Never Mind Social Media. This Was The Obama Campaign's Real Secret Weapon

Plus: Post-Mortem Thoughts on Romney-Ryan Branding

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What did the Romney-Ryan team get wrong? Lots of stuff, obviously. But the campaign's main problem was its fatal branding, starting with the inconsistent and confusing core product -- Mitt Romney, the former moderate gone faux extremist gone moderate-ish again at the last minute -- and an incredibly lame logo.

Credit: Illustration by Kelsey Dake

When the Romney-Ryan campaign released its ugly-ass logo, plenty of folks said it looked like an errant glob of triple-protection Aquafresh (see, but at least one leading pundit -- me -- was more dismayed by a different subtext. Every time I looked at the hot R-on-R action in that logo, I couldn't help but think of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan spooning. Not that there's anything wrong with that ... oh, wait! According to the Republican Party platform, there is something terribly wrong with that . When does a bromance go too far? When the backside of your R is pressed almost right up against the frontside of your running mate's. I mean, seriously, guys, get a room -- and get your branding straight. By which I mean, unambiguously heterosexual. Or at least use triple protection.

But I digress. And really, I'd rather talk about something else: What did the Obama-Biden campaign get right? Lots of stuff, obviously. One thing we keep hearing about ad nauseam, of course, is that the incumbent team had the edge in social media. Sure, I'll buy that -- or retweet it mindlessly -- but in giving credit to the Obama-Biden team for its state-of -the-art social strategy, we shouldn't make the mistake of overlooking the campaign's mastery of some old-school fundraising and get-out-the-vote tools.

In fact, for my money, the most consistently compelling outreach tool used by Obama-Biden was email. If you got on either campaign's email list, you basically agreed to be strafed with endless pleas for support, but the Obama-Biden campaign took political spamology to a whole new level -- especially in how it crafted its often-surreal subject lines. Teenspeak, celebrity name-dropping, raffle-prize giveaways, online store discounts, dinner invites -- there wasn't anything the campaign wouldn't try to get you to open its damn spam.

To commemorate the winning team's deeply annoying and devilishly effective email marketing strategy, I present to you a short list of some of my favorite Obama-Biden campaign email subject lines -- with a twist. All but one of these are guaranteed authentic. If you can detect the one fake one -- and tell me what it's actually a line from -- you could win a year's supply of Tom's of Maine toothpaste. It has no fancy stripes; it's just the leading organic (and for all I know, socialist) brand of toothpaste, and it comes from a state that has nothing against bromances, platonic or otherwise. Here goes:




Me again

"I love you back"

I want to be able to say

Michael Jordan

Clooney and me

The end?

Today only...

Real quick:

Gray hairs

This video really moved me


Up late

To be frank

Meet me for dinner

I'm bringing Michelle

Michelle and I are hosting

Dinner with the Obamas

Get flown in for a meal with me

You and a guest

Can we meet for dinner?


Baby take a chance or you'll never ever know

Barack's birthday card

Barack's birthday party

Fly out to meet us

In the clutch

Now we know

We had no idea

Last chance at dinner

Big things


If you forward one thing...

Scroll down, then forward

You've GOT to see these:

Our biggest sale EVER

Choose your car magnet

Sad to say

Cat's out of the bag

Got an iPhone?

20% OFF storewide

Your car magnet

A little bittersweet

I want to win

Last call for your car magnet

SMALL PRINT: Send me an email with the subject line "Not from Obama-Biden," and in the body of your email identify the one line above that was not issued by the Obama-Biden campaign and tell me whose line it actually is . Everybody who gets it right will be entered in my informal drawing for a year's supply of toothpaste -- which, for the purposes of this silly giveaway, I'm defining as a dozen tubes. You must be a U.S. resident 18 years or older with a U.S. mailing address. Toothbrush not included. Void where prohibited. Entry deadline: Midnight (end of day) EST on Nov. 16, 2012.

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

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