I will be outspent

I’ve mentioned before how the Obama campaign rigorously experimentally tested everything they did.  How could you not love a campaign that so fully embraces social science?  Anyway, here’s a nice piece in Businessweek about their various approach with emails.  The best subject line, “I will be outspent.”  Astronomically more effective than “the one thing the polls got right.”  Here’s some of the findings:

The appeals were the product of rigorous experimentation by a large team of analysts. “We did extensive A-B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for,” says Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics, “but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” The campaign would test multiple drafts and subject lines—often as many as 18 variations—before picking a winner to blast out to tens of millions of subscribers. “When we saw something that really moved the dial, we would adopt it,” says Toby Fallsgraff, the campaign’s e-mail director, who oversaw a staff of 20 writers.

It quickly became clear that a casual tone was usually most effective. “The subject lines that worked best were things you might see in your in-box from other people,” Fallsgraff says. “ ‘Hey’ was probably the best one we had over the duration.” Another blockbuster in June simply read, “I will be outspent.” According to testing data shared with Bloomberg Businessweek, that outperformed 17 other variants and raised more than $2.6 million.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Surely, the Romney people must have been using some of these techniques, too.  Right?   I’m confident that whomever the 2016 Democratic candidate is they will adopt and build on the Obama team’s rigorous, social science based approach.  What I’m most curious about will be the degree to which Republicans successfully play catch-up.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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