Obama Emails Way To White House

Aaron Smith from Email Insider wrote often during the campaign about President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign and its highly effective use of new media and direct marketing tactics to tap into and engage with a wide base of supporters. Many say this strategy gave Democrats the crucial edge needed to win this year’s election. So Aaron summed it up with this interesting look.

It wasn’t just Obama’s presidential campaign that used email effectively this year; it was the Democratic National Committee program as a whole. They followed email marketing best practices to engage and inform their subscribers, as well as solicit donations. I’m not going to go so far as to say the DNC’s email program was the reason Democrats won the White House, but I do think email played a more important role than ever before in this election.

Lessons we can all take away from the DNC’s email program from the past year:

Be relevant. I know regular readers of the Email Insider are probably tired of reading the words “be” and “relevant” next to each other. However, it’s no coincidence fellow Email Insider writers and industry colleagues so frequently tout the importance of sending relevant emails. In a nutshell, being relevant means sending messages that appeal to the interests of your recipients. A message that isn’t relevant isn’t likely to get much attention.

This year’s election was certainly a relevant topic for just about anyone living in the United States, so it wasn’t exactly a stretch for the DNC emails to be relevant (indeed many online retailers also included plenty of election-themed messaging throughout the final months of the election). But they took their program many steps further by segmenting and sending targeted messages based on geography and past behavior.

Be engaging. The DNC kept a constant barrage of emails coming during the campaign, keeping them engaging by using such tactics as creative — often dramatic — subject lines and timely alerts. Most interestingly, they used different friendly “from” lines, coming from various Democratic celebrities like “Hillary Clinton” or “Michelle Obama.”

Be clear. A good call-to-action should always let recipients know what steps they should take and where a link will take them if they click on it. The majority of emails from the DNC included prominent buttons with bold text reading “Please Donate,” in addition to well-articulated text links that included strong emotional appeals combined with clear steps to take action. Here’s a great example of a primary call-to-action link from one of the emails I received in October: “Take a minute to consider what’s at stake, then please make a donation of $5 or more today.”

Be strategic. At the end of the day, successful execution of any email program starts with long-term strategy and planning. It’s obvious a lot of thought went into the DNC’s email program. Without laying the groundwork of segmentation, messaging, list-building, frequency and contingency planning, they wouldn’t have been able to effectively execute and adapt to the rapidly shifting political landscape throughout the long campaign.

Whether you’re a bleeding-heart liberal or dyed-in-the-wool conservative, you can still agree, I think, that the DNC developed and ran a great email program this past election cycle. Regardless of our personal political leanings, we can all study and learn from their campaign and put some of their ideas to work in our own email programs.


  1. wben
    November 20, 2008

    I think another lesson learned especially in Obama’s case was the presentation of the entire campaign. Designed beautifully, his campaign’s look was very consistent throughout all media, particularly online.

  2. marathonman
    November 21, 2008

    Emerging media is going to play a large part in this new administration, and whether you voted for Obama or not, I think that is a good thing.

  3. Fire & Ice
    November 26, 2008

    Media does indeed play a key roll but it requires much much more. You make it seem like it is easy.

  4. November 26, 2008

    Fire & Ice,
    Sorry for making it seem “easy”, but the process really is. However, creating the strategy and the content takes a great amount of effort. One good thing though is that it is really fun to do.

  5. EStreet
    November 26, 2008

    Online media played a vital role during the campaign. This we know. But, it’s always good to learn the reasons it was successful or not like your article points out.

    During President Bush’s last State of the Union address, Obama was using YouTube to upload video of the democratic presidential candidate’s comments. According to Newsweek, YouTube was the “go-to” portal for all political clips during the election. Very strategic move Obama.

  6. purplepairs
    December 8, 2008

    I think it was so smart for Obama’s campaign to use the internet so much, and in so many ways (like EStreet said on YouTube…awesome!). I mean it is pretty foolish not to, considering it is such a means that so many people get some, or all, of their information. Such as with emailing, in many cases people are signing up to receive specific information. Why wouldn’t they want to freely had out this information to willing hands. I am very interested to see how the next round of elections go. Will the republicans try to catch up and do the same (I would think so). And with everything constantly changing and evolving who knows what the next round will be. All I know is it has to be internet based!

  7. November 23, 2009

    Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.