Adventures in Mobile Marketing

Obama Campaign – Stephen Geer Dir. of Email

MailChimp at Email Insider Summit The first session was Barack Obama campaign, Stephen Geer, director of email and online fundraising. In May 2007 they started and he managed it throughout. The list was an unprecedented part of the campaign.

The new media team & email had 3 goals: 1) message 2) mobilization 3) money

- Strict messaging was important and followed everything B said in press, senior officials said publicly, and short & long term themes set by the team.
- Also used email to *drive* message

In the beginning, March was disappointing, it was the primaries, and they lost, presented numbers with unflinching honesty, went over gains and losses, looked at turnout of key demographic groups. Created a campaign where they told supporters- this is how we measured success, and assured them that we were on the right track. Later, it became a consistent strategy that grew over time, content of “math” email to a script, that the manager recorded on his laptop. Unsophisticated, with basic PowerPoint slides. Recorded messages every few weeks, and they became a touchstone to coordinators. Media just launched on the email, they called it a “strategy update.” It was basically the nuts & bolts of where we are right now. Key to this was that we released it to the email base BEFORE we released it to the press. With 10+ million following, they knew more about what was going on inside, than the press. This was essential to our overall media strategy.

In regards to the relationship between campaign & supporters- we had a 3 word mantra: respect, empower & include. That was the heart of online and offline grassroots mobilization. Pre-primaries, we setup email lists in each state, with public events, ads, and incentives. The list grew of course most with public face-to-face rallies. We also had great responses to simple incentives- free stuff, invite friend, free bumper sticker.

If you signed up for an event, we asked you to volunteer. If you volunteered, we asked you to host phone bank, etc. We had escalating invovlement, metered out and triggered frequency. We offered more responsibility, and active volunteers were connected to local volunteers. We steered them also, to the social networking platform- to create events of their own and recruit friends.

Continued right up to election day- email on that day included not only your message, but the names of 5 likely targeted Obama voters in your neighborhood, to help get out to vote. “Sense of ownership was over the whole process.”


Two numbers you hear a lot from the press: 500M raised online, 3M individual donoers. I can’t talk about segmentation and a/b splitting but the basic philosophy was:

The “non-test”: first had small donor opps, couldn’t do contests, so called them “non-tests,” but also repeated over and over again. By opening up to Barack directly, limited acces to lobbyists and special interests. The mesaging came into play here, replacing power of Washington insiders with ordinary Americans. 8 series done. In the past, you had to raise 150K to meet Barack at a cocktail party. Now, if you gave $5 you could talk to him for 3 hours at dinner.

Similar personal connection. Day after Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech: during her speech she went on an attack against “community organizers.” It played into a narrative they’d been building, as all of their supporters are community organizers too. Empowering regular people to get involved. The insight in the email was to pivot the comment to attack any regular person in the campaign. To fight back, make a small donation- single biggest day of fundraising in history of politics.

Insights from the Question & Answer period:

New media team was relatively small, he took the speechwriting task from them to write the new emails. He basicaly wrote from Barack’s viewpoint.

The segmentation based on common sense things; if you’re part of Democratic Party, who you voted for, registered to vote, historical data, volunteers, move to other states, demographic & commercial data also; behavioral data, how much money they donated, caps on individual donors, where the donor is to that max, hugely indicative of what kind of messaging you would get; the emotional continuum to responsiveness in campaign giving; polistical constituencies groups, know who they are, voter file info & consistent surveys of audience; response rates were pretty high;

They had a metrics-style group he called “general accounting,” that gave them status on where they were on trends, gave ideas for testing, basically like that for 2 years.

In regards to connecting online to offline, sometimes would get feedback from field dept. to new media dept., getting that early on and in touch with professional field officers, and letting them build own organizations in own state- this is all a big part of why the campaign won. How we identified those people when we started in a new state: we went in with an email address list, and some field volunteers had already used online tools to host parties, etc before an office was even created. This is very different from usual phone-tree method. We had a pre-prepared list of volunteers and level of commitment. Nobody else was doing what we were doing.

In regards toa comment on frequency: yes, we sent a ton. But it was largely different for each person, and dependent on what state and level of commitment, dependent on their profile. Largest emails that went out were the fundraising emails. We need donations by this time, etc. Trading off unsubscribes to list growth, it’s easy to balance, determine frequency on how much we need to burn, how how much we earn. In relation to the over-contact by different channels- by phone, email, etc.- he said, “Did you vote? [guy nods] Then we didn’t message you too much.”

We also have self-imposed restrictions: no registered lobbyists, special interests, and scrubbing the list through it; as well as non-nationals, etc.

Email is not subordinate to communications, but they are synced, sees new media leaving and not being a part of the communications deptartment. In traditional campaigns the communications department knows the phone numbers of every journalist at the New York Times, but doesn’t see value in bloggers, online volunteers, etc.

Scott Gudstein is the mobile guy and he ran it, Steven helped with strategy but that’s it. Mostly in that Obama was the first to do it on that scale. “Be the first to know” vp, before – didn’t work djwaldow & chad and I agreed

In regards to texting: Some rural areas did a lot more texting without internet or blackberry, they were a segment that wouldn’t be addressed otherwise, and was part of scaling and the scale they did it #62262 obama in text. did not know that. hmm

Question: with the huge list you have, what is the DNC going to do now?
Stephen: I can’t talk about some things, but sees it as property of Obama the president. Question: who owns these emails? The debate is going on now, even while i’m here.

Question: What did you learn from Howard Dean campaign? Well we’re using Blue State Digital, which is a consulting company created by some people from the Dean days. One thing about 2004 vs. 2008- with YouTube alone, it made such a big difference. So the differences since the last 4 years, it’s been little bit of tech growth, and commitment and buyin, and scalability.

Question: Checking my inbox, I see 327 emails and also from 20 different people?
Steven: Everything in there was tested, there is a relationship from the from address to the sender, can’t speak more to it… split testing on content with from line, and see who responded to it the best, may see a few early mistakes, some tests (outliers in the patterns)”surrogate emails” endorsers on the state level,

Question: what is a lesson learned or misstep, we like to do it differently the next time?

Answer: Buying and building the team. The hardest part is the more succcessful the longer it goes, so if you win the primary, you stay in, and if you win the overall primary, then in the general. it’s hard for a core team of folks who starte din the beginning, to do it another year. thinking of staff structure earlier on, that was a limiting factor, 2 years of not sleeping is a big deal.

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Written on Monday, 08. December 2008 at 11:03 In the category EmailSummit MailChimp. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Share on FriendFeed

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