Email as Web Content Case Study: Barack Obama

January 7, 2008

Barack Obama’s recent email on the campaign trail reflects a few themes in email marketing:
– Transparency (showing that the donation site is an secure link, instead of hiding it in HTML)
– Writing for Gmail- leveraging access to AdWords, and working with the severe HTML restrictions
– Writing email content as a web page- taking advantage of intertextuality

The fact is that people are viewing their email on free web hosts, such as Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail. That means a loss of control, to a degree, for the email marketing designer, but it also means that you are entering the world of rich hypertext context. In the example below, Barack Obama’s team has leveraged this very nicely. Unfortunately mentioning Hilary Clinton gave her a link, but the topical links halfway down refocus the ads.

obama_email.JPG

The use of text-only (for the main message) can be very strategic. It saves time and energy on developing an HTML campaign that works in each browser. It ensures readability in an ever-increasing atmosphere of image suppression. Gmail renders text-only emails well, as there’s nothing to screw up, and shows the abstract offset nicely in the inbox.

It’s personalized, and it’s easy to forward while retaining the original format. This is nice to consider since the tendency for political fans is to forward onto their own mailing lists- viral marketing that was leveraged so well with Howard Dean. KISS, essentially, has many things going for it in the political world. Also, for fundraising programs sometimes too fancy means a misdirection of funds.

SEO techniques are in play here. This means that someone worked on the content to give it a focus that would play well with AdWords SEO methodology. I’m no SEO expert, but simple messaging and focus in the email content helps ensure that the AdWords are appropriate.

I like how “transparency,” a main theme in this message’s meaning, dovetails nicely with a clean, open email design, too.

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