What do the Presidential Candidates’ 404 pages say about them?

I reviewed the top United States Presidential candidates 404 pages. Here’s what I found.

I chose the best and worst pages in 3 areas:

Call to Action– Do I know what I am supposed to do from here?
Usability– Does the page follow best practices?
Spirit– How does the page make me feel?

The 404 Pages

Cruz

Rubio

Trump

Clinton

Bernie

Call to Action

Best
Bernie- The autoplay video asks people to scoot down the page to the footer links. Also, there is a big form inviting me to get involved. While I mostly hate autoplay videos, the video is short, highly pertinent, and tells me what to do next. So I almost don’t hate it.

Worst
Trump- “The page requested could not be found. If you feel this is an error please contact us.” Gag me.

Usability

Best
Bernie- Short video, brief call to action form, easily readable footer links that take me anywhere I want to go.

Worst
Trump- I know I’m lost because I don’t see what I wanted to see. The 404 page doesn’t help me AT ALL.

Spirit

Best
Tie between Rubio & Cruz- both are interesting stories of the candidate and help me identify with them. They include me in the movement while excluding the unbelievers (those who don’t like guns, bacon, or football for kids).

Worst
Trump- Really, it’s bad. At least Clinton has a Disneyland photo. Trump is the only one without a video or a photo. This 404 page belongs in 1998.

Overall Rating

While I hate, hate, hate autoplay videos, Bernie’s 404 page is the winner here. He avoids doing what politicians so often do, which is answer a question with a political point instead of answering the question. His video is 18 seconds so it’s not a huge interruption. And it’s very relevant. When you are done looking at his 404 page, you feel like he has provided good service.

Second place are Cruz’ and Rubio’s page. While they aren’t as immediately useful as Bernie’s, they tell a really good story that makes me happy to be part of the shared culture. And they are much more respectful of my and my neighbors’ auditory environment by not autoplaying the videos.

Tied for worst are Trump’s and Clinton’s. Default text on Trump’s is just as bad as a family duck photo along with a pun on Clinton’s. Don’t these people know my time is valuable?

Marketing Analysis

While the lead internet marketer on each campaign probably has some ability to modify the 404 page, they probably have less than we think.

Trump‘s brand is about do it yourself and about him being awesome. That’s the story. So it would be hard to make a brand consistent 404 page that was truly helpful.

Clinton‘s brand is mostly about ‘We’ve been around forever’ and she has to appeal to the older voters who don’t care about all the scandals surrounding her. So a weird family photo that turns off tech savvy people my age is appropriate.

Cruz and Rubio (both Cubans, by the way!) both need to capture the brand position of “We are America!” So they have to tell stories. Trump has accomplished far more, and helped far more people, than Cruz and Rubio ever will (unless they become President). I’ve read Trumps book(s). Have you read Cruz’ or Rubio’s? So their stories are about what it means to be American, while also focusing on anti-Democratic views like pro-gun, pro-bacon, pro-competitive sports, and pro-children in sports. These may not feel to you like anti-Democrat views, but they shift the conversation away from Trump who is on record saying he is more of a Democrat than a Republican.

Which leaves us with Bernie. He needs to be not Clinton, while also appealing to younger folk. So he says what he means, simply, with quick directions, and doesn’t waste your time. His 404 page is the anti-Clinton both in terms of her (and her husband’s) policies and also in terms of her 404 page.

Recommendations

I once worked on the Ron Paul campaign on the internet marketing side of things. Advised is probably a better word, and that may even be too strong. And I found that the people making the internet marketing decisions were completely set in their ways and not open to any new advice. And this was 8 years ago.

I’ll end here with brief advice for each internet marketing manager on the off chance that they can actually get their 404 page changed.

Trump– Stop using default text. Act as if an old not-tech-savvy relative might land on your 404 page. Be more helpful.
Clinton– Your duck family photo and pun make you smile, but embarrasses the rest of the country. When you treat your campaign like a joke, we voters will perceive it that way too.
Rubio– Your pun (‘Fumble!’) is okay, but give me a Search Site field instead of an Enter Site button. I’m already on the site!
Cruz– Your pun (‘Maybe it was cooked… like bacon!’) is also okay, but only because your video is awesome. But better yet, give me a search box above the video. You already push every call to action link below the page, forcing me to scroll to get anywhere.
Bernie– Turn off the autoplay. Please. Your 404 page would then be twice as good as any other.

One more thing…

The United States is growing more diverse in terms of language every year. Spanish is spoken by something like 1 in 10 Americans.

Of the 5 sites reviewed, only Cruz has a link to a Spanish version of his site in the header links. Only Bernie has one in the footer links. Clinton and Trump don’t surprise me for their lack of even trying to connect with 10% of the population, but Rubio, the Cuban, doesn’t have a link to a Spanish version of his site.

Here’s my campaign prediction- candidates that ignore large and growing voting blocks will do increasingly poorly as we get closer to election day.

One extra more thing…

One more note on branding. Notice how I refer to the candidates? All of them get last names, except for Bernie. Even on their 404 pages all the candidates play out their brand story. Cruz and Rubio tell me about who they are, Clinton makes a joke at my expense, Trump is unhelpful, but Bernie thanks me for helping with the campaign while directing me right to where I want to go.

In other words, based solely on the 404 pages and not on any actual policies, if you had to call a government office to get information, which candidate would you rather pick up the phone?

  • Linda says:

    Fascinating. And as you might expect, those no longer in the race have taken the videos down. But Clinton has changed hers to a video of her repeatedly running a card through a subway entrance. Or at least I think that is what it is. Very mystifying.

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