A Closer Analysis of the Presidential Email Marketing Campaigns

The marketing impact of Trump vs. Biden 2020

biden trump
The email marketing campaign stratgies also reflected the presidential brands. Kacy Burdette
Headshot of Paxton Gray

Integrated campaigns such as these are one of the most exciting areas of marketing to dig into. There are even some great marketing psychology lessons, too.

With record-breaking budgets of an estimated $10.8 billion combined, the Trump and Biden campaigns should have driven the most intricate and innovative marketing campaigns of their time. And yet, they revealed lackluster tactics that left us wanting, with only occasional hints of genius.

Splitting the differences

Trump’s campaign was much like his persona: broad, bold, and aggressive. Biden’s digital campaign was also somewhat predictable: focused on beating Donald Trump and somewhat more diligent about focusing on policy specifics.

Donald Trump will say what he wants to say and will doggedly stay on message, driving his point home through repetition. So, when mapping out his email marketing funnels, it’s no surprise to see that an average user can expect almost 3 emails a day. In fact, the Trump team ran a post-debate fundraising push where subscribers saw 12 emails in a single day. That kind of frequency is undoubtedly excessive, but it’s also indicative of the Trump brand. That campaign was catering to a crowd where frequent, repetitive emails with loud subject lines (that don’t always deliver on the promised content) might be landing in an eager inbox. 

The Biden campaign is milder and less aggressive about seeking campaign donations. For example, the Biden campaign generally takes a gentler approach to ads and messaging, using phrases like the more folksy “chip in” instead of the commanding “donate now.”

There are two important digital marketing areas that will be the most impactful in the election campaigns: digital ads, and email.

How each camp prioritized ad messaging and placement

Biden’s ads prioritized swing states, considered a smart tactical move. Trump used Facebook ads to send users to one-sided polls and to reinforce ideals by sending surveys, which ensures total control over the messaging he relates.

Ad channels have significant control over the messaging and the user experience of their platforms. However, by sending users to a survey, Trump is able to obtain total direction over the messaging he relates. It’s a strategy we’ll probably see used again. 

Early list-building (and compliant list sharing with partisan allies) will be critical in future elections. In this election campaign, Trump’s team apparently didn’t bother to set up an email funnel for those who signed up but didn’t donate, preferring instead to focus entirely on those who had already donated. This was probably an unintentional error or oversight. 

Trump’s strategy has likely produced burnout among Trump donors. The campaigns’s strategy is not one I would recommend to marketers seeking long-term loyalty, as evidenced by Biden’s late-game decision to increase spending habits. Lists can be segmented and targeted accordingly.

Completely dropping an entire section of your list simply because the recipients did not respond with funds is a big flop—and it probably resulted in some significant proceeds being untapped. Future candidates who best segment, target and own their lists will find themselves in a better position to create deep and personal relationships with their audiences.

Meantime, voters are anxiously waiting official results.


@paxmgray Paxton Gray is CEO of 97th floor.
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