5 Things Marketers Can Learn From the Infamous #ImNotKiddingMaddi Email

Political affiliation aside, I think most everyone can agree that Hillary Clinton may not have gotten the response she was looking for when she sent out this email:

For a little background, this email was sent on the night of the New Hampshire primary to a young woman named Maddi Epping who is on Hillary Clinton’s mailing list.

The subject line was posted a Facebook group supporting Bernie Sanders and from there it exploded into the viral hashtag “ImNotKiddingMaddi”, with most using the hashtag to poke fun at the email.

I would like to take this opportunity to examine what we can learn from this email that exploded the internet. After all, politics is just marketing with the end-goal of a government position.

Let’s break down this email into more than its political aspirations.


Subject line

“I’m not kidding, Maddi”

On one hand, the subject line has a couple of things going for it: personalization and conversational tone. Subject lines with personalization get 22.3 percent more opens than those that do not. The way the subject line is written makes it sound conversational in some ways, which combined with the sender name, would have likely gotten my open out of sheer curiosity. What isn’t she kidding about? The combination of the tone and the sender likely triggered the curiosity of Maddi, which is why she opened the email.

But the tone inside the both the subject line and the body copy of the email has an issue.


Tone/ Pain Point Relationship

Whoever wrote this email wrote it in a scolding tone, as if the reader was a naughty child. And I think that’s the reason it eventually became subject to such ridicule on the internet. People don’t like to be talked down to and that’s what this email opens and closes with.

Now, this might have gone over better with people that fully support Clinton in her campaign. After all, their goal is to get Hillary elected. So the words, “We absolutely, critically need to make sure Hillary comes out on top in the states that lie ahead,” work on these people. To those who would be severely disappointed if Clinton doesn’t win, this sentence is fairly compelling. What if Clinton doesn’t win? Donate now!



What went wrong here also is that Clinton’s subscription list includes people who may not necessarily support her as a primary candidate. Epping said in an interview that she was supporting Sanders and so the email that Clinton sent was sort of ineffective on her.

If this email was only seen my those who exclusively supported Clinton, it likely would have not gone viral. But once it was released to social media, where many of Sander’s 30-and-under supporters are gathering in droves, things changed.

The people seeing the email were not the target audience for Clinton’s email, which is why it was ineffective. To these viewers, the email seemed less urgent and more desperate, thus triggering the creation of mocking memes that made #ImNotKiddingMaddi go viral.


Super Urgency / Sales Speak

Audience issues aside, the body copy is actually written in classical sales speak. It hits immediately on the pain point, Clinton not winning the rest of the states in the primary. It then goes on to say, “I’m not kidding, Maddi, I’m asking you to give $1 right this second. Can you chip in?”

This direct language is something that marketers are trying to avoid in most of the things that they do. You see, although the pain point is there, I’m not sure that there is enough pain to support the call to action. The message is Clinton might lose, donate now. That’s it? Why? What does your dollar do for Clinton? I would love to see the metrics off this email, including open and click-through rates. How many did this email actually convert?

A really good test for this is thinking about using the copy in the street. If you sat there demanding a dollar from people in the street, would they ignore you or give you a dollar?


The Power of a Hashtag

The biggest lesson here is the power of a hashtag. Once this subject line was turned into a hashtag, it took off. In the end, this email, while ridiculed, may have gotten more people to support Clinton than the email alone would have. After all, it’s said that any publicity is good publicity. The hashtag had more reach than Clinton’s email would have ever had and she probably raised more money than she would have had the email stayed on the servers.



Let us know what you think:

  • How would you change the #ImNotKiddingMaddi email?
  • What positives would you draw from it?
  • What’s the single biggest issue with the email?




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