How this traditional campaign tactic can serve you in the modern age
In the age of digital advertising, direct mail remains an incredibly effective method for reaching voters. It is still the most effective way to send a targeted message directly to a specific voter in their household. And amid COVID-19, where in-person campaigning is harder than ever, direct mail is an effective and affordable way for candidates and issue campaigns to reach their target audiences.
At Javelina, we want progressive candidates and issues to succeed up and down the ballot. As a result, we’re sharing our “secret sauce” for producing attention-grabbing mail that moves voters.
We follow these five fundamentals, which have earned our mail national recognition:
1. Make sure you stand out
Mailboxes are crowded – especially in a Presidential year – so design mail that stands out.
- Intentionally build generous time into your mail plan to think creatively and develop concepts that provide a hook for readers. Aside from opening the door to great concepts, this creative time also helps eliminate standard mail that looks inauthentic and stereotypically political.
- Brainstorm the mail concept you need until you come up with at least 10-15 solid ideas of how to approach it. Often, the first 5-10 ideas that come to you are just a clearing out of cobwebs and clichés. It is when you are forced to dig deep that you get to the best concepts.
2. Stay on message
If you’re not laser focused on your winning message you are not on the path to winning.
- Determine your winning message, then stick to it.
- If your positive message is working, don’t change it because you “have” to address other issues that are part of the general Democratic narrative. Stick to what’s helping you win.
- When voters read mail, they aren’t just receiving the message from your written content. They also receive it from the imagery, colors, fonts, design, and sometimes even the paper used (newsprint, for example). Be intentional, and make sure every element of your mail reinforces the overarching message.
3. Keep it simple
Getting your message across is the whole point of your mail. Don’t let the little things get in the way of that.
- Use consistent, legible fonts.
- Break up your text with short paragraphs, and headlines that reinforce your message. And to that same end, use a design that’s not too busy.
- Less is more with mail. Limit the amount of text you use, preserving negative space to make your mail easier to read.
- Where possible, break longer chunks of text into bullet points. Keep lists of bullets to four points or less. Studies show the human brain struggles is better at retaining information when shared in groupings of four or less.
4. Connect emotionally
Big statistics and intellectual arguments don’t achieve much on their own. An effective mailer connects with voters on an emotional level.
- The impact of public policy has a human face and a human story. Recruit real people to tell personal and memorable – even gut-wrenching – stories.
- Over-reliance on stock imagery can signal “slickness”—the kiss of death if you want to disarm voter cynicism. Use photos of real people wherever possible.
5. Get voters to nod along with you
Find your overlap with what voters believe to be true and develop your message in that context.
- Persuading people comes in three levels of difficulty. Going from easiest to hardest, they are:
- Telling people that what they believe to be true is in fact true.
- Providing first-time information on an issue which people know nothing about.
- Telling people that what they believe to be true is actually false.
- Barring unusual circumstances, you want to aim your message exclusively at that first zone, reinforcing ideas your target audience already holds.
If you are writing and producing your own mail, we hope you find these ideas helpful. If you’re interviewing potential mail consultants, consider these fundamentals when reviewing samples of their mail. And, as always, keep working passionately for the things you believe in.