Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Email as Web Content Case Study: Barack Obama

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.


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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Written on Friday, 02. November 2007 at 15:27 In the category design, mechanics, techniques, technology. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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  1. [...] great example of this just popped up on my radar, courtesy of Anna Billstrom and Mark [...]

    Pingback: » What Can Barack Obama Teach Us About HTML Email? - AWeber Blog – 07. November 2007 @ 8:06 am

  2. [...] An interesting example of an HTML email that looks like a text-only email came out of the Barack Obama campaign recently and was nicely dissected in the Adventures in Email Marketing blog – you can read the entire post here. [...]

    Pingback: Barack Obama on Text vs. HTML E-mail? « – 08. November 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  3. I’m just happy that there is still a world for people like us that can go through the stress of learning HTML at least not for now, How did U think of something like this?

    Comment: Anthony – 09. November 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  4. Ron Paul’s team send out a simple TEXT email on Monday.
    They said $2,000,0000 has been donated so far and they asked
    us to contribute. That day Ron Paul’s campaign collected $4,200,000
    in donations.

    Goes to show sometimes the type of message doesn’t matter,
    and it is all about content. Check to see
    why so many people support his message.


    Comment: Matt – 10. November 2007 @ 12:26 am

  5. Not very useful and a bit of a disappointing teaching lesson. The HTML text in discussion is not clearly visible or available, and there is not much else to go on.

    Comment: Kingsley Tagbo - IT Career Coach – 10. November 2007 @ 10:07 pm

  6. Kingsley: This isn’t meant as an HTML lesson, it’s meant as an example of very effective heavy text usage in an email.

    Matt: not sure what you mean, I’m not comparing this to other candidates, just as a way of getting the message out without relying too heavily on images and full spectrum HTML, which requires a lot more compliance with various email inboxes.

    Anthony: Not sure what you mean. There is still HTML in this, it’s just not “rich.” I wasn’t part of the team that made this email, I am commenting on it though as a technique.

    Comment: banane – 10. November 2007 @ 10:31 pm

  7. Think I need to stand back and think about the value of this. Some of the real pure text emails are well formatted without having to put an HTML wrapper around them.

    Comment: Rob – 05. December 2007 @ 3:58 am

  8. [...] been getting renewed traffic to my article on Barack Obama’s text-only fundraising plea after his win in the Iowa Caucus. This morning, while reading Mark Brownlow’s update on the [...]

    Pingback: Adventures in Email Marketing » Text Only Emails and SEO | – 04. January 2008 @ 12:59 pm

  9. If anybody on this site is in touch with the Obama campaign, tell them that their goddamned FLASH BANNER advertising initiative on Yahoo e-mail is doing far more harm than it’s doing good. The f–king thing LOCKS UP the Yahoo e-mail account of anybody who’s using anything “lower” than the lastest XP/Vista version of Windows, and makes the user’s Yahoo email totally inaccessible, as their inbox “freezes” while Obama’s banner ad attempts (unsuccessfully) to load into their memory cache. A number of furious e-mails have already been posted to “Yahoo Questions” about this hijack. This almost seems like a malicious dirty trick concocted by Karl Rove and his new client, McCain, in order to piss off net users who support Obama. Please, anybody, GET A CLUE to the Obama campaign about this ongoing atrocity.

    Comment: Jeff Lord – 29. May 2008 @ 11:55 am

  10. If you’re having a technical issue, go to the Obama website and report an error. they are pretty good about listening to users.

    Comment: greg – 29. May 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  11. To Jeff Lord: The same thing happens on hotmail. I’ve left a message on the site Greg posted, and had sent hotmail a comment. Every time it’s that banner’s turn, everything freezes. I have to use the task manager to shut the browser down altogether, and then restore it. It is annoying. I hope someone listens, or it will be a long 4 months of that irritation.

    Comment: VBL – 07. August 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  12. [...] political campaigns: – Email as Web Content Case Study: Barack Obama – Political Spam Written on Tuesday, 12. August 2008 at 14:12 In the cateogry Uncategorized. [...]

    Pingback: Adventures in Email Marketing » Email to Text Message: Obama Campaign | – 12. August 2008 @ 2:12 pm

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