Photo of Donald Trump - Email Spam Campaign

Image courtesy Gage Skidmore

Two recent developments point to what appears to be a shockingly unsophisticated online marketing effort by the campaign of the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump: The roll-out of his Hillary Clinton attack site and his spamming of foreign legislators.

Trump’s Hillary Clinton Attack Site

The first was the launch of the anti-Hillary Clinton website, LyingCrookedHillary.com. The site initially went live with a simple, blank page, The Daily Dot reported. Then the site allowed “followers [to] send a text to Trump’s campaign and receive ‘early, exclusive access” to the website’s content.'”

[Tweet “Donald Trump’s Email Spam Campaign #2016Election”]

As I discussed on episode 148 of the Beyond Social Media Show, the tactic of rolling out an empty site and asking visitors to cough up contact information in exchange for the dirt tells me the Trump campaign hasn’t been collecting contact info from the people who attend his rallies. In other words: His base.

Who else is going to give up their contact information for alleged opposition research on Hillary Clinton? Die-hard Trump supporters.

An Aside: How, by the way, didn’t the Clinton campaign not buy up all domain names with variations of the phrase “crooked Hillary”? It’s not like they couldn’t see that one coming a mile away.

Need more evidence?

Trump Spams Foreign Leaders

The other development was the–there’s no other word for it–spamming of foreign leaders with fundraising solicitations.

During the last two weeks of June, the Trump campaign sent email fundraising solicitations to Members of Parliament in the UK, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Denmark and Finland, Gabrielle Levy of US News & World Report reports.

The campaign was not well-received:

There are two things that are wrong with this.

One, it’s kinda illegal, as the Campaign Legal Center points out [PDF], to solicit campaign funds from people who are not citizens of the United States. So there’s that.

Two, WTF?!?

How is that a candidate for president for one of the major American political parties solicits foreign legislators for funds?

Because the campaign doesn’t know who the hell is on his list, that’s how. That tells me the list was bought, not cultivated.

This is no small thing. You don’t just buy an email list for a presidential campaign. They are cultivated over the course of a political career, not months removed from an election.

Email lists are only as valuable as your knowledge of who is on the list. If you’re buying a list, you have little to no knowledge of who is on the list.

Email lists become more effective and therefore, the more valuable, depending upon the extent to which you you can segment them. The more precisely you can target messages to the members of your list, the more likely you will succeed in prompting list members to do something of value to your campaign.

The name of the game with political email lists is:

  1. Motivating supporters to vote,
  2. Motivating them to donate money to your campaign, and
  3. Motivate supporters to spread your message.

This is Email Marketing 101. Sophisticated use of email is essential to the success of any modern presidential campaign; far, far beyond the fundamentals of Email Marketing 101.

The Barack Obama campaign of 2008 set the standard for modern presidential online marketing.

Sophisticated email marketing–the ability to segment messages, conduct A/B or multivariate testing, and measure results –is the backbone of modern political fundraising.

The Trump campaign has flunked the 101 class.

If the Trump campaign is employing email marketing tactics reminiscent of 1995, there’s little hope they’ll be able to reasonably compete in the online fundraising race, let alone leverage it for word-of-mouth or driving voter turnout.

Perhaps this is why digital strategist Vincent Harris left the Trump campaign on June 30 after a mere 11 days on the job, as Politico reported.