For my very first post I thought it was only fitting to analyze the very first campaign email I ever received.
It was February 13th 2008. I wasn’t even old enough to vote, but for some reason, I signed up for the Obama mailing list in the middle of the Democratic primary.
Obama had just won Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC, and had delivered an emboldened speech on February 12th which was covered by the New York Times.
This is the only reason I can think of that would have spurred me on to sign up for his mailing list at this time! He wasn’t even the Democratic nominee yet, and it would be almost four months before Hillary Clinton conceded.
The email in question was sent at 12.25am EST under the alias of Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, with a simple subject line “A big night”.
It’s not personalized, addressed simply as “Friend”, and the two Calls To Action buttons – both of which prompt me to Donate – are no longer visible on the 2020 version of Gmail.
Despite how it opens, the content of the email would feel personal in 2008. When we consider that this was one of the first Presidential campaigns that used email, it’s fair to say the content of the above served it’s purpose: to create a personal bond between the campaign and it’s supporters.
Plouffe is filling us in on how important the night is, while emphasizing that every donation matters, and giving key figures (400,000 people have donated) to provide reassurance that this is a legitimate campaign.
The donation amount suggested is unusually high – $25, especially for a new email subscriber who had not donated before. Within the 2020 campaign, most prompts start of small, $5 or $7, and wait to hit you with the bigger asks until after you’ve donated.
However, in 2008, $25 was small. Email donations and online fundraising in general were seen as paltry compared to the big money Super PACs were raising, and were not deemed reliable enough to fund an entire campaign.
Obviously, things have changed.
Subject Line: 5/10 – intriguing, but not enough to make me want to open.
Personalization: 7/10 – doesn’t address me by name, but the tone feels personal.
Content: 8/10 – it was timely, sent mere hours after VA, MD & DC were called, short and to the point. The objective was clearly to solicit a donation.
CTA: 3/10 – the buttons are no longer working, and the URL is exposed.
Donate: 4/10 – they’re asking for a lot for a first time donor, and the language around the donation being matched is confusing. Points for the key donor figures though, and for mentioning the goals!
T O T A L: 27/50