The Best Email Marketing Campaign in History.

The title of this post was exactly what I typed into the google search bar, I wasn’t impressed when the search came back with dozens of articles dating back to 2012 and talking about the second presidential campaign of Barack Obama. It is widely known in the marketing world that the Obama presidential campaigns represented a breakthrough in political-marketing due to the use of digital platforms specially; email, websites and social networks.

But first let’s take a step forward, how do you measure the success of an email campaign? Well the answer is depends! Some obvious indicators of performance are; Open rates, clickthrough rates, forwarding or sharing, bounce rates, etc. But we say it depends because everything has to tied up to what you as a marketer are trying to accomplish, your conversion!

In the case of President Obama’s second campaign their conversion was to get donations from his followers. People who had provided their emails to the campaign received such emails asking for donations and had to click through the link to land in the donations website, and finally donate money. It was a much harder process that it seems, the campaign had to secure a huge database of emails (with consent, obviously), design the email in such a way that it would end on their followers inbox and at last, redact it in a way that encouraged the followers to complete the action.

To accomplish such tasks the campaign relied on A/B testing, a statistical tool that helps marketers to discover the best possible combination of variables in order to obtain more interactions. Sometimes the campaign would test as much as 18 variations of the content and subject lines before sending one email! The work paid off, according to Bloomberg Business, most of the $690 millions that the campaign raised online came directly from emails. The success that the campaign had in email marketing provided the President  with a clear advantage in founding over his competitors, having a profound impact in the outcome of the elections.

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SPAM – Or how not to bother your customers !

In 1970, the world acclaimed British comedy show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” made a sketch about a cafe that only served breakfasts containing SPAM in it. As the desperate costumer tried to ask for something without SPAM he was rudely bother by a group of vikings chanting the nonsense words “SPAM, SPAM SPAM…”

From then on the word became a synonym of something annoying, it wasn’t until the early 90’s that the word found a meaning in the context of electronic communications. Nowadays we regard SPAM as “Unsolicited Bulk Email”*,meaning that the recipient of the email hasn’t granted any permission to receive such communications, and that the email is part of a collection of several emails with the exact same content.

Most of the times these emails have a commercial intention, and in some cases they have a scam or fraudulent nature. In other cases, what can be SPAM for some people may not be for others: Familiarity with the brand, Relevance of the content, Experience with the sender. All of these are subjectives aspects that can condone an email as SPAM or not.

So now that we understand a little better the concept of SPAM let’s review a couple of situations in which marketers can send communications to consumers without them being classified as unsolicited emails:

  • The consumers has given explicit consent to the company to send them communications related to a topic of their interest // A user opting-in to receive offers from a e-commerce website. 


  • The company has collected from the consumer their email, while explaining the purpose of the action // When a consumer registers for a pharmacy rewards program and the store clerks collects their email. 



Mobile First or People First ?

“Mobile First” is a hot topic nowadays in marketing. Apps like UBER or WAZE are showing the world the power of mobile, not just because of the underlining need they seek to attend, but also because of the platform they use to deliver their services. It is obvious that mobile is the present and future of marketing. As a matter of fact, as you are reading this lines, the trends suggest that it is 55% more probable that you are visiting this blog post from a mobile device rather than from your laptop or desktop. By the end of 2013, mobile apps usage exceeded the time we spent on our PC’s (desktop or laptop), that’s incredible! Considering that the modern “mobile device” is no more than 10 years old.  (Source: CNN Money)

In simple words, “Mobile First” means that when thinking of any digital effort -for example designing a website- we consider how it will look/work/feel on a mobile device first. This has significant implications under the scope of marketing for many reasons: a revolution in direct marketing, geo-targeting, infinite data, point of sale influence, more control over the touch points, a social brand, etc.

Another interesting perspective about mobile marketing, is the one presented by David Sable in his AdAge article titled: “The Real World Isn’t Mobile-First — It’s People-First /Marketers Need to Build Experiences for Life, Not for Machines”. Where he makes a call for caution when thinking about mobile marketing and the penetration of apps. He states that people are looking for real life experiences, not digital; and that the use of mobile should be focused on reinforcing real-life experiences, not imitating them. He uses examples like Warby Parker, an e-commerce that made the journey from a digital front-store to a brick and mortar one.

Sable leaves us with what he calls “truths about mobile” and encourages us to think about each one of them:

  • Big data is a buzzword. Primal data helps us understand human behavior.
  • Marketing to people can never be reduced to algorithms. Humanity always surprises.
  • Real life takes place offline. Purposeful connection must be the beacon for convergence.
  • Understand Generation World. Focus on insights that will lead you to actionable ideas, whether or not they are digital.
  • And, beware of being driven by only new things. Let’s use insight to learn from human behavior, so we can build a future that is worthy of us.

I agree with the vision of Sable, for me it’s not a matter of design or interface; it’s a matter of the overall experience, the experience in front the screen and off it. We should be thinking about leveraging on mobile to create unique real-life experiences, not to exchange these with digital ones.


User Experience: Concepts and some examples.

The concept of User Experience (UX) is often confused with User Interaction, in simple words UX is what the consumers feel when they interact with a product or a service that includes a digital platform, hence the word user (Websites, Smartphones, Apps, Gaming Consoles), this includes perceptions such as utility, effectiveness and quality.

Now let’s review a couple of examples of UX, first from an email from promoting their weekly “deals”, by clicking at their email we end up in a landing page that displays all their hotel destinations discounts.

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I as a user of Expedia have always had a great experience with their service and see value in their discounts, so when getting to this landing page that is well designed and simple enough to navigate my UX is very positive, serving its purpose.

But what about the UX on  a website I’ve never visited before, How would I feel ? Will I have a good experience with it, will I understand their call to action?. Let’s do the exercise with two websites:

I do a quick search on google about parenting websites (the starting point of my UX), the first search match is a magazine call parents, the main page has a lot of advertising and not so much content, the colors are soft and bright and the design is simple and intuitive to navigate. The news section is placed on the upper left part of the website, I’m guessing that they want to position their content as the most relevant aspect and also this is the section of the website that gets most traffic.

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Overall is an information source for parenting, just like the magazine with the same name, most of its content revolts around this topic. The content in the website is 50% Stock and 50% Flow, covering both purposes of the site; Be a beacon of parenting topics online (Stock content) and also provide their base users with daily information (Flow content). I would describe my experience with this website as moderately positive, since the content is appropriate and the design of the website is simple, but if I can position myself on the shoes of their target users then their UX is very positive.

Esurance is an online insurance company specialized in the discount market, immediately when you get to the homepage you see that their call to action is for you to get an insurance quote with their calculator tool. In my opinion the homepage and the results of the quote calculator page are the ones that get most of the traffic, very similar to a discount traveling website.

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The website design is simple and attractive, is almost natural to navigate, all of their content is Stock, since its static and doesn’t change. The UX for anyone looking for a car insurance is excellent, it will give you in a matter of seconds what you are really looking forward to know; the estimated quota.