Here’s what we learned
First things first, this is an apolitical blog.
If you’ve ever signed up a for political candidate’s email list, your inbox has likely filled up with updates, donation requests and rallying cries. That’s what got us thinking: are there any trends in political campaign email marketing? What can communication professionals learn from the deluge of emails?
We created a fake Gmail account and signed up for every political candidates’ email list and analyzed emails from February 19 – March 18. We pulled data using code from Austin Walter’s blog.
At the time, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio (dropped: March 16), Ben Carson (dropped: March 2), and Jeb Bush (dropped: February 20) were the presidential candidates in the race.
In total, we received 338 emails. The breakdown for each candidate included Hillary Clinton (73), Bernie Sanders (66), Donald Trump (10), Ted Cruz (56), John Kasich (45), Marco Rubio (83), Ben Carson (0), and Jeb Bush (5).
Here’s what we learned:
Political candidates want to be your friend
As part of our analysis, we looked at the top words used throughout emails. Only Bush, Trump and Carson asked for first and last names when signing up for their emails. Everyone else? They frequently started emails with “friend,” which landed a spot in the top 15 most used words.
The top words included: Campaign, Trump, Cruz, Hillary, Marco, America, President, Bernie, support, Donald, paid, friend, Tuesday, Kasich, chip.
BONUS: Trump was mentioned 509 times throughout the month. He also sent the fewest emails for the type of publicity he was getting from rival candidates.
Keep the subject line short and sweet
Taking a look at the subject lines we saw that on average, the candidates stick to a character count of 23 (the max was 65 characters). An interesting tactic Rubio’s team employed was the use of emojis in subject lines. One Hillary email only included exclamation points.
Multiple email addresses for one campaign
The candidates decided to mix things up in how they delivered emails, some sending notes from spouses or political supporters. Was it a strategy aimed to increase open rates, or sneak a few extra emails to subscribers? Not sure. Admittedly, getting some emails “from Ted’s iPad” did pique our curiosity.
More emails at the beginning of the week, but not by much
The data didn’t show any particular day the candidates favored more than another. However, Monday and Tuesday were the most popular days for emails by a close margin.
It isn’t too shocking that Super Tuesday (March 1) was the biggest day for email traffic. Candidates who requested zip codes were rounding up Virginia voters. Also, they made a point to send an email to help find out where we were registered to vote. Other email spikes throughout the month fell around political debates or primary days.
Who is winning the email marketing race?
How can we determine which presidential candidate is leading in email marketing? The amount of money raised could be the deciding factor. After all, “chip [in]” topped off the 15 most used words.
We looked at the total of money raised by each candidate’s campaign, apart from “super PAC” donations. March 20 was the deadline for candidates to file finance reports to the Federal Election Commission. This Washington Post article broke down how much money each candidate raised by the end of February.
The top campaign fundraiser was Hillary Clinton. Her campaign has raised a total of $160.9 million, $30 million in February alone. Among the Republican candidates, Ted Cruz was the winner with $66.4 million total raised, $11.8 million of which was donated in February. Bernie Sanders raised $43.3 million in February, leading everyone in money raised that month.
Hillary Clinton was the most frequent emailer among those still running. In contrast, Donald Trump sent the least amount of emails, but the majority of his funding comes from personal finances. Does this mean those who send more emails get more money?
It’s difficult to determine a real winner. We would have loved to access more details to find out a strategy or overall goal. Was it money, votes, or were they just trying to make friends? A more detailed analysis that correlated emails to fundraising would be interesting for sure.