Breaking the Rules: Oops or Intentional?

My friend Jason Keath forwarded me this email from President Obama earlier today:

Barak Obama Email Missing Subject Line

Notice anything “interesting” about it?

Two things jump out at me right away.

  1. It’s missing a subject line.
  2. It’s mostly text, with a single call to action (link to donate) that’s the full URL.

My immediate reply to Jason was, “Oops. Looks like they forgot to include the subject line.” Then Jason fired this back to me:

I seriously doubt it was a mistake. Their email strategy is given a lot of attention to detail. I think it is an attempt to make it feel personal. Normal people send emails without subject lines sometimes. Who knows, that was my instinct. It was different. Different gets opens.

Which got me thinking…maybe Jason is right. It got him to open, right? As I dig deeper into the idea of “breaking the rules” of email marketing, Jason’s comments really hit home. “It was different. Different gets opens.”

In 2008, I met the guy in charge of email marketing and social media strategy for the Obama campaign. This was nearly 4 years ago, so I can’t recall the full conversation. However, I do remember him making the point that their email strategy was very deliberate, very planned. Along with social media, they took email marketing very seriously as it generated a ton of campaign contributions.

Assuming that’s still the case in 2012 – which I have no reason to believe it’s not – than maybe Jason was right. Maybe this was not a mistake. Maybe it was an attempt to “make it feel personal” or to “be different.” On top of that, the email was short, to the point, and had a single call to action – the full URL of the link to donate. Instead of a fancy HTML email with a picture of President Obama or the White House; instead of a big “Donate Now” button, Team Obama sent a mostly text email. A no subject line, mostly-text email … from the President of the United States. Certainly their team is not short of resources, right?

Of course, this is all just speculation. If anyone knows the folks in charge of the President’s email marketing campaigns, please let me know. I’d love to learn how effective this email was – opens, clicks, donation dollars, etc. Or, maybe it was a mistake and an “oopsy” apology email will be coming soon.

One thing I was a bit surprised (disappointed?) in was they did not include any social sharing icons. To me, this type of email is very sharable. Chances are if you are an Obama fan, many of your friends on Facebook are. It’s also possible some of your Twitter or Google+ followers support Obama and would donate. I’m curious why they did not include those social sharing icons. Intentional?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’d also love to hear from Team Obama. Can anyone connect me?

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

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15 comments
djwaldow
djwaldow

@emmaemail Thanks for the tweet! I REALLY which someone from the @BarackObama team would weigh in on that. Super curious. Right?

DrKathrynPrimm
DrKathrynPrimm

@djwaldow I think it looks a little "dinky", but that's just me. I don't tend to open emails with no subject.

Ceamick
Ceamick

Great post. Hope you update if you get in touch with those who run his campaigns. They did a bang up job back in 2008, especially since mass emailing seemed new on the political scene.  I've watched their email strategy closely for four years both as a marketer and a consumer/supporter. But I get the feeling that it's become too contrived. (No matter how much you contrive to make something personal, it's still contrived.) I'd love to know what their response rate looks like overtime.   On a different track - they did something cool with the Mega Millions talk. The email on March 31 had the subject line "Jackpot" and the first line was "Yeah, we didn't either." It could have been a GREAT message, and it's the first one that's gotten my attention as a donator in a long time. But they couldn't include the word "win" in that first sentence? I loved it because they relied on the context of the weekend for the message to make sense. Everyone knew the jackpot was huge... they didn't have to say "Mega Millions" in the email for the audience to know what they meant.   I also love that they send personal messages from Michelle. I rarely actual open and read them, but reading just the subject line makes me feel more connected. Those emails do a lot more for encouraging me to donate than the exact requests to donate (although you wouldn't know it by my click through behavior).

ibexgirl
ibexgirl

Maybe the lack of sharing icons is b/c they want it to feel personal and not be shared as a mass fundraising attempt. Agreed that they're probably missing out - but seems like it would feel much less personal if they went through all trouble to have it appear like a personal email and then at the bottom insinuate that you should share it with all your networks but including those sharing icons.

djwaldow
djwaldow

@LucyAHudson Appreciate your kind words, Lucy!

PhilipRavelston
PhilipRavelston

I completely buy the idea that the lack of subject was intentional. I suspect a lot of people are sick of getting fundraising emails, and the lack of a subject line may lead some to think, "This is different- I'll open it."

 

Jason's theory could explain the lack of social sharing icons- a quick, personal note from someone you're a first-name basis with wouldn't include a SHARE THIS ON TWITTER link, would it?

djwaldow
djwaldow

@AaronMarshall @argylesocial I thought so. So ... what do you all think? Intentional or oopsie? (or oopsy?)

djwaldow
djwaldow

@DrKathrynPrimm Nor do I. That's why I was wondering if it was intentional or an "oopsy." What do you think? Love to hear from WH team!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @Ceamick Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments! I also hope someone replies with some more data, but I'm not holding my breath. Great example of a well-timed email on 3/31 too. Love it.

 

As far as their messaging becoming more "contrived", I think it's a fine line. Maybe this is why this particular email was more "personal?"

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @ibexgirl Excellent point on the social sharing. However, if they had said something like, "If you plan on donating and think a friend could also help out, consider sharing this email on your social networks." ... that may have worked. Just a thought!

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @PhilipRavelston Excellent points, especially on the lack of social sharing options. Could be, but still seems like a missed opportunity to me.

AaronMarshall
AaronMarshall

@djwaldow @argylesocial I doubt that is was an oopsie. Maybe they were testing extremes?

DrKathrynPrimm
DrKathrynPrimm

@djwaldow I think "oopsy". I am probably not the only one to think it is dinky. The last thing government needs now is a dinky image.

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  1. [...] Well, so this is the interesting. So, Jason Keath from Social Fresh sent me this email and I blogged about it. I asked the question in there – the title was kind of breaking the rules again, and I asked [...]

  2. [...] Well, so this is the interesting. So, Jason Keath from Social Fresh sent me this email and I blogged about it. I asked the question in there – the title was kind of breaking the rules again, and I asked [...]