What. A. Week. Between the debates, the end-of-month deadlines, the end-of-quarter deadlines, the new candidate, and adding the donor mailing lists to my inbox, I was drowning in 324 campaign emails this past week. 288 came from the 21 campaigns on the non-donor list, and just in the past couple of days, 36 emails came in from 20 campaigns on the donor list.
Last week, we had a record 175 emails. That record has been absolutely smashed, and I’m starting to wonder if there’s any going back. Many of the candidates were talking about the debates signaling a new phase in their campaigns. It certainly seems that way!
At 27 emails in 7 days, Tim Ryan is the winner of biggest email flood. He also slipped 1 absolutely disastrous email into my donor list that had me shaking my head as I laughed.
Ryan had, in the past, started some emails with just a comma when I hadn’t provided my name.
, we’ve seen a lot of great momentum since my CNN Town Hall. I’ve been on the road and it’s clear America is ready for a leader with a plan.Tim Ryan
I thought it couldn’t get worse than that, but when I gave donations, I had to give my name. Well… he tried.
, Aiminthank you for joining our movement by signing up to receive updates from my campaign…
Aimin, I’m turning to you to help us keep defying the odds…
, Aimin there are big challenges ahead for our country; challenges that have been ignored and made worse by poor leadership and inaction.Tim Ryan
As the middle use of my name shows, he has my name in his database correctly. He just doesn’t have his email formatted properly. Somehow, a stray comma ended up before my name twice. Once, he didn’t manage to put a space between my name and the first sentence.
The sad thing is that this is a form message sent to all new members of his mailing list. I know, because I’ve gotten it before. When he didn’t have my name, he managed to format it correctly:
Thank you for joining our movement by signing up to receive updates from my campaign…
Now, I’m turning to you to help us keep defying the odds…
There are big challenges ahead for our country; challenges that have been ignored and made worse by poor leadership and inaction.Tim Ryan
I could give Ryan a hard time for the entire rest of this post. With 28 emails, I have a lot of content to work with. But Ryan’s not the only candidate who’s been eliciting reactions this week.
The email frenzy grew and grew all week until it exploded on Thursday in a massive burst of excitement from the debates. After a moment on Friday to catch their breath, the campaigns began hyping up the end of the quarter on Sunday.
There were 30 donor emails and 50 non-donor emails on Saturday. All of the non-donor emails came from campaigns I had also donated too. While at first you might assume that the lists should be 1-for-1, it makes sense that there’s such a difference.
First of all, campaigns communicate differently with their donors and non-donors. Non-donors, the push is much more focused on getting that first donation out. Once someone has donated, it’s theoretically easier to get them to donate again. The first hurdle of just getting their information into the system and their card out of their wallet has already been overcome.
Some campaigns don’t even bother to communicate with their non-donors. Both Tulsi Gabbard and Eric Swalwell have had my email since the beginning. I even re-signed up for their mailing lists after weeks of silence. It wasn’t until I threw them each a dollar that I started getting their emails. That says more about their campaigns than they probably want it to.
Interestingly, Bernie Sanders has been asking me for less money on my donor account. He asks for $3 or $2.70 by default on his non-donor emails, but in the emails for the address that gave him $1, he mirrors my donation and asks for another $1. I suspect this value would change based on how much I’ve given him, but I don’t have proof of that.
This is also a weekend. Though I’m sure there are staffers working through the weekend, I suspect the bulk of the weekend emails are set up and scheduled in advance. If you’ve ever wondered why unsubscribing from mailing lists might take up to 10 days in this digital age, scheduling is the reason why.
Marketing emails, including political emails, are composed in advance and scheduled to be sent out at set times to set mailing lists. This is why many of the debate emails going out during and immediately after the debates didn’t actually reference current debate quotes (and why it was so notable that Marianne Williamson’s did). Depending on the program used to send your mailings, these lists might be generated at the time the email is scheduled, which could be a week or two in advance. If you then remove your name from a list, that already-scheduling mailing won’t likely be updated, so even though you’re off the master list, you’re still on the list that was already created.
Especially for the smaller campaigns, like Tim Ryan’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not in any of his regular mailing lists yet with my donor account. This next week should be more evenly matched email-wise.
In addition, I’m still getting some welcome emails trickling in. A few of the campaigns have multiple welcome emails scheduled to go out incrementally after signing up, presumably as a way to onboard you, perhaps while waiting to get you into the scheduled mailing lists. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker were the notable campaigns where I recognized emails they had sent before.
Speaking of Booker, I want to shout-out his graphics department. While all the candidates occasionally include pictures or gifs, Booker’s email images are on point when it comes to design and consistency with his branding.
His art team absolutely deserves some attention and credit for their hard work!
And speaking of art teams, it’s the end of the month, which means it’s CHART TIME!
Many campaigns had some form or another of goal, whether it was quarterly or weekly, overall or specific to my ZIP code or state. With goals came charts and countdowns.
Kamala Harris pulled out her old chart with her personal branding, though her goal had doubled since the last quarter. After the debate, she completely crushed her $1,000,000 donations goal, raking in $2 million in just 24 hours. With her goal crushed, she dropped the chart but continued to ask for more money.
Amy Klobuchar headed her email with a huge countdown clock letting me know when the massive end-of-quarter FEC filing deadline is. Reminder: FEC filing deadlines are the only deadlines that actually matter, because that is when all campaigns are required to publicly announce their numbers. Klobuchar wanted to make sure I wouldn’t miss donating to her.
Klobuchar also included this abstract thermometer to indicate that she needed a lot of…something. Donors? Money? How much? Whatever it was, she was less than halfway there.
Bill de Blasio also included a handy chart for me, but he was kind enough to specify that he needed that many contributions before the quarter ended. Just from comparing his chart to Klobuchar’s, it looks like he’s doing better than she is.
Somehow, I doubt that.
Many of the candidates were struggling to meet their goals. Only 2, Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris both announced hard goals and then announced meeting (and exceeding) those goals. Buttigieg asked for 10,000 donors, while Harris asked for $1 million. Most of the other candidates were expressing doubts, worries, and fears about hitting their goals, including:
- Steve Bullock (he just needed 1 more donation from my ZIP code to stay on track!)
- Bernie Sanders (Joe Biden is going to 3 big-money fundraisers this weekend and he’s not, so he risks falling behind)
- Elizabeth Warren (who is falling short and whose campaign will be in trouble if she continues to fall behind)
- John Delaney (donations have been pouring in since the debate, but not as many as he had been expecting)
- Joe Biden (who wants to raise enough money to shake Trump to his core but is worried that he’s going to fall short and give Trump a boost of confidence)
- Amy Klobuchar (she’s had three other people from her staff email me, why haven’t I donated yet!?)
- Beto O’Rourke (who has noticed how much Trump has raised and is getting worried).
Bernie Sanders was especially troubling to me. For a candidate whose motto is “Not me. Us,” and whose biggest worry is that if he fails, his ideas will die, he’s pretty focused on himself.
Before Bernie ever decided to run for president, one of his greatest fears was that if he was not successful, it would not just be a setback for him — it would be a setback for the ideas that power our campaign.Faiz Shakir , Campaign Manager, Bernie 2020
In that very email, he then goes on to discuss how his ideas have taken a strong hold based on the debate performances.
And also that he’s the only person who can win on those ideas. Nevermind that some of the candidates are mayors or governors who have been able to institute some of these ideas in their local governments while Bernie has not managed to push any of them through the Senate. Bernie is clearly the only one who can make Medicare for All, canceling student debt, and justice for all a reality.
I understand that this is a competition, and every candidate is ultimately out for themselves. “Not me. Us,” is a great motto to make people feel involved and important, but it doesn’t work very well when you then hammer down hard on why it has to be me.
I realize I’m probably the only person on the planet reading this much into every single email, but when your messaging and your brand are at odds, it makes me raise an eyebrow.
Another candidate struggling with his messaging is Julian Castro. High on a successful first night debate, Castro has been filling my inbox with email after email… but I am honestly mistaking them for some of the End Citizens United trash more and mroe frequently these days. Take a look at some of these subject lines and see if you can guess which ones were sent by Castro and which were ECU.
- Julián Castro UPSET
- UPDATE NEEDED (re: Julián Castro)
- Morning Joe just predicted (huge upset)
- important (please read)
- this is important (please read)
1, 3, and 4 were Castro emails. 2 and 5 were ECU.
Not only has Castro been leaning on more sensationalized subject lines, those subject lines don’t always match his content. The first subject line, for example, had nothing to do with Castro either being upset or causing an upset. Instead, it was simply praising Castro for finally having his big moment. His “important (please read)” email was a long ramble about his backstory, the same backstory he has mentioned in almost all his other emails plus his debate performance, and why that meant I should donate $19 to his campaign.
Castro had a great moment on the debate stage His emails are still not ready for a President.