A month has passed since the Trump inauguration and the world is still split on how to react, respond and progress with the next four years. The result of the election still remains a point of debate across the globe, with many actively protesting for either side of the cause. However, the election was met with much controversy, from tax avoidance to Russian hacking and email leaks, there wasn’t a dull moment.

The UK’s decision to exit Europe has also been pointed to as an inspiration for the overwhelming support for Donald Trump – nonetheless, a simplified email marketing campaign was one of the main contributions towards Trump’s cause. What can marketers learn from the political outsider’s move to the White House?

An email campaign of legend

Back in 2008, Barack Obama made US history, for more reasons than one. The Democratic campaign was modernised, it stood out heavily for its use of innovative marketing techniques and strategy - something that is still reflected on today in the marketing and political industries alike.

Obama did something spectacular and tapped into over three million grass-root donors, who contributed $640 million to the presidential campaign by the night of the result. The majority of donations were made online, something quite contemporary for 2008. This was made possible through a strategic digital marketing campaign, utilising websites, blogs, video games and user-generated content to engage the whole of America! Barack even announced via Twitter, that Joe Biden would be the US VP nominee, a brand new use of social media for political engagement.

A red-thread of hope was constantly sewn throughout, linking together his advertising, tone and demeanour and his campaign logo was even utilised across the world as one of the cult images of the 21st century, reiterating and spreading his message of ‘change’.

Obama’s communication throughout his whole presidential marketing campaign was professional, seamless, integrated and engaging and it is regarded as one of the most successful presidential races in recent history.

Did Trump do the same?

To the majority Trump’s victory came as a huge surprise, his campaign was tarnished by scandals and he was the outsider from start to finish for the White House residency. Nonetheless, something that would have stood out to perceptive marketers was the campaign’s ability to balance customer acquisition with customer retention. The Democrats embraced diversity and inclusion, yet Trump created a storyline of the ‘Forgotten Man’. Trump used this as his red-thread, weaving it through his marketing campaign, reaching out to those who felt overlooked by Clinton’s party, this storyline also energised dissatisfied voters and engaged with new voters.

Compared to rivals, Trump spent only a fraction on broadcast advertising and direct marketing. Instead, he relied on a carefully planned digital marketing campaign like Obama did nearly ten years before, rather than planned messaging and policy announcements. Trump strategically built his following through improvisation and surprise. He was willing to cause controversy, to a bored, disillusioned nation, this enabled him to be able to make a wave throughout global mass media and establish a strong base of loyal supporters.

In our recent Presidential scorecard, we analysed Clinton and Trump’s email campaign against six marketing parameters. We discovered that the extent of Trump’s lead was not yet known - his emails had a clear focus on personalisation, attention-grabbing subject lines such as ‘We’re Being Overrun’ and ‘I’m fighting for YOU’, giving him a notable edge over Clinton’s inbox tactics.

Ultimately, Trump won the small-dollar donation battle, finding himself as the most successful Grand Old Party nominee for donations under $200 in history. Above and below the line tactics worked in sync for this nominee with incredible effect, he had a captivating effect on hard, medium and soft-line Republicans and stole the heart of many Democrats and disillusioned Americans.

Whichever side of the Trump debate you find yourself on, it is important to remember the simplicity and influence of Trump’s strategic marketing campaign. Yes, Trump is a business man, but the strategies offer us insight and inspiration for ever more competitive marketing environments, where customer retention is king. There will be plenty of issues in 2017 that concern the marketing space as a result of Trump’s victory, but honest and effective marketing campaigns will prevail.


By Josie Scotchmer, marketing manager at Mailjet

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at http://www.gdprsummit.london/

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