In my first post on GOP email practices ("GOP Throwdown: How Do the Candidates Stack Up on Email Marketing Practices?"), I studied the opt-in practices of the Republican presidential primary candidates (Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, plus Michele Bachmann, who had just dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucus but retained an email opt-in at her website).
My next question when analyzing the GOP presidential candidates’ email marketing programs: How do their “From” lines and subject lines stack up?
Inbox presence, made up of the "From" or sender name and email address and the subject line, is one of the most important elements of an email message, because recipients use them to decide whether to open and engage with your email.
The charts below separately analyze the “From” and subject lines to assess how the candidates’ campaigns are managing their inbox presence. Are they using generally accepted best practices such as a highly recognizable and expected “From” name and creative, engaging subject lines?
Here are my observations on the candidates' “From” name practices:
- They're all over the board. Santorum's campaign combines a single “From” email address with multiple “From” names, for example, while the Romney and Huntsman campaigns use multiple email addresses and multiple “From” names.
- The Huntsman campaign had the most eclectic collection of “From” names, ranging from Huntsman himself to former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and "The Jon2012 Girls." I’m still scratching my head over that latter one.
- While there is an emerging trend, especially among B2B marketers, of using a variety of employee names as the “From” names, I’m not a fan. Several of the candidates used the names of their campaign managers and others associated with the campaigns. I expect to receive emails from Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney, but I have no idea who Matt David and Rich Beeson are.
- Of the four campaigns that have actually sent emails, they used from three to five different “From” names. I looked for any pattern of when campaigns used the candidate’s name versus a campaign manager, and couldn’t find any. My assumption was that the “from candidate” emails might focus on the message and “campaign manager” emails on fund-raising or dirty work. But in looking at the body content of the emails and comparing it to the “From” names, I didn’t see any such patterns.
- As the primaries and caucuses move around the country, I’m starting to see some targeting based on zip code, such as the use of a local state campaign manager’s name. Given my nearby residence in California, for example, the Romney campaign sent me an email from “Sarah Nelson,” its Nevada State Director, promoting volunteering for the Nevada campaign efforts.
As with “From” names, the campaigns deploy varying approaches to their use of subject lines, but with one commonality:
- Only six of the emails received during the period analyzed included the candidate’s name in a subject line:
- Huge conservative endorsement for Rick
- Rick declared winner In Iowa
- Poll confirms Santorum is the true conservative candidate
- FW: Victory Party with Newt
- Governor Huntsman Surges Into 2nd Place in New Hampshire
Using your brand name in the subject line is typically not necessary when using a well-recognized “From” name, but when using an unknown campaign manager’s name, it should be considered.
For example, I nearly deleted an email with Zac Moffatt in the “From” line and the subject line "Choose an Item” because the name was unfamiliar, the subject line looked spammy and it showed no connection with the Romney campaign.
Email experts like Dela Quist of AlchemyWorx contend that longer subject lines convert better than shorter ones. Measured by that yardstick, most campaign emails fall short of the mark. Only two of the 40 messages had more than 50 characters.
- Honors for both the shortest and longest subject lines go to the Santorum campaign. On the short side: "granite." The longest: "Poll confirms Santorum is the true conservative candidate." Santorum also most consistently used short subject lines and had the shortest average subject line length at 22.2 characters.
- Several messages contain what I contend are questionable "gimmicks" to grab the reader's eye, make the email stand out in the inbox or imply that the message is coming from a friend. These include "re:" and "Fw:" or "Fwd:" and the use of all lower-case words. Several of Santorum’s emails used this last tactic with subject lines like: “fun and work,” “crunch time,” “great news,” “wide open,” “believable,” and "deadline: tonight."
- Santorum’s campaign also appears to choose obscurity over transparency in subject lines with subject lines like "Wheaties," "Freefall," “fun and work,” and "breaking: HUGE news.” While I don’t have visibility into how these approaches affect open and click-through rates, on their face they’re certainly intriguing.
In my next installment, I'll analyze the content of the Republican candidates’ email messages. One aspect I'm not covering, however, is deliverability and inbox placement of messages. If you're interested in that aspect, check out a column from early December by Andrew Kordek of email agency Trendline Interactive, which ran on Deliverability.com.
What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen from the campaigns so far? Let me know in the comments box below.
1) Blog: “GOP Throwdown: How Do the Candidates Stack Up on Email Marketing Practices?”
2) FAQ: “What makes a good subject line for emails?”
3) Blog: “The Growing Importance of the ‘From’ Name”
4) White paper: “Standing Out in the Inbox: Secrets of Successful ‘From’ Names and Subject Lines”