Print Politics

The Obama Direct Mailer Debate

When full color printing goes up against spam…

The Democratic Primary in South Carolina is coming up fast, and candidates are racing to cover as much ground as possible this week in an effort to disprove the old adage that “You can't please all the people, all the time.”

Obama, who's picked as an SC favorite, still appears to be struggling a bit in the polls amongst white voters. Supporters are placing the blame on a piece of spam circulating throughout South Carolina, in which Obama is accused of being secretly Muslim, and secretly anti-American. Unfortunately, certain venomous minds in our country tend to see those two things as synonymous.

Fighting back against these spam emails, the SC Obama camp has begun to send out direct mailers declaring Obama as a “Committed Christian.” The mailer – another nice example of full color printing from Obama – tells readers about the day he was, “Called to Christ, Called to Bring Change, Called to Serve.”

No one is arguing whether or not the mailer is well designed, because it is (besides being a bit copy-heavy), but was it a sharp move, strategy-wise?


  • Obama responds to a piece of low-quality spam with a beautiful, glossy mailer. Email might be cheap, but direct mail trumps it for impact any day of the week.
  • Obama connects with South Carolina Christian voters, reassuring them that he shares their values.


  • The mailer runs the risk of alienating SC Democrats who like to keep their politics secular.
  • With the direct mail campaign receiving national attention, gains made amongst voters in SC could translate into losses in other states.

Obama SC Direct Mailer

If the buzz online is any indication, it seems like Dems are split on how to feel about the mailer, particularly in terms of what appears to be the Obama camp's effort to respond to the spam attack. On the one hand, the spam sucks, and it should be put in its place. On the other hand, should anyone in this country have to defend their right to religious freedom?

The issue is much larger than full color print design vs. spam, but it's also related in a really important way. With spam, it's effortless to pen some random, malicious message, and send it to thousands of people. With print design, however, you have to think, HARD, about what you're saying, and how you're saying it.

Because of the extra effort it takes, direct mail will always be a more powerful tool than spam. Personally, I hope that it's always available to the people who really need it to make their voices heard.


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