July 22nd, 2011

Subject lines from Barack Obama’s email newsletter are written for forwarding.

Observing the bizarre poetry of email marketing

When barackobama.com relaunched this spring, I signed up to their newsletter, curious to see how the campaign would use email to rebuild enthusiasm and action in its softening base.

Though I rarely have time to read the emails, I always read the subject lines:

Barack Obama is in your Inbox

  • You should pass this one on
  • Exclusive: First look at our report
  • A milestone
  • (no subject)
  • Midnight
  • They’re wrong
  • You’re the first to know
  • Deadline: Thursday
  • Video: Afghanistan
  • How about a T-shirt
  • Dinner
  • This video really moved me
  • Dinner with the President
  • Not too late
  • Something lovely
  • Tap
  • Decided something today
  • Our plan this summer
  • Restating the obvious
  • You’ll like this one
  • Something happened
  • Fixing what’s broken
  • Tonight
  • Big things
  • Video: First look at our campaign plan
  • Unlimited funds
  • The next move is yours

Here is what I noticed:

They never mention the candidate. Since the ’08 campaign, messaging has always been about us, our community, the change we want. Nothing new here, but impressively consistent.

Actually, they rarely include any proper nouns. Instead of people, places, bills or taxes, they speak of opportunity, urgency, belonging and progress.

They are written to be forwarded. Though an email from a campaign manager titled “Something lovely” comes off a little cloying, once I forward it to my sister, there’s a decent chance it’ll blend right into the conversational tone she’s used to from me.

I would love to peek in on the writing process for these subject lines, and
see the stats on how these are performing. Leaving my personal aesthetic objections aside, I doubt there are many CRM campaigns anywhere operating on a higher level than this.

Chris PalmieriAfter studying graphic design and Japanese language and aesthetics, Chris moved to Tokyo in 2001 to begin his design practice.
He co-founded AQ in 2004 to bring design basics to cultural organizations with bilingual websites. In his current role as managing director, Chris works with clients to clarify their ideas, oversees the creative process and designs.Read more posts by Chris Palmieri


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