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Romney's VP Announcement a “Black Friday” Event for the Campaign

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
17 August 2012

Black Friday*, the theoretical kickoff to the holiday shopping season, isn't just a traditional email marketing event anymore. As GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney demonstrated this past Saturday, "Black Friday" — and the email blitz that accompanies it — can also be the day you announce your pick for vice president.

A month-long email campaign supported Romney's eventual announcement that U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) would campaign with him on the Republican ticket.

In the early weeks, beginning with the first message — "Mitt's VP" — sent on July 12, messages that mentioned the VP selection process were mixed in with other requests for donations or commentary on campaign issues. By the Friday before the announcement, almost every message focused on the VP choice.

Message Breakdown
Of the 36 email messages the Romney campaign sent from July 12 to Aug. 10, 18 focused on the VP selection.

Subject-line sampling:

  • "Mitt's VP"
  • "Meet Mitt and his running mate"
  • "Mitt's VP Scoop"
  • "Your chance to meet America's Comeback Team"
  • "Meet Dad and his running mate"
  • "Don't Miss This"
  • "Enter by 11:59pm Friday to meet Mitt and his VP"

The campaign also sent six messages on Saturday (day of announcement) and Sunday (day after announcement). In the order researchers received them, they included:

Fundraising Remains the Focus
The Romney campaign capitalized on the usual suspense surrounding whom the presidential challenger would pick for a running mate by running another "meet the candidate" sweepstakes. Both the Romney and Obama forces have used that fundraising tactic often in this election.

Seventeen messages sent before the announcement encouraged recipients to enter a sweepstakes to win a meet-and-greet with Romney and his VP nominee, while one was sent the day after.

Ten of those messages suggested a specific $3 donation to enter the sweepstakes, while eight merely asked the supporter to "enter now."

Several emails sent after Romney announced his VP choice on national TV also featured fundraising calls to action:

  • Romney's email announcement announcing his choice of Ryan for the No. 2 spot included this CTA: "Donate $15 today to help restore America's greatness and build a stronger middle class."
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's email concluded with a CTA urging supporters to send a message to President Obama and his "liberal allies" by making a donation.
  • Ann Romney invited supporters to donate at least $5 and receive the official Romney-Ryan bumper sticker.

Not every message asked for money. The Romney campaign also used email to promote its "Mitt's VP" app that was intended to push the announcement to the user's smartphone before it went live.

The Obama Campaign's Reaction
While the Obama campaign did not join in the pre-announcement speculation, it reacted within an hour of the initial TV announcement.

As of Monday afternoon following Romney's announcement, the "Obama for America" campaign and its Wisconsin-based affiliate had sent five emails, which came from Campaign Manager Jim Messina, political adviser David Axelrod, Vice President Joseph Biden and Wisconsin campaign organizers Tripp Wellde and Michelle Kleppe.

Fundraising was a secondary focus in these emails. Calls to action included the following:

  • View and share an anti-Ryan video (2 emails)
  • Send a support message to Obama (1 email)
  • Post comments on a Romney-Ryan ticket (1 email)
  • Donate to the Obama campaign (2 emails)
  • Sign up to volunteer (2 emails)

Note: Because several emails had more than one CTA, the total number of CTAs adds up to more than five.

Next Up: Convention-Focused Emails
Both campaigns have stepped up email frequency as the Democratic and Republican conventions get closer. In the months ahead, look for an analysis of the role email plays at the convention and on the road to Election Day.

*"Black Friday" isn't just a day in November. It's also the trigger point in your email marketing program that drives most of your revenue or conversions. Want to learn how to discover your company's Black Friday and leverage it to boost your email efforts? Read my Email Insider column, "What's Your Black Friday?"

For more tips and observations from Loren, connect with him on Google+.

More on the Candidates’ Use of Email:
1) “Comparing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney’s Email Programs” (infographic)
2) “Santorum Led GOP Candidates … in Frequency” (blog)
3) GOP Throwdown (blog series)

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