele Bachmann campaign sent one, and she dropped out of the race just as I was beginning my study. Interestingly, two of the candidates -- Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich -- used a double opt-in approach.

Program emails began arriving one to five days after opt-in, although my first Ron Paul broadcast email came 33 days later. Only the Bachmann campaign directed new subscribers into a preference center right after opt-in.

Design/rendering. The Mitt Romney campaign sends sleek, uncluttered messages, while the Paul campaign's text-intensive emails look and read like long-form sales letters.



I didn't encounter any problems viewing key content on different platforms (PC, tablet or smartphone) or with images disabled, although the big red "Donate" button every campaign uses doesn't show up without enabling images. The campaigns should use a bulletproof button that renders even with images disabled.

Beyond the use of “Donate” buttons, none of the emails were optimized for touch screens.

Inbox presence. All the campaigns used a variety of “from” names, sometimes the candidate’s name but most often from someone you’ve never heard of, such as a campaign manager.

Many of the candidates frequently use short, cryptic subject lines, such as “Pathetic,” “Plus One,” “Surprised,” “Resonating,” "Prove it," and "Expectations."

Several of the campaigns have also used (though not recently) what I contend are questionable “gimmicks” to grab the reader’s attention, including “re:” and “Fw:” or “Fwd:” and the use of all lower-case words.

Content/Call to Action (CTA)

If "Buy Now" is the most common B2C call to action, "Donate now" is the candidates’ equivalent. However, candidates use creative ways to wrap fresh content around the same CTA.

The Rick Santorum campaign uses current events and storytelling to underscore each fund appeal. This example came within hours of the first polls closing on the 10-state-primary Super Tuesday election this week:

"I just finished speaking here in Steubenville and wanted to send this email to you because you are such a critical part of our campaign. ...

"While we wait for the vote to come in I need you to help our campaign with an immediate donation of $10, $25, $50, $100 or more to help us build on our momentum and hit the ground running tomorrow morning." (Underscored words linked to a website donation form.)

Segmentation/Targeting. Only the Romney and Paul campaigns, which require ZIP codes at opt-in, use that data for basic geo-targeting.

Romney sent California subscribers an email asking them to volunteer at the nearby Nevada Caucus in February. Paul's campaign did a deeper data dive by segmenting by ZIP code and personalizing emails by subscriber name and location: "<Name>, I need the help of <number> Patriots in <city>".

However, no one collects enough data, through preference centers, forms or surveys, to deploy more sophisticated programs.

Social media integration. Almost every B2C email I see, and a growing number of B2B emails, include icons to promote sharing to social networks, invitations to connect via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, etc.

While the Santorum campaign offers Facebook Connect to opt in for emails, only the Romney and Santorum campaigns promote their social networks in their emails. However, neither one uses social sharing in email.

Campaign Snapshots

What's unique about the email practices of the four remaining candidates?

1. Romney: most professional. Romney emails are the most polished and sophisticated, with a clean design, short text and creative calls to action (buy campaign swag, win a meeting with Mitt, etc.). The only thing missing is Romney's own face and voice, because most messages come from staffers.

2. Ron Paul: most loquacious. Paul's emails are, on average, several hundred words longer than his rivals'. He also uses first-name personalization and does some subject-line testing.

3. Rick Santorum: most current. Santorum's campaign capitalizes on current events most often and frequently incorporates video (screenshot with link to Website), either to promote the candidate or attack his rivals.

4. Newt Gingrich: most invisible. Has Gingrich's campaign abandoned email? I've received no Gingrich campaign emails since Jan. 16 at any of the email addresses used for this study.

Have you subscribed to any of the candidate’s emails? Please share your own thoughts on how they compare to other email marketing programs.





1 comment about "State of the GOP Candidates' Email Campaigns".
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  1. John Hubbard from Media buyer Division of Accounting & Pension ServicesLLC , March 8, 2012 at 12:59 p.m.

    I received an email from NEWT 2012 yesterday. Most of the text was a letter from Herman Cain Text Below. With Newt 2012 address on the bottom and and a donate button.

    Dear Friend,

    This is Herman Cain and I am writing to tell you that my good friend Newt Gingrich is back! So many times in this presidential campaign, the elites in the liberal media and the establishment have written off Newt Gingrich. But thank to support of conservatives like you, Newt won an impressive victory last night. He's got the momentum right now. Now Newt needs our help to keep it rolling. Will you join us?

    Newt's success last night confirms what I have been saying for the last year: "We the people" want real change.

    I am supporting Newt Gingrich because he supports the values and ideals of the 9-9-9 plan. 9-9-9 is simple, it's easy, and everyone can understand it. People are tired of the mess that we have in Washington. The politicians in D.C. may understand this, but as I've said, before, "When we make them feel the heat, they will see the light." Newt Gingrich doesn't need to feel the heat, he ALREADY sees the light! That’s why I am backing Newt and I hope that you will too. Donate today in support of bold solutions:

    So what happens now? The press would like Republicans to get it over with and just nominate a candidate already so that they can start tearing him down. The establishment would like conservatives to just sit down and be quiet. They think we’ve had our fun, but now it’s time to get out of the way and let them decide for us who our nominee should be.

    But I believe that if we are going to defeat President Obama in the fall, we need a proud, Reagan conservative with real solutions. Newt has already proposed a plan to lower gas prices. This is achievable if we unleash the power of the American people and elect a candidate who will embrace big ideas like $2.50 gasoline, American energy independence, and dramatic economic growth.

    Newt is the candidate who can stand on a stage with President Obama and articulate conservative principles.

    No matter what the media and the establishment tell you the rest of this week, just remember, "We the People" are going to determine our Republican nominee. Don't let anyone tell you that your vote doesn't matter, or that this race is over. It's not over - not by a long shot. That’s why I hope you'll join me and support Newt Gingrich with the maximum donation you can give him, so that we can send a real conservative to the White House!

    Thank you again for your support.


    Herman Cain

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