UK EU Referendum – Goat GIFs Could be a Vote Winner!

There are less than two weeks until the UK votes on its future in the European Union, and every day presents us with more fantastic facts!

  • Couples are delaying having children because of worries about the uncertainty of a Brexit according to the Evening Standard.
  • New listings on the London Stock Exchange are at a near standstill as companies await the referendum outcome before committing their future to the UK.
  • Almost seven million potential voters are not yet registered to do so. Almost half a million of them attempted to beat the deadline yesterday and crashed the registration website in the process!
  • 57 percent versus 43 percent of London residents are forecast to vote in favor of remaining. However, half of young Londoners (18-24) admit they may not bother voting.
  • Facebook is doing its bit to activate the youth vote with a viral campaign (“if you’ve got time to watch a goat gif you’ve got 2 minutes to register to vote”) reputedly driving 5,000 registrations!


Anyway – back to Email Intelligence. In Part 1 of this series, we looked at deliverability metrics for the Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave campaigns. The Remainers had built the larger list, but the Leavers were more front of mind with subscribers. In this post, we’ll look at which program is driving more engagement.

Welcome, Dear Supporter!


Good email programs start with a welcome, and both programs oblige. Stronger In establishes visual identity, while Vote Leave sets expectations. Note how both appear to have taken a leaf from the Hillary Clinton playbook with their references to “Dear Friend!”

Who Are You?

Many Stronger In emails take the identity of people associated with the campaign, such as Will Straw (Executive Director) and Lucy Thomas (Deputy Director). However, this could be a mistake.


These people are not well-known political personalities like David Cameron and Boris Johnson, and many subscribers may not recognize them. This is evident in the engagement metrics—emails that simply come from “Stronger In” are generating better read rates and lower spam placement rates than the emails from Will, Lucy, and their colleagues.

Keeping Tabs on Performance

When Gmail launched its tabbed inbox, there was an obsession with getting placed in the Primary tab. Return Path quickly debunked that myth—more important is consistently getting placed in the folder subscribers are expecting. Around 40 percent of Stronger In’s emails are going to the Primary tab, but this has delivered mixed performance:


Overall read rates for emails that delivered to my Primary tab were higher and deleted unread rates were lower—both positive signals. However, we can also see that for all recipients, spam filtering was significantly higher—perhaps because these emails are largely text-based. The very factor helping to achieve Primary placement may also be failing to resonate with audiences more accustomed to richer content.

All About Timing

Both programs send mostly in the afternoon/evening and are clearly targeting mobile after-work audiences. Stronger In sends a little earlier—average first-time-seen is 3:50 p.m. compared with just after 5:00 p.m. for Vote Leave. This could be an important differentiator:


Afternoon means before 6:00 p.m., while evening is later. Both programs see lower negative metrics during the evening period. Stronger In, which sends earlier, sees lower afternoon read rates, while Vote Leave, sending around an hour later, has consistent read rates over both periods. Stronger In could be compromising program performance by going a little too soon.


Emails that create a sense of urgency generally perform better. For Stronger In, calls to action like “This is Critical” and “We’re Being Outspent” will always drive more engagement than “Do You Want a T-Shirt?” while Vote Leave’s “This is How We Win” and “I’m Doing This For My Grandkids” touch emotions far more effectively than “Score Big With Vote Leave.”

I tagged campaigns (very subjectively) by those I judged most effective in creating a sense of urgency – either by asking a question (“Did you just see that?”), making a time-specific reference (“20 Days to Go”), or making an emotional appeal (“Our campaign needs YOU”). The results speak for themselves:


For both campaigns, Read rates are higher and MBP filtering rates lower when urgency is employed. The only surprise is they both are only doing this for about 1/3 of all sends.


Both programs are ramping up activity as voting day approaches, and the additional campaigns, although generating greater traffic, are diluting effectiveness. Vote Leave is still generating higher read rates (34 percent vs 24 percent), but Stronger In is catching up fast, and its greater scale could mean more votes on June 23rd. Keep your eyes open for the concluding post of this series next week where I’ll pull this all together and make a bold prediction about which way the result will go!

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