If you repeat the same stupid tactics long enough and loud enough do they stop becoming stupid tactics?
I’m not the first one to mention the practice of Sender Roulette, but think that I’m the first to give it a label. Sender Roulette is found predominantly in email messages from political organizations, and is the practice of using the names of different people within the organization as the Sender, or “From”, using a central email address.
As Ken Magill so eloquently pointed out, “According to conventional wisdom—not to mention a study or two—most e-mail recipients decide whether or not to open their messages based on who is in the “from” line.” I know some of you may be surprised that political organizations might not always follow conventional wisdom, and sometimes studies just sort of get in the way of what they intend to do anyway….
Because people might not always recognize the sender – maybe a new acquaintance, or something – the subject line is a really good place to add a little extra; like who you are and what you want. So who the hell is Mary Jane Stevenson and why should I care that she’s back in California?
Well, as it turns out, Mary Jane Stevenson is the new California State Director for Organizing for America. I’d have never gotten that from the sender name or subject line. Sorry, Mary Jane, you just don’t have any brand/name recognition.
And if I were the average email recipient getting a message from someone that I don’t know with nothing in the subject line that might give me a hint, I’d probably just mark it as spam without ever looking any further. What about you?
Now when a recipient marks a message as spam on most Web-based email services the service automatically blocks the originating email address from being delivered to that recipient again – even to the Junk/Spam folder.
Who else uses the same sender email address as unrecognizable Mary Jane Stevenson? Well, we’ve got the previously unrecognizable Mitch Stewart, the more recognizable David Plouffe, and the President of the United States….
I wonder how many people won’t ever get an email from President Obama again because they might have thought that Mary Jane Stevenson was some sort of spammer and blocked the sender address. And at 20 characters including spaces and punctuation there’s no way that anyone will notice the “CA.BarackObama.com” in the From line following Mary Jane’s name before opening the message (and does the “CA” really make a difference?).
Don’t feel bad, Mary Jane, you’re just doing what others in your organization have been doing for a couple of years. And if you look at the screen shot above, you’ll notice that you’re not the only one in your group that doesn’t use the subject line well.
Look at one of the subject lines from Mitch Stewart; “This weekend”. This weekend what? See some porn? Do I “measure up”? Meet hot girls looking for a good time? Seriously! What kind of crap subject line is that?
The other side of the aisle aren’t the brightest bulbs when it comes to email marketing/communications, either, but they don’t seem to have the same email identity crisis at the Inbox. A little identity crisis with what to call their weekly newsletter and how often to send it, but I’m not getting email from a group of unknowns using the same email sender address.
Sender Roulette is an email marketing bad practice that has been copied by others in the political realm. I asked a friend in the political space WTF is up with everybody and their dad’s dog in politics sending email messages from unknown individuals instead of the organization that the recipient subscribed to. His answer, “Cargo Cult Syndrome” – imitating the superficial exterior without having any understanding of the underlying substance.
I don’t care that Karen Gedney, in a ClickZ column entitled, Learning From the Presidential Race in Your Inbox thinks that this is a good idea, or that, following Karen’s lead, Nancy E. Schwartz, thinks that “The variety keeps it fresh!” Rotating Sender/From names is just plain stupid.
Using a consistent Sender/From name is not new or novel, but an email marketing Generally Accepted Best Practice that has been written about by the RetailEmailBlog, MelissaData, and even Constant Contact! And as Constant Contact was kind enough to remind me:
According to the DoubleClick Consumer Email Study released in late 2002, 60% of respondents cite the “From” line as the most important factor motivating them to open emails, while 35% cited the “Subject” line.
None of this is new, and it wasn’t new in 2002, either…. Sender recognition is one of the basic tenets of sending email, and if you can’t get this one correct, then you’ve got no business sending email.