Direct Mail or Email? Comparing Political Campaign Strategies

political direct mail campaign vs email

The Battle for Voters’ Attention: Direct Mail vs Email in Political Campaigns

When comparing a political direct mail campaign vs. email, you have a lot of factors to consider. Both of these channels bring specific strengths to the task of attracting voter attention and moving them to vote for your candidate. 

In this post, I’m going to review some strategies to help you decide what side of the political direct mail vs. email your campaign should support.

Political Direct Mail Campaigns

One of the world’s largest media buying agencies, GroupM, projects that $17.1 billion will be spent on election advertising in 2024, including $1.2 billion for direct mail; the majority will go towards local connected TV.

Advantages of direct mail

In voter opinion surveys, mail has been ranked as the most credible among all forms of political outreach – better than TV, social media, or email, among others. Its long and successful history as a tactic is due to some distinct strengths.

Tangibility and lasting impact

An effective political mailer stands out in the mailbox because it is tactile. The format – the headlines – the images – the call-to-action – even the social proof included on the piece – all engage voters when done well.

Targeted reach

Of course, you want to reach your audience – voters – with a message that resonates. With direct mail, you can base an entire mail piece on an important issue, candidate qualification, or a segmentation factor.

Personalization options

A headline, call-to-action, or personalized voter location map on a direct mail piece can speak to an individual voter directly and be generated with variable data printing (VDP).

Disadvantages of direct mail

In a few instances, direct mail may not be the best approach for reaching voters.

Longer lead times

Even with programmatic or retargeting mail, campaigns require time to be designed, printed, and mailed.

Limited tracking capabilities

If you’re opting for simple mass mail GOTV (get-out-the-vote) campaigns, getting very granular in measuring performance may not be that important to your overall efforts.

Political Email Campaigns

Email can play a powerful role in political campaigns. However, as in other sectors, you have to be careful in planning when or how to deploy it due to several important factors.

Advantages of email

Engaging voters with email using relevant and timely messaging has become a common tactic relied on by many political campaigns.


Email campaigns can be as expensive (or inexpensive) as you need them to be. Cost factors include list quality, email design, campaign frequency, and use of internal or outsourced resources.

Quick delivery and turnaround

Campaigns and elements can be deployed and changed within seconds to an email list.

Easy to track and measure

Typical metrics include open rates, click-throughs, conversion rates, and unsubscribes, and all can be easily monitored in a CRM system.

Disadvantages of email

Compared to direct mail, where physical addresses are fixed, email unsubscribe rates are high when a political campaign ends following an election, or for reasons listed below.


Too many messages too often fatigues voters and invites opt-outs.

Lower open and engagement rates

Easy for recipients to delete without opening or clicking through to a website or app.

Potential for spam filters

Specific words in messages and subject lines may trigger spam filters.

Privacy and compliance

Potential voters may regard emails as invasive or violating anti-spam regulations.

Comparing the Effectiveness of Direct Mail and Email

The effectiveness of direct mail and email in reaching voters gives your election campaign some powerful tools. While attribution can be measured to some degree, effectiveness of each channel is often inferred only from voter surveys.

Response rates

According to some surveys, direct mail enjoys response rates of about 4.4% versus 0.12% for email. For political campaigns, though, this metric is impossible to measure.

Voter engagement

Good engagement is a matter of perspective. Email is ideal for instant engagement and decision-making, while direct mail works better at building trust long-term.

Return on investment (ROI)

Generally, depending on the vertical, marketers say that email has a better ROI than direct mail. But for political campaign efforts, again, extensive testing and attribution analysis reveals what works best.

Integrating Direct Mail and Email in Political Campaigns

The value and strength of each channel is enhanced when it aligns with the work done by the other channel to drive voter interest and engagement.

Benefits of a multi-channel approach

Direct mail and email working together make an incredible merger of two effective media. For political campaigns, it means:

  • More impressions with similar but not necessarily identical messaging to potential voters

  • More ways to reach audiences with different channel preferences, and save money by segmenting them

  • More opportunities to build anticipation with one channel for the other

Strategies for seamless integration

For a political campaign that gets the most from each channel working together:

  • Prospect for email addresses or social engagement with a direct mail piece

  • Send direct mail as a step in a drip campaign to nurture high-value segments

  • Sync up postal mailer delivery with email through USPS Informed Delivery campaigns

Optimizing Your Political Campaign Strategy

Reaching voters at the right time with the right message means being intentional when evaluating your political direct mail campaign vs email.

Defining your target audience and goals

Your audience is not all voters. Instead, it’s people whose values and political beliefs align best with your candidate. Create a contact database that starts with mailing and email lists of registered voters. Additional data sets can segment voters by gender, age, income, education, and other criteria pulled from issue- or lifestyle-specific compiled lists.

Next, drill down into your voter contact database by targeting people using specific demographics, and build personas to help you visualize your different segments and help you sharpen your copy.

Crafting compelling content for each channel

To be persuasive, your messaging should be to-the-point, focusing on how a candidate’s position or experience solves a problem or benefits the voters. Use short headlines, bullet points, and white space to guide the reader to your main points and the call-to-action. 

Also, with your text and images, tap into emotional drivers: guilt, fear, anger, salvation, exclusivity, flattery, and greed, to motivate action. Align facts and figures mostly as support for the messaging.

Timing and frequency of outreach

Timing really is everything. Campaign mail is ideal to introduce the candidate. A mix of email and direct mail then reinforces their messaging, and finally, mobilizes their likely voters – and, you hope, others – before an election. Again, the key is in reaching the right voters with the right message at the right time – and with the right channel.

To be most effective:

  • Watch your registration deadlines and voting date(s)

  • Know your mail drop dates

  • Use Tag 57 for faster processing by USPS

Measuring and analyzing results

Yes, you can track your direct mail campaigns. And as you analyze your attribution, you can further segment your follow-up campaigns for those audiences.

Wrapping it up

The success of your political direct mail strategy is directly related to the expertise of the company that produces it. Our decades of experience in designing, printing, and mailing marketing and political campaigns of all sizes and complexities gives a distinct advantage over other candidates.

Why we can help you optimize your political direct mail:

  • Over 25 years of mailing list and data expertise to identify your voters

  • On-time guarantee to get in the mail quickly and affordably even during election season

  • State-of-the-art equipment and choice of products that showcase your candidate

  • Union bug certification to meet campaign requirements

  • On-site USPS verification that saves time and money

  • Award-winning customer service that works directly with your campaign

At, we look forward to being part of your winning political campaign team. Call or reach out to us to get started on the road to political campaign success.

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