15 Dec 2011
We’re less than one year away from the 2012 U.S. elections. As candidates prepare to spend billions of dollars on various forms marketing, leveraging the internet is still one of the most cost effective and powerful tactics available.
While there are multiple facets of online marketing (email, search, display, social, mobile), the medium that still brings the best ROI is … drum roll … email. According to a recent study, email provides a $40.96 return on every dollar invested.
So, BombBomb decided to see which 2012 Presidential candidates are most effectively using email marketing to communicate their messages.
From October 18, 2011 to November 30, 2011 (44 days), we were subscribed to the email lists of President Barack Obama, as well as 10 Republicans vying for the GOP nomination. At the end of the period, we combed through each candidate’s emails, analyzing the following criteria:
- How many emails each 2012 Presidential candidate sent
- How often emails were sent by each 2012 Presidential candidate
- How many different senders (From names) were on each 2012 Presidential candidate’s account
- Word count of the emails sent by each 2012 Presidential candidate
- Whether each 2012 Presidential candidate provide a clear HTML “Donate” link in his or her emails
- How many of the 2012 Presidential candidate used images linked to videos elsewhere on the internet
- How many of the 2012 Presidential candidate included video directly inside email
- What kinds of subject lines each 2012 Presidential candidate used
- Quality of the 2012 Presidential candidates’ overall HTML email design
AN OVERVIEW OF OUR FINDINGS:
QUANTITY AND FREQUENCY OF EMAILS
Is it possible to communicate too often? We think so.
The sweet spot for campaign email communication seems to be every 2-3 days. This particular cadence is frequent enough for candidates to keep top of mind awareness (Herman Cain, John Huntsman, Barack Obama, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney), but not too much that it becomes a nuisance (Newt Gingrich), not too little to stop being top of mind (Gary Johnson, Buddy Roamer, Rick Santorum), and not so infrequent that we completely forgot we signed up for their emails (Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry).
TOTAL NUMBER OF SENDERS PER CANDIDATE
There were two curious observations about multiple senders on behalf of a candidate:
1) We expect it reduces open rates. Since many people don’t open emails from senders they don’t recognize, why would a candidate’s campaign team send an email from anyone except the candidate whose email list they joined?
2) If campaign team members must send emails in their own names, why wouldn’t they include something in the From line that clearly associates themselves with the candidate? Ex: “John Doe, Jackson 4 Prez Campaign”
Not one of Mitt Romney’s team members who sent emails on behalf of the campaign included anything besides his or her own name in the sender’s area. Ex: “Zach Moffat” as the From line.
Mitt’s team should take cues from the Obama campaign. Ex: “Jim Messina – BarackObama.com” as the From line. Jim Messina makes clear to email recipients that he is not Barack Obama, but that he’s working on behalf of the campaign. We think this is the right approach.
AVERAGE WORD COUNT
Bachmann, Paul, Gingrich, and Cain lead the way in email wordiness. Gingrich, for example, leads many of his competitors in email wordiness by a 2:1 margin.
Though there is no universal rule for how many words should be in an email, brevity and focus are generally better. In general, email length should be long enough to get a point across, but short enough to keep attention.
In this case, Gingrich likely loses many recipients’ attention halfway through his emails. This is especially important when considering people reading their email on a mobile device; because text is fit to a smaller screen, too many scrolls “below the fold” of the screen can make someone feel like they’re reading a book.
If a topic requires more drawn out communication, it would be best for a candidate to provide a link to their website so that if someone feels like they need more information they can easily access more reading.
200-350 words per email is a suggested maximum length for presidential candidates, especially with an email cadence of every 2-3 days.
IMAGES LINKED TO VIDEO ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNET
Why aren’t more candidates including video inside their emails!? Video is a perfect medium for political candidates. Adding it to email allows candidates to put their faces, voices, personalities, and messages directly into constituents’ inboxes.
Barack Obama and John Huntsman both used video in four of their emails. Newt Gingrich followed by them with two emails. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney with one. But in reality, none of the candidates are using video to it’s full potential. These candidates used images linked to an external site (YouTube or Vimeo), which is fine – but limited.
What would be even better is to use HTML5 (with Flash fallback) to include video inside of email, so recipients don’t have to leave the content or context of the email message itself. Leaving the content of an email increases the chances of someone getting distracted, thus minimizing the effectiveness of the email campaign. This also disconnects your video analytics from the email campaign used to deliver the video.
Needless to say, we think Presidential candidates – and political candidates at all levels – would benefit greatly from proper video email marketing.
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