“This is bad”, “Real quick”, “Listen”, “You Gotta See This”, “Hey”…

If you saw these phrases in the subject line of an email, chances are you’d hit delete (if your spam filter hadn’t already got to it first).

But in the US, these are the very words used by the Obama campaign in their almost daily requests for you to ‘chip in’ and ‘get the President’s back’. Or donate in other words.

Just as Obama’s campaign itself is more personality over policy (there is almost no talk about what Obama would do if elected for a second term), the much-lauded supporters email movement is all about money over motivation.

It seems to go against all good DM practice. The campaign sends out pretty much the same message (strangely worded) from different senders to the same group of recipients every day.

In fact, it is only with the onset of Hurricane Sandy and a few emails from high profile supporters that the emails have finally branched out from the same formula.

Yet it has raised millions of dollars. So should the UK Labour party or charities do the same?

I hope not. Because this is not sustainable campaigning.

Yes it may have been effective in driving a database to ‘chip in’, but there are three main reasons why campaigners shouldn’t follow suit:

  1. This is all about activation over a short time frame. Obama’s team are looking to get a closed group of supporters to repeat an action – not using email to grow that database to reach new people
  2. It’s based on failure. The Obama team are assuming a high attrition rate for emails. They’re hitting hundreds of thousands of people with the same message assuming low rates of response, rather than working to do less communication with a higher open / action rate.
  3. It’s not shareable. Apart from the occasional competition emails, there is nothing to share and no content to socialise with friends, family and other potential donors.

So regardless of the election result next week (which I hope the Democrats win), I’ll certainly be glad when the Obama email fail stops.