The secret behind $690 million email campaign

This is one of the daily emails I’ve sent to my subscribers. I don’t publish most of these online, so if you want access, sign up here.

I was reading an older case study about one of the most (monetary) successful email campaign that I know of.

You may wonder, who could have such huge a reach, audience and what the hell were they selling!?

I’ll tell you who was it.

And I’ll tell you to whom the emails were sent.

You see, these were from the Obama email campaign.

And the audience is, just, you know, the whole US…

The moment people gave their email address for the campaign, they started receiving emails with subject lines like:

“Join me for dinner?”
“It’s officially over”
or something like just

And some people mocked those emails. Like Jon Stewart who mocked them on the Daily Show.

But you see, they worked.

They $690 million worked!

What did they do different? What was the secret sauce for this huge email campaign?

It’s actually simpler than you may think.

Not easy though.

They did rigorous, extensive A/B testing.

Not just the subject lines, or the money they would ask for.

But they tested the messages and the formatting as well.

The tests would often take up to 18 variations before they choose a winner to blast to the tens of millions of subscribers.

What worked, they kept, what didn’t, they threw away.

And what did exactly work for them?

Here are few things:

Casual tone – the subject lines that worked were usually those that you could expect in your inbox from other people

Different font sizes – giant size fonts for links is one example

Plain text links – performed better than the pretty “donate” buttons

They got to the point where they were thinking, OK, how can we get this even less attractive?

So they ended up with ugly yellow highlighted sections where they wanted to draw people’s attention to.

Which brought in more sales!

Mild profanity (like hell yeah) also worked for clicks.

But these were all just won battles, not the whole war.


Because after some time, all those things wore off. And they had to get back to the drawing board and retest all over again.

The thing is, each email had a shelf life, so they had to be constantly on their toes.

One certain insight that came out of this was:
Most people had nearly limitless capacity for emails, and they wouldn’t unsubscribe no matter how many emails they were sent.

At that time, they had 20 writers doing all these emails, as long as the data gave positive results, the emails kept coming!

Yes, if they kept at it for a long period, people would eventually start to unsubscribe a lot more, but at the time it was highly relevant for them and they didn’t mind.

What I want you to take away from this is not that you should use big fonts, ugly emails, send multiple emails daily or whatever.

I want you to understand that to get the best results, you have to know your market and always be testing everything.

Going to repeat this again.

Always be testing.

ABT baby!

What worked for someone’s email list, may not work for your email list.

Some industry standards are good starting points, but that’s what they are…

…starting points.

It’s up to you to take some direction and run with it.

And it’s just the proof, that as long as the emails are relevant to the subscriber’s current state of mind (interests), they will bring results.



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