What the US Presidential Race Can Teach You About Lead Generation

Oct 12, 2016


There is one thing right now that is captivating the entire world: The US election race. And with it, sitting just beneath the surface to the naked eye, is a fierce marketing battle where the top minds in branding and positioning fight tooth and nail to promote their candidate into the most powerful position in the world.

(Note: this post will be written from a neutral standpoint. We are not interested in Politics, and we only have love for marketing here at Databowl)

OK, so today we’re going to use the US election race to analyse some of the subtleties of a successful marketing funnel. We’ll be looking at everything, from the ads they are pushing out, to the nurturing programs they are running. Specifically, we will be looking at what each major party is doing to generate leads for campaign donations.

We’ve chosen to focus on donations because of a thing called “sunk cost bias”. Any effort (money, time etc.) that a citizen puts in towards a candidate, is a strong sign that they are more likely to vote for them in the future (otherwise the effort spent would be psychology considered a loss).

As such, analysing donations is a great way to track the success of these political campaigns.

Let’s begin.

Let’s Start From the Top: Ads

At the top of almost any funnel, we have adverts, which drive initial traffic to landing pages for further psychological manipulation.

What is immediately noticeable in the following banner ads are the clear calls to action, instructing the viewer to pledge their support for the candidate by clicking.

Also, you might notice that there is an image of Hilary on every photo in the following set – i.e. a real person, rather than an arbitrary logo or object. Drew Whitman, over millions of dollars’ worth of testing, has found that using people in ads pulls in up to 200% more clicks.


Social Sharing

Next we will look at social media to see how ads are being used to create a following. It seems that in Trump’s case, they are taking a lesson straight out of Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, by offering a gift upfront for free, generating a stronger obligation from the customer for brand loyalty. Also, by offering a cap which the redeemer will presumably wear, they make being a trump supporter part of their identity. Once a person identifies with a particular person or movement they are more likely to support that movement more because of another principle in the Influence book called “commitment and consistency”, which is that we feel we must always align our outer actions and promises with our inner choices and systems, such as our beliefs and values.

This particular post also hijacked the social proof feature that people have in their brain. With 12,000+ likes and multiple comments, which will affirm to people that the people who support this message are not alone.


Donation Page & Sign ups

Once a candidate has clicked, they need converting into either a lead, or a donator.

This simple Lead Generation form in the Hilary campaign packs more punch than it first seems. First, the headline is simple and very personal. Get texts from Hilary. The prospect is already thinking ‘OMG Hilary will be texting me’. It also doesn’t require a huge amount of commitment, just two pieces of information.


So that’s a successful way to collect leads. But what about donations?

In the images we see below, there are commonalities with the landing pages, which generates consistency.

Firstly, like in the social advert above, reciprocation bias is being employed in a quite a few of these, with “get a [Fill in the blank] for your donation” type approaches being used.

Secondarily, they are using competition-based incentive in the landing pages also. Competition-based incentives work particularly well as an offer for a donation sign up, because of affective forecasting and over optimistic bias in our brains where we over estimate our chances of winning.

Thirdly, look how clear and simple the donation form is… almost effortless. Taking a trick out of Amazon’s one-click ordering, this page makes it incredibly simple to sign up. It also works extremely well on any device. With millions of people from all over America hitting the page from 1990’s computers on dial-up all the way up to the latest smartphone, it needs to be ready to adapt and fast to load even with the incredible volumes of traffic that the page will be experiencing.

Finally, notice the small details on these pages, like the secure sign, and the split testing of different donation amounts, all changing to find the best result.


So that’s Hilary. Let’s look at a page from the Trump campaign below:

There are a few elements that stick out on this page. Once again, the social proof – which gets extremely personal – lists all the other people who have been donating to the trump election campaign along the top bar. Added to this, the live twitter feed on the right hand side gives an impression that the page is current and up to date.

Donald trump is also employing the use of video marketing, with a clickbait title to engage prospects on the page further.

The calls to action on this page are more blatant, with a direct call that donating on this page is confirmation of supporting Trump to be in charge.


Lead Nurturing Through Email

Emails are a powerful way to keep potential voters (customers) engaged, and when used correctly can create a powerful relationship.

Take for example this bullet email from Clinton. It lists five ways, all uniquely crafted, to increase either commitment to the brand of Hilary, or to spread the message via referral.


Or notice how this personalised email from Hilary calls for more donations, but also gives specific reasons likely tailored to the user to touch on issues that they care about.


It doesn’t stop there. Fancy unsubscribing from one of these campaigns? Well, you’ll have a tough time. The page to make you stay will include FOMO (Fear of missing out) and some guilt of not supporting the campaign. It even brings in video marketing to make a difference.


Split Testing

We already mentioned that donation amounts are being split tested in these current campaigns, but now we are going to have to go back to previous elections to look at even deeper behind-the-scenes results numbers.


From the following image we can see that the button saying Learn More out performs others. This is likely due to Friction that has been outlined in the following meclabs conversion formula: C = 4m + 3v + 2(i-f) - 2a. Where C = conversion rate, m = motivation of the prospect, v = the value proposition’s clarity and power, i = incentive to convert, f = friction in the conversion process (e.g. hard to read), a = anxiety (e.g. giving out information). Signing up or Joining us is a bigger commitment than just enquiring by learning more.

In the media, it shows that assumptions before testing something can often turn out to be wrong. For example, this was the statement from the campaign manager: “Before we ran the experiment, the campaign staff heavily favored “Sam’s Video” (the last one in the slideshow shown above). Had we not run this experiment, we would have very likely used that video on the splash page. That would have been a huge mistake since it turns out that all of the videos did worse than all of the images.” It turns out that video didn’t work so well, and it was the pictures that performed the best.

Looking at what brings out the wallets from supporters’ pockets during a campaign is also very interesting. The open rates may have been different, however opening up of wallets was a lot stronger when money was brought up right from the subject line. This teaches us the importance of clearly demonstrating the contents of the email right from the headline, so the prospect’s expectations aren’t dashed once they open.


The above information is only a very light look at some of the marketing methods being used by some of the brightest minds in marketing. Sure, this might be the biggest leadership contest on earth, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it – your marketing and lead generation is just as important to you. Having a system that is pre-built with all the best marketing strategies to build your business with is important, and it is what Databowl was made for. We provide all clients with the best practices and and tools to future proof their lead generation.


Like what you see?

You focus on the campaign creativity, and we do the rest. You won’t be disappointed.