Election 2010 Direct-Mail Analysis
With the dust beginning to settle after election 2010, now is a good time to take a look at the role direct mail played in how the parties and candidates raised money and turned voters out to the polls ... or not. As with every election, there were new movements and people wrestling for power, but the mail they sent was, with very few exceptions, pretty traditional.
It's been a long-time nonprofit practice to mail a questionnaire to sample, and undoubtedly sway, public opinion, while also bringing in some money. Republican Party organizations used to excel at this sort of thing, but they got a lot of bad publicity this spring by using the word "Census" on an envelope that resembled the U.S. Census mailing that was then showing up in people's mailboxes. Following the passage of restrictive legislation by Congress, subsequent efforts were instead labeled as a "referendum," "poll" or "survey."
Democrats, on the other hand, were a model of stability — the Democratic National Committee's "Presidential Survey" has been in the mail since December 2009. Its black-and-white, 6-inch-by-9-inch carrier envelope has a patterned security feature on the outside, both intriguing donors while protecting their privacy (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-173651-1009A).
As the campaign season kicked into high gear in the fall, the urgency of raising last-minute funds was communicated with another classic direct-mail technique: the "express" envelope. For example, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mailed an orange-and-white "Express Courier Service" No. 10, with a letter inside from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-171855-1009A). A 6-inch-by-9-inch "Expedited Delivery Pak" was mailed by the DNC and included a flattering plea from President Obama to a "loyal and true friend" for funds needed in the waning days before the election (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-173651-1010A).
On the Republican side, Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio reached out to conservative voters with an "AirWeb Express" that's designed to remind a prospect of a FedEx envelope. Yes, these type of packages have been around for years, even if their look has been changed enough to avoid lawsuits. But this mailing has a twist worth mentioning. The 6-inch-by-11.5-inch outer unfolds into an 11-inch-by-16.75-inch poster, suitable for display "to help increase my campaign's momentum and my name identification," as Rubio's note explains. This technique has been used by the Ocean Conservancy and a few other nonprofits recently. For those passionate about their political leanings, it's an effective way to demonstrate support, and it's much more visible than an old standby like a photo or bumper sticker (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-718049-1009).
There's not much to say about the self-mailers that were deployed to drive people to the voting booth. They formed the usual mix of screaming headlines, soft-sell photos and classic emotional teasers that are designed to help form or reinforce opinions about the candidates and parties. If nothing else, they are proof that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same.
This article was originally published in the Nov. 11 edition of Inside Direct Mail Weekly.