Political Direct Mail for the Win!

During the 2016 election cycle, there was more political direct mail than ever before. The United States Postal Service and The American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) wanted to see how people viewed political mail, so they did a study about direct mail and its impact on voters. There are so many takeaways that can help you create political direct mail to win.

During the 2016 election cycle, there was more political direct mail than ever before. The United States Postal Service and The American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) wanted to see how people viewed political mail, so they did a study about direct mail and its impact on voters. There are so many takeaways that can help you create political direct mail to win.

In 2018 we often get asked, does direct mail still work? YES! Here are a few facts about direct mail to show you the power you can harness:

  • People check their mail at the first opportunity, which is nearly every day. You can reach your voters in a timely fashion without being forgotten.
  • 86% of people go through the mail and make sure that nothing of value is being thrown out.
  • 73% of people prefer direct mail over other marketing channels.
  • Mail may be the best way to share new information about you as a candidate or an issue.

Radio and television do not allow you to target your prospects effectively. Your message ends up in front of people who cannot even vote for you. With direct mail, you have access directly to people who are able to vote for you. Take advantage of it! You can segment them into types of voters, propensity to vote and so much more.

When sending direct mail to voters, include important information about the election, such as voting deadlines for absentee ballots. Yes, you can target people who vote absentee with a different message than people who vote at the polls. You can also provide registration deadline information. Of course, include in the mail piece who you are, what you stand for and why people should vote for you. People keep mail that provides important information; get your mailer to stick around longer.

When polled about political mail voters responded with:

  • 82% want to know where the candidate stands on issues
  • 74% want a contrast with an opponent on issues
  • 73% want to know a candidate’s voting record and any past statements made
  • 60% want to see a list of who endorses the candidate.

We suggest that you use large format mailers to grab attention. According to a DMA 2017 response rate report, oversized pieces have been shown to increase response rates by 10.4%, producing the best overall response rate. You need to keep your text concise and easily scanned. Use bold, color and contrast to draw the eye to your important content. The easier you make it for people to quickly understand what you are saying, the better you are able to get your point across. Direct mail is better understood, remembered and acted upon more than digital channels. Add direct mail to your marketing mix to harness the votes you need to win.

Want to increase the time people spend with your mail pieces? Make them interactive. Add elements such as video, augmented reality, die cuts or endless folds to engage people. Video allows you as a candidate to speak directly to each voter about how you stand on issues and how you are different from other candidates. You can add special coatings or textures to really enhance the sensory reach of your mail piece. There are so many fun ways that direct mail can stand out that no other channel can do.

Are you ready to get started on your campaign?

What Donald Trump’s Win Means for Promotional Products

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

(Image via CNN)
(Image via CNN)

[Target Marketing’s take: This piece notes “branded merchandise sales can predict an election.” So, too, can core product sales be related to the success of associated goods. For instance, Nike sells shoes. And yet, sales of “Just Do It” shirts and co-founder Phil Knight’s book “Shoe Dog” also soar. So this Promo article has plenty of import for TM readers.]

Donald Trump shocked the world last Tuesday when he won the 2016 presidential election. While political campaigns are usually won on the issues, there’s another element that I think is worth looking into: promotional products.

It may be a leap, but I believe promotional products played a huge part in this presidential election. With that in mind, here are a few key takeaways you can apply to your next promotional campaign.

1. Promotional Products Matter – Big Time

We told you that Trump spent more on hats than polling, and it sure seems that budget allocation paid off for his campaign. The “Make America Great Again” hats became a symbol for his campaign, and effectively communicated his message throughout the election.

(Image via Trump's online store)
(Image via Trump’s online store)

For future promotional success, political leaders need to place more weight on one solidified campaign slogan that extends across all merchandise. While Hillary bet hard on her “I’m With Her” slogan, there were multiple official Hillary phrases that permeated the campaign. Instead, she might have found more success strengthening one campaign slogan.

2. The End-users Have Merchandising Power, Too

While each political nominee obviously released branded political merchandise, they were far from the only ones. Voters everywhere capitalized on election micro-moments and created their own merchandise based on viral memes. From the “Nasty Women” T-shirts to “Proud to be a Deplorable” apparel, the campaign was rampant with end-user impact.

(Image via PopSugar)
(Image via PopSugar)

For the future, political candidates can encourage their constituents to submit their own political designs, in order to give the people what they want. That way, when potential voters go to purchase this political merchandise, the political campaign will actually be getting the money, instead of places like CafePress and TeeSpring.

3. Branded Merchandise Sales Can Predict an Election

It’s a pretty bold statement, but one that proved the be true, according to Louisville Business First. CafePress has accurately predicted the presidential winner since 1999, and it correctly predicted Trump this year. But, how did the company get it right? Well, via the merchandise sales.

(Image via Bloomberg)
(Image via Bloomberg)

As of September, pro-Trump merchandise was outselling pro-Hillary merchandise by 20 percent. And, Philly.com pointed out that Trump sold more lawn signs.

Now that you know the weight of promotional apparel, you understand how important it is to dedicate time and resources to a great promotional campaign. The more people who see it on the streets, the more likely they are to keep a candidate top-of-mind.

Winner of the 2012 Presidential Election: Data

Now that the contentious 2012 election has finally ended, we get a chance to look back and assess what happened and why. Regardless of who you voted for, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that the real winner of the 2012 election was data.

Now that the contentious 2012 election has finally ended, we get a chance to look back and assess what happened and why. Regardless of who you voted for, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that the real winner of the 2012 election was data.

For the first time in history, this election demonstrated the power of using analytics and numbers crunching for politics. What I find most remarkable is the rapid evolution of this change. If you look back just a few years ago, Karl Rove was widely regarded as the political mastermind of the universe. Rove’s primary innovation was the use of highly targeted direct mail campaigns to get out the evangelical and rural vote to win the 2004 election for George W. Bush. Fast-forward a few short years, and not only did Rove’s candidate lose, but the master strategist was reduced to challenging his network’s numbers geeks live on the air, only to be rebuffed.

In every way, the old guard was bested by a new generation of numbers crunchers, nerds and data geeks who leveraged data science, analytics, predictive modeling and a highly sophisticated online marketing campaign to poll, raise money and get out the vote in an unprecedented manner.

On the subject of polling, I was intrigued by Nate Silver’s incredibly accurate FiveThirtyEight blog that used a sophisticated system to synthesize dozens of national polls in a rolling average to predict the actual election results. In the run-up to the election, he even received a lot of flak from various pundits who claimed he was wrong basing on their perception on voter “enthusiasm,” “momentum” and other non-scientific observations. At the end of the day, however, data won out over hot air and punditry big time. Silver’s final tally was absolutely dead on, crushing most other national polls by a wide margin.

I especially love his Nov. 10 post in which Silver analyzes the various polls and shows which ones fared the best and which ones weren’t worth the paper they were printed on. It’s shocking to see that the Gallup Poll—in many people’s mind the oldest and most trusted name in polling—was skewed Republican by a whopping 7.2 points when averaged across all 11 of their polls. Ouch. For an organization that specializes in polling, their long-term viability must be called into question at this point.

One thing I find highly interesting when looking at the various poll results is that when you examine their methodologies, it’s not too surprising that Gallup fell flat on its face, relying on live phone surveys as the primary polling method. When considering that many young, urban and minority voters don’t have a landline and only have a cellphone, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude any poll that doesn’t include a large number of cellphones in its cohort is going to skew wildly Republican … which is exactly what happened to Gallup, Rasmussen and several other prominent national polls.

Turning to the Obama campaign’s incredible Get Out The Vote (GOTV) machine that turned out more people in more places than anyone could have ever predicted, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that for data-driven marketers, the 2012 U.S. election victory was a watershed moment in history.

According to a recent article in Time titled “Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win,” the secret sauce behind Obama’s big win was a massive data effort that helped him raise $1 billion, remade the process of targeting TV ads, and created detailed models of swing-state voters that could be used to increase the effectiveness of everything from phone calls and door-knocks to direct mailings and social media.

What’s especially interesting is that, similarly to a tech company, Obama’s campaign actually had a large in-house team of geeks, data scientists and online marketers. Composed of elite and senior tech talent from Twitter, Google, Facebook, Craigslist and Quora, the program enabled the campaign to turn out more volunteers and donors than it had in 2008, mostly by making it it simpler and easier for anyone to engage with the President’s reelection effort. If you’d like to read more about it, there’s a great article recently published in The Atlantic titled “When the Nerds Go Marching In” that describes the initiative in great detail.

Well, looks like I’m out of space. One thing’s for sure though, I’m going to be very interested to see what happens in coming elections as these practices become more mainstream and the underlying techniques are further refined.

If you have any observations about the use of data and analytics in the election you’d like to share, please let me know in your comments.

—Rio