Campaign Digital Marketing, Is Less Is More or Is More More?


"Savvy digital consumer marketing has become a big part of political campaigns," declared an October report from Iterable, an automated-marketing services firm specializing in A/B testing and data analytics. The report is focused on the 2016 US presidential campaigns' digital user engagement.

Early in the campaign, Iterable conducted ongoing analysis in the digital user engagement of several 2016 presidential campaigns, focusing especially on those of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. On the same single day in September, Iterable signed up to be on the email list for multiple presidential campaigns. They proceeded to browse the candidates' campaign sites, made a $5 donation to each campaign eight days after signing up, and analyzed all messages they received from the campaigns and related entities.

"[B]oth Hillary and Trump sent us a “welcome” email message right away," reports Iterable.

Then, things got interesting.

Over the course of the first three weeks, the Trump campaign sent a total of four emails; one email was transactional in nature, thanking Iterable for its $5 donation on Day 8.

Clinton's campaign, however, was running a much different email game. Over the course of the first 21 days post-signup, Iterable received 24 emails from the Clinton campaign, averaging more than one per day.

The Clinton's welcome series consisted of three emails, Iterable reports. "[T]he first was a pure welcome, the second was a call to donate $1, and the third was a list of things a supporter can do. This is a decent start to get people warmed up and informed."

Successive Clinton campaign emails highlighted "social media-like feed of videos [and] news," responded to current events (including a Republican debate and Clinton's ongoing email scandal), and outlined various promotions to encourage more donations.

The one email the Clinton campaign did not send Iterable, however, was a thank you for the firm's $5 donation.

"After our donation, no subsequent email acknowledged it or had customized content based on our status," indicates Iterable. "We believe this is a big missed opportunity to segment the audience and drive deeper engagement and drive higher donations."

Conversely, David Rangel, Iterable's Vice President of Marketing, told All Analytics that the Trump campaign is "one of the worst" in terms of digital user engagement.

"There wasn't much for us to do," laments Iterable about the Trump campaign's user engagement.

Nonetheless, Trump's campaign is doing one thing much better than Clinton's with user engagement: consistency. Iterable reports that all Trump campaign emails come from "Donald Trump" or "Donald J. Trump," compared to 10 different "From:" names in more than 30 initial emails over 22 days from the Clinton campaign.

"The email amount is almost overwhelming," notes Iterable. "Different senders [could] make it seem like you are involved in conversations with many people, but this could become confusing."

In short, Iterable lauds the Clinton campaign's "conversational" tone and "impressive…level of potential engagement" (emphasis added), but says that it is possibly "too…raw [and uses] not enough segmentation and customized engagement."

The firm points out that the Bernie Sanders campaign's user-engagement strategy and messaging is similar to that of Clinton's, although the former sends fewer emails. Meanwhile, Rangel has said that the Trump campaign has increased email frequency since September to almost two emails per week -– still a far cry behind Clinton.

Based on Iterable's report and some of Sanders' success, could it be that less is more with digital engagement, especially when that engagement is not tempered with data-driven segmentation.

Joe Stanganelli, Attorney & Marketer

Joe Stanganelli is founder and principal of Beacon Hill Law, a Boston-based general practice law firm.  His expertise on legal topics has been sought for several major publications, including U.S. News and World Report and Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine. 

Joe is also a communications consultant.  He has been working with social media for many years -- even in the days of local BBSs (one of which he served as Co-System Operator for), well before the term "social media" was invented.

From 2003 to 2005, Joe ran Grandpa George Productions, a New England entertainment and media production company. He has also worked as a professional actor, director, and producer.  Additionally, Joe is a produced playwright.

When he's not lawyering, marketing, or social-media-ing, Joe writes scripts, songs, and stories.

He also finds time to lose at bridge a couple of times a month.

Follow Joe on Twitter: @JoeStanganelli

Also, check out his blog .

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Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/28/2016 10:24:16 PM
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Ariella the sad thing is there is still resistance to hiring research people and email experts. That is the reason we still tend to see so many missteps for corporations and candidates . Someday they will realize the error of their ways and the impacts to the marketplace .

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 11:50:00 PM
NO RATINGS

@Maryam well,  that's my reaction. But you'd think they'd do some market research before just dumping that much money into something that would appear to be obviously ineffective.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 11:32:46 PM
NO RATINGS

Ariella it is still shocking that campaigns are using these types of tactics today.Their spend is alienating more voters than converting them.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 5:11:26 PM
NO RATINGS

@Terry such a waste of money, don't you think? It could be put to so many better uses. 

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 2:41:21 PM
NO RATINGS

Wow, Ariella... why am I not surprised at some of these acts of tele-desperation? After Obama's alleged digital campaign revolution in '08, I'm now getting the sense that politicos will try anything to see if it sticks with voters. Before the campaign was abandoned, Jeb Bush's campaign manager blew through $100 million to try to persuade and influence voters to his messaging and persona. And look how that turned out.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 9:43:21 AM
NO RATINGS

@Maryam I agree. What's even worse, though, is the failure to respect the unsubscribe requests I put in. I've done if for some organizations 3 times, and I'm still getting their emails several times a week! As annoying as that is, though, nothing is as bad as robocalls. If any politician thinks I'll vote for him because his wife recorded a message on a robocall, he's an utter fool. 

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/23/2016 9:30:34 AM
NO RATINGS

Yes, that a good observation about courtesy. It may be we don't know the goal of each campaign's email efforts. It may be getting money, it may be just to be "friendly" and keep the brand in the mind's eye. It's hard to say which is most successful not knowing just what the eventual goal is for the candidate's team.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/21/2016 4:53:26 PM
NO RATINGS

Terry it is sad when we see companies just using their email for spam.Engagement is harder to build than annoyance but it will pay greater dividends long term.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/19/2016 12:23:26 PM
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An epidemic problem with most email lists is list fatigue. Companies beat the life out of these expensively acquired emails all too often, and turn themselves into spammers. But I guess like spammers, they only need 0.05% to reply for the effort to pay off.

Re: The fix is so easy, it's ridiculous that the problem exists at all
  • 3/18/2016 11:39:43 AM
NO RATINGS

You raise a key aspect about email that is missing - mapped actions.  It's easier when it's a small group of people, 2-4, but it can splinter into too many discussions. It's why project manager tools become more necessary to achieve a shared understanding from a communication platform.

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