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Apr 12

Email Marketing Campaigns of 2012 US Presidential Candidates – Winter Update


Back in December we published some information collected over 44 days on how 2012 United States presidential candidates were using email marketing.  We identified which candidates were using email effectively and observed that some were completely absent in the email channel.



We decided to take another 44-day sample of those who were still in the running.  We remained on each candidate’s email list, then organized basic frequencies and other measures.  In this post, we look at the differences between last fall (Oct 18-Nov 30) and this winter (Jan 1-Feb 14) across these criteria:


  • Total emails sent
  • Email sending frequency (days between sends)
  • Number of different senders in the “From” lines
  • Average word count per email


A few notes off the top:


1 Each campaign is funded, staffed, and organized at different levels, which affects the level of sophistication in their email marketing strategy and execution.


2 Some sign-up forms asked for more segmenting data (like state) than others, so we can’t tell how many emails people in other states may have received.  The emails we received were either unsegmented by geography or targeted to Coloradans.


3 We did not cross-reference these basic data against the main story lines in the campaign with much rigor.  There are many factors that might affect our observations. We welcome your comments and insights about factors that might influence the measures found in this post.  Please leave a comment at the close.


Emails Sent and Email Frequency


Emails Sent This Winter by 2012 US Presidential Candidates Barack Obama Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich Rick Santorum Ron Paul


The Obama and Romney campaigns, both extremely well funded and organized, were very consistent last fall to this winter.  They’re very methodical and intentional in their approach.


Tip: Consistency, though not to the point of complete predictability, is a positive attribute of an email campaign.


Significant increases are seen in the Paul and Santorum efforts.  The former raised $4.5M in January, much of it online, and the latter started quietly then rocketed his campaign forward with the win in Iowa on January 3, 2012.  These facts, in part, likely explain the increases.


Tip: If you have a clear purpose for sending additional emails that are relevant to individuals, segments, or entire lists, it’s OK to send more often than usual.


The Gingrich campaign would likely have continued to lead the way in total sends, but we stopped receiving email completely on January 26, mid-way through our sample period.  Newt’s campaign was sending up to 3 emails per day leading into his victory in South Carolina.  Considering that the Colorado caucus was held on February 7, we did not expect the drop off shortly after the SC win.


Tip: At least a minimum presence is required to stay top of mind.


Emails Sent This Winter by 2012 US Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich


Because the time period is fixed again at 44 days, the email sends are directly related to sending frequency.  It’s simply a division of total emails by number of days in the period.  Here, we display it in terms of days between sends.


Email Sending Frequency Winter 2012 and Fall 2011 by 2012 US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich Rick Santorum Ron Paul


As with the observations above, we see a sharp increase in frequency for Santorum and Paul, as well as steady frequency from Obama and Romney.  That the most frequent senders (every 1.3 days) are sending twice as frequently as the leading candidates (every 2.4-3 days) should be of concern.


Tip: As with any other marketing channel, you can send too much email.  Keep an eye on your open rates, link clicks, and video views over time.  If you see any or all of these falling off, especially open rates, consider the frequency of your sending and whether you might benefit from scaling it back a bit.


Average Word Count Per Email

Email Word Count in Winter 2012 and Fall 2011 by 2012 US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich Rick Santorum Ron Paul


There were few changes in average word count from the 44 days we tracked Fall 2011 to the 44 days we tracked in Winter 2012.  For all but one candidate, word count is down slightly.  The huge spike for Gary Johnson is due to his including entire news articles inside the body of the email.


Tip: Imagine receiving an 1,100 word email on your mobile device!  We advocate for shorter, simpler messages complemented by links out to web stories and blog posts.


Number of Senders in the “From” Lines


Email Senders by Campaign in Winter 2012 and Fall 2011 by 2012 US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Mitt Romney Newt Gingrich Rick Santorum Ron Paul


Last fall, we observed how many different people were in the “From” line of campaign emails upon arrival. Here, we saw few changes, except for the Rick Santorum campaign. Most emails came from the candidate himself, something for which we advocated in our last look at presidential email campaigns.


Where multiple senders are used, we also recommend including a reference to the candidate (for example: “John Doe –”).  Logic suggests that connection is necessary to sustain high open rates.  Recipients need to know from whom the email is coming.  They know the candidate, not a campaign manager.


Tip: Include the aspects most recognizable to your recipients to assure enough familiarity to get your emails opened.


Additional Takeaways


This updated look at email marketing campaigns of the 2012 US presidential candidates is generally consistent with our past observations overall.  In frequency, word count, and other aspects of your emails, consistency is good, as is setting clear expectations for your email recipients and honoring them.


The numbers here reflect the surge by Santorum and the precision of the Obama and Romney campaigns. We’ll take a similar look at the remaining candidates’ email campaigns look over a longer period of time this summer and fall.  We’d expect to see only subtle differences between Obama and Romney.


We continue to see a failure to capitalize on video email marketing.  Just as it’s powerful for real estate brokers and agents, video email seems like a natural and obvious fit for political candidates of all kinds.  They’re comfortable speaking on camera and they’re working for emotional connection and constituent loyalty.


Follow Up: We run through our counts of each candidate’s most commonly used words in their emails.  Hint: it’s about calls to action.

View The Follow Up Post: Most Frequently Used Words in Emails from 2012 US Presidential Candidates


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