Is President Barack Obama Using Unethical Email Marketing Tactics?

[Note #1: Yes, I realize that this video is longer than a minute.  The “Marketing Minute” is just a segment that’s shorter than our typical 8 to 12 minutes episodes].

[Note #2: In full disclosure, I should tell you that I have been an Obama supporter in the past and continue to be one.  I would, however, be grateful if you would keep political discussion out of the comments, and instead stay focused on your thoughts on his recent email marketing practices (I do not want the discussion to turn into a debate about the pros and cons of an Obama presidency).]

Hello everyone, and welcome to this Marketing Show Minute. Now recently, I’ve got an e-mail from President Barack Obama, and I was personally a little bit offended, and I want to get your take on this. Now, the reason I got an e-mail from Barack Obama was that I have given him money in the past. So full disclosure, in the past, I’ve been an Obama supporter. Now whether you like that or not is really not what the issue here. I want to see what you think of his e-mail marketing practices.

So I received this e-mail on Mother’s Day. The subject was a card for Michelle, presumably Michelle Obama. The e-mail went like this: Clay, the President asked for our help to make this Mother’s Day a special one for the First Lady joined over 300,000 people and signed his Mother’s Day card for her today. Then there’s a link. Thanks, she’s going to love this, Catherine. And then P.S. Check out what the President has to say about the moms in his life. So let’s follow this link and see what this leads us to.

What this leads us to essentially is a squeeze page, okay. So it says Wish Michelle a Happy Mother’s Day, and we can do that by leaving our e-mail address, right. So rather than signing a card with our name, we’re signing the card with our e-mail address, okay, and you know, there is – To Obama’s credit, there’s a good video here where he talks about the mothers in his life and what they mean to him, and that is a good video. I think it’s well done, it’s touching, and it’s got some personal connection there.

So I’m going to go ahead and opt in here. Of course, most people don’t think they’re opt in. Most people think they are simply signing Michelle Obama’s Mother’s Day card. So I’m going to click on “Side in the card.” And what do I get? Well, when I click on this, what I get on the other side is a donation form, and I really don’t like this. I don’t like this because I believe that the spirit of the e-mail I got here was not aligned with the spirit of what I saw when I went to the page.

So this was all about Obama wanting to give something to his wife Michelle on, something very special, Mother’s Day, but my guess – In fact, this isn’t a guess. This has to be true – is that he’s not handing Michelle a list of e-mail addresses, right. This was simply a guise for us to opt in and then to give a donation on the other side. This – Was this ingenuous? What you have here is a situation where the spirit of what was said in the e-mail, in other words, sign Michelle’s Mother’s Day card was not aligned with the spirit of this, which was sign her card by entering your e-mail address, right. He’s not giving Michelle a list of e-mail addresses from us, but sign it with your e-mail address, which is basically a way for him to capture leads if you will, and on the other side of this, give him a donation. So this was really a ploy to get donations.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with presidential candidates getting donations, and there’s nothing wrong with capturing e-mail addresses in collecting leads if you will. There is something wrong with the spirit of what you’re saying not aligning with your actual motives, and in this case, this wasn’t about Michelle. This was about President Obama collecting donations, and again, I’m all for any presidential candidate collecting donations. It’s a free market economy and that’s what we’re about.

So what do you think? Was this ingenuous? Was this maybe not deceitful, but was this an ethical e-mail marketing practice? What’s your take? I’d like to hear what you think in the comments. Thanks so much for watching this Marketing Minute. I’ll talk to you later.