Unpresidented Email Marketing: Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign

By 4 March 2013 Articles

President Barack Obama is known as one of the most digitally involved politicians. He embraced Social Media and Email Marketing unlike any others before him.

While he and (counterpart) Romney approximately sent the same amount of emails the Presidents’ team really took their email marketing to the next level.

1. Use of personalized Landing pages

One of the most interesting strategies was the use of personalized landing pages. You might have heard of the “Ask Me Anything” post on Reddit.com, President Obama took a half hour to answer questions from Reddit. A link to the following landings page was used to introduce the president and prove it was really him.

Even though it is the President of the United States, this is still a fairly simple landing page. The power of this page is in the personalization (‘REDDITORS for…’) that led to phenomenal conversion rates.

The marketing team very obviously established the “line of sight” on this page. Obama is looking directly at the registration form. It has been proven that one tends to follow glances and arrows so this is a very strong visual for this landing page.

2. Subject Lines that make you want to click

Email marketers know that subject lines can have a dramatic effect on the open rate. Catchy subject lines (custom fitted for your audience) are vital to the success of your campaign.

The picture below made by NYMag gives an overview of subject lines that the Obama campaign used during the last few months.

Some of our favourites:
– My best friend
– Are you in?
– Meet me for dinner

All very personal and they are therefore highly dependent on the “information gap theory of curiosity” by George Loewenstein.

But these types of subject lines can go the other way. President Obama can get away with these subject lines, because it is him and we know exactly who he is (trust). Even if you have good open rates (read: loyal followers), you will probably not get away with these kinds of subject lines. But it’s ok, the lesson here is to use subject lines that work for your readers and always test for improvements.

3. Brilliant Opt-in Forms

One thing that you notice about the website of Barack Obama is that is all about collecting more email addresses. During the elections the next splash page popped-up for all new visitors.

Many people have a strong opinion about pop-up subsciption screens and splash pages, but the numbers tell the whole story. According to research, pop-up opt-in forms are not so bad and contribute greatly to the number of new email subscriptions (read the article here).

On Obama’s website there are several opt-in forms to encourage you to register for his email list. They sit above the “fold” of the website and in the side menu of content pages.

The subscription forms are changed based on the State where people live. “How personal do you want it?” The form also encourages doing something. The use of the texts’ Take Action ‘ and ‘I’m in!’ are highly contagious.

4. Good Landing Pages

Email marketers know that proper follow-up page is crucial for optimizing new mail subscriptions. But sending your subscribers to your donation to (or sales) page right after they have signed up can be considered very aggressive. During the American presidential campaign, you can expect that sooner or later you will be asked to make a donation. The team of Barack Obama used the following page to ask for those donations.

Since people already took a small step by signing up for the mailing list, it is actually good to ask for a subsequent action. It is a classic example of the-foot-in-the-door technique. The first small favour is a great first step to move people towards a larger request.

5. Split Test your important pages

With the large amount of traffic BarackObama.com receives, even the smallest improvements can lead to hundreds of thousands of new email addresses. It is not surprising that each signup form was tested in many ways: think about tests with text, colours and buttons.

Here are two examples of pages that were tested, again using the “line of sight”.


It is very important to know how to test and that that split testing can certainly help. This applies not only to pages, but even more for smart email campaigns split testing; the smallest changes can lead to major increases in results.

Email marketing has certainly contributed to the fact that we can speak of President Obama for the next four years. Even people who want to unsubscribe are being served. The online activities don’t’ seem to stop either. Changes on BarackObama.com are still taking place on a regular basis. Not surprising because the results were phenomenal.

Dennis Cup

Dennis Cup

Author

After an education in Media & Entertainment, Dennis has been involved in the creation of several online media, copywriting and marketing projects. He has been using email marketing since 2004 and immersed himself more into this since 2011. In 2012 he joined the Klantenbinder family.  Here he can fully express his skills and insights in the field of email marketing. As an email marketer, he focuses mainly on creativity and the feeling that an email must bring. "Dull newsletters are no longer of this time, it's about cool mailings with deeper content, look and feel."