Will Bunnett

Politics • Branding • Psychology

Did Organizing for Action Damage its Brand with this Email?

Late last night, I got an email from Ivan Frishberg, BarackObama.com about climate change (see below). Well, eventually I figured out it was about climate change. The subject line said simply, “Unicorns exist**”.

The New York Post is a brand that is not built on gravitas

The New York Post is a brand that is not built on gravitas.

Interesting subject line, but whenever I see something like this in online politics, it makes me think that the organization is probably damaging its brand.

Now, I know why they did this. Often in the online politics biz, it’s hard to attract attention, so people to turn to novelty. Novel subject lines like Unicorns exist** will get people’s attention, pique their curiosity, and get them to open your message. Mission accomplished!

Except no one is likely to open this message because they think it’s about climate change. That means whatever additional openers you get over and above your baseline open rate are likely to be people who aren’t interested in your topic and aren’t going to take your action. So, presumably not much value added.

What’s more, you risk losing something more important: the gravitas of your association with the President of the United States of America. In other words, you risk diluting your brand.

While subject lines (and the ensuing message framing) like this are often the result of A/B tests to validate their performance on key email metrics like opens, clicks, and actions, seldom is the test designed to measure the impact on the overall brand. Which makes sense, because most people in online politics don’t have much of a branding background, and testing branding impact is much harder than setting up two segments of an email.

But to give some idea of the value, let me make an analogy. If the New York Times set up a test on its website to see which got more clicks, one of its normal, staid headlines or a headline with a bawdy pun, like the New York Post would use, I can almost guarantee you it would get more clicks from the bawdy pun. But the Times doesn’t do that, because if it did, it would lose all the gravitas of the Grey Lady and end up a tabloid brand, like the Post.

I think OFA’s brand should have come before testing results in this instance.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ivan Frishberg, BarackObama.com
Date: Tue, May 7, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Subject: Unicorns exist**
To: Will Bunnett

Organizing for Action
Will –

If I said to you: “Unicorns exist, I totally just saw one galloping down the street,” most likely you’d give me a sad look and get on with your day.

But what if House Speaker Boehner and the chairman of the House Science Committee said they didn’t know if the science behind climate change was real. (Yeah. That actually happened.)

Now obviously, it doesn’t matter if I just make stuff up about unicorns. But it matters, and it matters a whole lot, that so many of our elected officials in Washington who represent us are denying science and using that denial to refuse to take action on climate change.

It’s actually dangerous — and it matters how we react.

Each and every day that congressional leaders hold on to their bizarre fantasy world, OFA is going to be there, not letting them get away with it.

Add your name and say you’re ready to hold climate deniers accountable.

We’re going to make them say it out loud — either double-down on their claims, or come to their senses. The National Academy of Sciences and more than 13,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers all confirm that the carbon pollution in our atmosphere today is causing dangerous climate change.

The sticky thing about the truth is that it’s the truth whether Congress likes it or not.

Unicorns don’t exist, climate change is real, and we said we weren’t going to let this go.

Sign here and help Congress get real: 

http://my.barackobama.com/Hold-Climate-Deniers-Accountable

Thanks,

Ivan

Ivan Frishberg
Climate Campaign Manager
Organizing for Action

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