When I decided to start writing a blog about my take on email marketing I never thought my first post would be commenting on the perpetual Obamathon and email in politics….

While 48% of the public are suffering from Obama Fatigue, presidential politics has crept its way into email industry and online marketing columns left and right (no pun). 

Sean Mulcahy has written about Obama as a high-end brand, although I still don’t know what it is that the brand stands from besides “hope” for “change”.  And not knowing what the product is beyond vague hyperboles seems to me that the product is all style and little substance.

Ken Magill has had fun exposing the exploits in the Obama campaign’s email subscription data collection practices, which took the tangent down a data integrity discussion that spread to Laura Atkins’ Word to the Wise blog, with some very good points made by Al Iverson.

Never one to pass up a chance to go down an interesting tangent, I’m getting off track here.  While I love all the nuts and blots and moving parts of email and its operations, I think that something is being lost in the discussions about how this “high-end” brand collects data and what it does with the data it collects.

As Dylan Boyd pointed out, since June of 2007, the Obama campaign has sent out over 200 emails.  Doing the math and it comes down to an email just about every other day.  Over 200 emails and I still don’t know what the guy stands for, but let’s step back and look at this from another perspective.

I think some of the same people who would usually take to task a sender who sent vapid messages every other day have been giving Obamamail a pass for the most part.  But even the Obamapologists of email are starting to have enough as evidenced by Ryan over at eroi days last week.

While I agree that the McCain campaign is somewhat clueless as how to best leverage the email channel, I think that some of the pundits are missing some salient considerations – first of which is that the conservative base of McCain’s party don’t consider him conservative. 

Any marketer needs to know who their target audience is.  McDonalds advertising in a Vegan publication is a waste of money and time – even though McDonalds sells salads. 

McCain’s inability to raise funds through the email channel, or elsewhere, hasn’t necessarily been because they don’t leverage the channel well as much as that the audience wasn’t convinced that the product had value.  McCain’s target audience is more about substance than style, so no matter how stylistic any online campaigns may or may not have been, a large portion of his target audience wasn’t buying the substance being sold.  All of that changed when McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate.

One of the areas that the McCain campaign misses the boat in the email channel is in 3rd-party messaging, and they’re not alone.  Their online marketing team doesn’t seem to have considered that the target audience may subscribe to a variety of online publications.  In their thirst for getting their message out, they take 3rd-party mailings from any online publication within their target audience.  That results in the recipient receiving multiple copies of the same message sent by different partners.

This is some pretty basic stuff in 2008 when there are tools like UnsubCentral that can be used to filter out who is receiving the same message sent by different partners.  Why is it so difficult to compare lists of 3rd-party mailers to insure that the recipient receives only one copy of the same message@f0  If the recipient is on multiple subscription lists then decide which list is the predominant one and make all others scrub against that mailers list.  Not only would it save the campaign money, it would also go a long way to keeping the audience from tuning out whatever the message is that’s being sent – from a half-dozen different sources. 

On the positive side of the McCain campaign’s emailing practices, they aren’t mailing me every other day, but then again, they are mailing me multiple times a day from different partners.  And the McCain campaign has never NOT delivered on a promise, like giving me first notice of who McCain’s VP pick was going to be. 

While the Obamamachine has set channel expectations that they didn’t deliver on, the Obamamaniacs in our channel have done a good job at setting low expectations of what to expect from the McCain campaign without understanding the McCain audience.

In the end I agree that there are things that the email channel can learn from either side in this season’s Presidential race.  However, I think that most of the lessons are about what not to do….