Election 2020 Direct Mail Breakdown
By Paul Bobnak | December 8, 2020
Well, the shouting is all but over and here’s one big winner after this year’s elections: political direct mail. Spending on mail was projected to reach new highs in 2020. And according to some estimates, political mail volume jumped by more than one billion pieces over 2016’s general election record total.
This all makes sense. With normal door-to-door campaigning severely curtailed because of COVID-19, parties and campaigns still had to do the usual voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts however they could, which left an opening for more direct mail political ads.
More direct mail? That’s music to my ears. And I’ve written several posts focusing on challenges like how to get political campaigns ready to mail.
This year, there were many competitive races in my very competitive state, so I received dozens of mail pieces. Now add to that what was forwarded from family and friends in different parts of the country, and what resulted is a stack of mail on my desk that I reviewed.
Here are five quick takeaways about what worked in this year’s political mail.
1. Voter Education Works
Piece after piece I saw emphasized the need to “Make a Voting Plan”. Some were devoted exclusively to help voters understand the new alternative process. They used clearly-numbered steps, icons, and short sentences.
So a lot of this is due to COVID-19 throwing a giant monkey wrench into the traditional primary and general election processes. But in future elections, even if there isn’t a disease or some other disaster raging, parties and candidates need to make voters think less about the election as a single day but a choice of days – and ways – for them to vote. Tens of millions of people voted well before November 3 and would likely have done so no matter what was going on.
If you really want to mobilize your audience, and there are safe and secure voting options available, then it’s on you to get the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) mail started early. We are increasingly living in a 24/7 society, after all. That, and the experience of the last 10 months tells us that more convenience and flexibility is a good thing. Your political mail should embrace this reality.
2. The Postal Service Works
Putting aside all of the controversy of the last few months, the U.S. Postal Service was gearing up for a direct mail election campaign and vote long before the pandemic struck. In fact, vote-by-mail has been a growing option for years, COVID-19 just accelerated it.
To USPS’s credit, I haven’t heard about any problems with campaign mail not getting delivered on time. Tag 57 works campaign people!
3. Government Works
Really, it does. It’s mostly the pandemic of course, but kudos to state and county election boards for sending out mail that did a good job educating people about all of the changes – some likely permanent – to the election process.
What their mail did well:
- Listing registration and voting dates
- Illustrating the vote-by-mail alternatives
- Including phone and online contact information for voters with questions
Mail cuts through the clutter, and can reach everyone. That’s one of its great powers and essential to our democratic system.
4. Technology Works
With each election, I see more and more technological call-outs. They’re a convenient way of building and sustaining voter engagement. This year, most campaign mailers I saw pointed people to their websites and social media. Quite a few put QR codes in their mail to supply helpful information as well.
Still, I was hoping to see more campaign mail pieces that take advantage of all of the multichannel options available, such as smart speaker technology. They would have qualified for a 2% discount under USPS’s 2020 promotions and incentives. Fortunately, all of those promotions will be back in 2021!
5. Big Mail Works
I mean really big. Lots of jumbo postcards (6”x11”) for one thing, but also much larger sizes. How big? How about pieces up to 14”x8.5” BIG?
Large sizes give a candidate or party lots of room to talk about their message, qualifications, issues and more. Not much negative or white space if that’s more your thing but then, their job is to sell and educate.
Wrapping it up
For anyone involved in political campaigns, remember that the essentials that worked this year will still apply in 2021 and beyond. Voters need to be educated, motivated, and helped to turn out the next time around, wherever they’ll be voting. Direct mail should be a major part of your election campaign budget. Make a plan, start early, and don’t forget multichannel.
Mailing.com has worked with many campaigns over the years, 2020 included. Thanks to our on-site USPS verification, your mail can be checked, cleared, and transferred to the Post Office without unpleasant surprises. You’ll save time and money and have peace of mind.
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