High-Level Direct Mail from Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign

Let’s face it — the 2012 presidential election campaign began not long after the polls closed in 2008. But it took a while, until mid-2011, for signs of it to show up in the mailbox.

Obama for America began the president’s re-election effort with a package targeting a likely “early supporter.” The front of the 4-1/2″ x 8-3/4″ mailing features only Barack Obama’s face set against a dark background. When opened, the outer’s panels fold out, revealing two quotes from the president in reversed-out white type.

Likewise, an insert that opens to measure 8-1/2″ x 11″ includes additional photos along with quotes from President Obama “in his own words,” touting accomplishments of his administration, such as passage of health care reform, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and the end of Iraq combat operations.

The letter, though, has its own copy that shines as it flatters the recipient. It opens with “We’ve come a long way together” and “The skeptics predicted we wouldn’t get far. The cynics dismissed us …” It then shifts the focus from “us” copy to lots of “you” copy. “I always said that our last campaign was not about me. It was always about you — your hopes, your dreams, the challenges you face and the possibilities you imagine.”

This positive attitude has usually worked very well for Democratic efforts, but … there’s always a “but,” isn’t there?

In this case, it’s the election ahead, or as the letter says, “stark choices to make and hard questions to answer.” “We’ve got more work to do,” President Obama warns. “Will we see the promise of the American Dream reclaimed?” It’s enough to keep the supporter on edge.

They’ve been thanked again for helping Obama getting elected the first time around, but also been put on notice that everything that’s been achieved is at risk. Even for donors frustrated by compromise or abandonment of campaign promises, the prospect of losing in November is enough to get that checkbook or credit card out and put the campaign in gear.

Paul Bobnak is the director of Who's Mailing What!, the most complete, searchable and fully online library of direct mail and email in the world. He has read and analyzed thousands of direct mail packages (offers, copy, designs, incentives and formats) and email in more than 200 industry categories, including nonprofits, retail, insurance, telecom, B-to-B, financial services and publishing. He writes for the e-newsletter Today @ Target Marketing and has been a judge in NonProfit PRO's Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence since 2006.
  • GordonJayFrost

    Although I haven’t received the direct mail piece yet, it does sound well crafted. In the broader context of the fundraising effort, however, I have serious concerns. The campaign is increasingly using its social media, email and phone channels in broadcast only mode, a big "no-no" in the world of social communications today and particularly toxic to Obama supporters who see themselves as engaged with the president through these channels. More importantly, they do not appear to be properly segmenting and deduping their files and the various channels are not coordinating the timing and amounts of their asks. Calls to the campaign have elicited no response. It’s as if someone designed a campaign for the 1990s media with 2008 themes and dropped it into a 2012 media context. If they maintain this approach and it works, it will be because of the president’s appeal, not the campaign’s craft.