Is Manic-Depressive Freaking Out a Good Marketing Strategy for the Democrats?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Seems to Think the Way to Energize Its Base Is to Act Desperate

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If you asked me to express the current core brand message of the Republican Party in three words or less, that'd be pretty easy: OBAMACARE MUST DIE!

As for the Democrats, hmmm, let's see. How about this? OMG, I'M HAVING A MANIC-DEPRESSIVE EPISODE, SEND ME MONEY!

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

Uh, wait, sorry, that's more than three words. OK, how about this? I'M BIPOLAR, HELP!

Yeah, I think that pretty much nails it.

Let me explain by first backing up. In the wake of the 2012 presidential election, I wrote a column titled "Never Mind Social Media. This Was The Obama Campaign's Real Secret Weapon." My argument was that, even though the incumbents got tons of credit for being more social-media savvy than their challengers, the reality was that one of the most important outreach tools used by Team Obama was good old-fashioned email marketing. Though both sides strafed their lists with endless pleas for support, the Obama-Biden campaign took political spamology to a whole new level -- especially in how it crafted its often-surreal subject lines. I cited some of my favorites, which included:

Me again

"I love you back"

I want to be able to say

Michael Jordan

Real quick:

Clooney and me

Can we meet for dinner?

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

As I wrote back then, there wasn't anything the campaign wouldn't try -- from teen-speak to celebrity name-dropping to chummy dinner invites -- to get you to open its damn spam.

Team Obama collected a ton of cash by hitting its email list hard. Through lots of trial and error and A/B testing, they figured out exactly which buttons to push to extract funds from the Democratic base.

Fast-forward to February of this year, when it seems the Obama campaign handed over its email list to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- because that's when I started getting emails from dccc@dccc.org.

Most often they're labeled as coming from "DCCC Alert," but other times they come from Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, "Democrats 2014" or "Democratic Headquarters." They always, of course, beg for money -- often by bringing up how much John Boehner & Co. have been raising -- and they're frequently hysterical. Not ha-ha hysterical, but the-sky-is-falling hysterical.

If Obama-Biden 2012's main email-marketing strategy was to convey a sort of cloying folksiness, the DCCC's defining tone is basically desperation. Here are some sample, entirely typical recent subject lines:

DOOMED

Boehner loses it:

painful loss

JAW-DROPPING

FUMING

WHOA

MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT

all hope is lost

CRUSHING blow

kiss any hope goodbye

And they come fast and furious. On a single recent day, for instance, I got three emails (one each from Nancy Pelosi, Democrats 2014 and Democratic Headquarters) with the subject lines "doomed," "heart-wrenching defeat" and "throw in the towel."

But it's not all doom-and-gloom. On single days, I've gotten emails subject-lined "devastating defeat" followed by "epic comeback," as well as "stunning comeback" followed by "devastating defeat."

Credit: Kelsey Dake for Ad Age

The net effect is a political party that seems to be having an absolute meltdown.

I'm sorry, does that sound judgmental? Well, for the record, Nancy Pelosi emailed me on March 30 and her subject line was "absolute meltdown."

By the way, Nancy wrote to me again last week. Her email was subject-lined "We keep emailing you," and it began, "President Obama has emailed you. Vice President Biden has emailed you. And now I've emailed you. We wouldn't all be asking if it wasn't so important…" (picture Nancy Pelosi Photoshopped into the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme).

Honestly, at this point I'm half-expecting an email subject-lined, "Thanks to Obamacare, we were finally able to get our meds adjusted."

Really, all I want is some clarity on the Democrats' apparent rebranding-in-progress -- from the "hope and change" party to the "kiss any hope goodbye" party.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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