Published 11/05/13

Data-driven decisions at the heart of campaign email success

Money. Presidential elections in the United States can’t be won without it. President Barack Obama was able to raise more than half a billion dollars online for his reelection bid, thanks in large part to the innovative email campaign launched by Amelia Showalter, the 2012 campaign’s director of digital analytics.

Amelia Showalter at symposiumHer team’s dedication to perfecting the art of email – analyzing, tweaking, and re-tweaking everything from the subject line to the dollar amount requested – revolutionized the way presidential elections are fought and won.

“Don’t trust your gut. Foster a culture of testing. Make it personal,” Showalter (left) told the audience at her keynote address at Bryant University’s symposium, Applied Analytics in Humanities and Social Sciences, held Nov. 1.

“In a culture of testing, all questions are answered empirically,” she said. Traditional assumptions, like “pretty” emails will be more successful than ones with “ugly” yellow highlighting, often prove incorrect.

Subject lines? Be human. From a simple “Hey” to a “Hell yes, I like Obamacare,” Showalter discovered unforeseen results from relentless testing. Why did it matter? In one email, the “best” version raised $2.6 million, the worst, only $400,000, she said.

“Don’t trust your gut. Foster a culture of testing."

The possibilities for leveraging analytics are endless, experts emphasized. The daylong event included presentations on:

  • the challenges of working with nonprofits to digitally archive historic collections online by The Digital Ark Corporation;
  • how a mobile smartphone application, Sakonnet Historical, collects pictures, videos, and oral histories of Tiverton and Little Compton, R.I.;
  • and how Providence’s WaterFire positively influences the way people think about the city.

“The era of big data has arrived,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Jose-Marie Griffiths observed as she introduced Showalter. Bryant’s Advanced Applied Analytics Center will continue to sponsor conferences that bring together students, faculty, and practitioners, serving as a resource for analytics in the community, she said.