Research into the digital marketing campaigns of some of the presidential candidates raises the question of how much voter messaging is appropriate and who should get which types of messages.

Joe Stanganelli, Attorney & Marketer

March 12, 2016

3 Min Read

"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.

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