In just a few minutes from this post going live, the seventh Democratic Presidential debates will begin on CNN. I’ll try to be live-tweeting and let you know if anyone is emailing during the debates.
With the debate field narrowing and the Iowa caucuses in less than a month, I thought it was time to take a look at email tone and inboxes.
With just 6 candidates on the debate stage, charts are easier to manage. For each candidate, I provide 3 charts: overall email tone, inbox for donor emails, and inbox for non-donor emails.
Overall email tone is a very touchy and subjective measurement. If I was in doubt, I defaulted to a Neutral tone.
Optimistic emails talk with great enthusiasm about how well the campaign is doing and looking at future growth and successes, using such terminology.
Pessimistic emails talk about the bad things that may befall a campaign (or have befallen a campaign), being behind on goals, or being disappointed with progress.
Mixed emails have both optimistic and pessimistic qualities and cannot be called simply neutral. These are usually emails that specifically have both good news and bad news.
The inboxes were easier to chart, but I split them between donor and non-donor because those results were interesting. I tried not to interact with any of these emails other than reading, labeling, and archiving them. Occasionally, I would click a survey (or mis-click and quick-donate).
Donor emails come through an email forwarding system and therefore are not directly from a mailing list. My Gmail was funneling those into my Primary folder at the outset. On the contrary, non-donor emails come directly to my Gmail address and do get flagged as coming from a mailing list. Those were initially funneled into my Promotions folder, for the most part.
Over time, however, things began to change…
For Joe Biden, his campaign always seems to be teetering on the edge of disaster. His emails are full of doom and gloom and all the bad things that Trump will do if Biden fails to hit his fundraising goal. IF Biden isn’t the nominee, after all, Trump will win. IF Biden remains lacking in money, he won’t be the nominee. AND IF I don’t donate right now, Biden will remain lacking in money. Biden seldom balances his distressing view of the possible outcomes with any good ones. He just needs me to focus on keeping scary bad orange man out of office and Biden in office. Nothing else matters.
Joe Biden struggles with where his emails go. Initially, the split was as-expected, with an early email dropping into my Spam folder, but as the months have worn on, his donor emails have ended up filtered into my Promotions folder along with all of his non-donor emails.
Pete Buttigieg has an optimistic core that can’t help but show through in his emails. December was a rough month for him, with the bulk of his emails being neutral, but on the whole, he is constantly looking forward at a better, brighter future that he knows we can achieve together. Buttigieg rarely focuses on the yo-yoing polls or how much money he needs to kick Trump out of the White House. He wants to make the world better, and he wants my help in doing so.
Somehow, Pete Buttigieg has managed to get the bulk of his emails into my Primary inbox, which is definitely where a candidate wants to be. He has gotten a total of 3 emails in my Spam folder, however, including two memorable days where he managed to hit the trifecta: non-donor emails into Spam, Promotions, and Primary!
Around the September debates, Amy Klobuchar really began to take off. Her donations started to pick up and her poll numbers began to climb. Instead of languishing at a neutral-but-upbeat tone, Klobuchar began injecting pleasure at her growth and excitement over her momentum and how far she was going to go.
Amy Klobuchar’s email strategy has been exactly as expected, with very few emails wandering outside their common inbox. She has had one Spam email and one non-donor into Primary email, and she has had three donor emails end up in my Promotions inbox, but otherwise, her emails are business as usual.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to know how to be happy. He likes to talk about how his campaign is doing really well… but not really well enough. His emails frequently have “Good news! Our donor amount is really low! But bad news: our donor amount is really low!” He can’t seem to accept that he’s not an underdog in 2020 like he was in 2016, and he keeps trying to recapture that desperation. It’s hard, when you’re near the top of the polls and flush with cash, to explain how desperate things really are, but boy does Sanders try.
Bernie Sanders sends emails with excessively long subject lines, which could be interpreted either as “old man doesn’t understand emails” or as an attempt to game the inbox system: it’s said a longer subject line is more likely to land in the Primary inbox. However, his emails almost always adhere to the general rule: donor emails go to Primary and non-donor to Promotions. Email subject length doesn’t seem to change the destination in the slightest.
Tom Steyer is even-keeled in more than just his email volume. He lays out facts or statements and neither objects nor defends. He doesn’t seem to find much value in foreseeing a better future, he just will tell me what he will do to create a better future if given the opportunity. Though he can get excited about making a debate stage or getting a good poll, Steyer neither builds up hope nor sows fear.
Tom Steyer has only ever sent me one email as a donor, and it landed in my Primary inbox. I don’t know why he never reaches out to me. I guess $1 was all he really needed. He’s much more active trying to get me to give him $1 as a non-donor, though he mainly ends up in my Promotions inbox.
Elizabeth Warren is frequently behind on her fundraising goals, leading toward a lot of pessimistic emails. She tends to keep her emails very focused on fundraising for big, structural change, neither talking about how great the campaign is doing or how poorly it’s doing, except when she’s trying to hit a nebulous goal that she won’t give details about. Warren’s emails frequently feel detached and impersonal, and it shows in her tone.
Elizabeth Warren’s emails started off as expected, but now that we’re closing in on Iowa, her inboxes are swapping. Her donor emails end up in my Promotions inbox more frequently than her non-donor emails, which drop into my Primary inbox. She’s had a couple Spam messages, but not very many.