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Insights and Ideas on Communications Planning
November 26, 2012
If Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 was defined by social media, then surely his successful 2012 re-election bid should be attributed to their use of data and micro-targeting.
Election night seemed to confound many of the pundits. Governor Romney appeared to put together a strong campaign with the polls leading into the final week suggesting a tight race. Romney won 60% of White voters. He in fact even won the independents vote. Yet he lost the key battleground States of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada … handing the sitting President a second term.
How did Obama win?
First, he delivered a well-orchestrated campaign of largely negative advertising targeting Romney, which served the purpose of suppressing voter turnout by traditionally Republican supporters.
Second, he mobilized key voter blocks to register early and vote. 18-24 year olds; African Americans; Latinos and single women in the key swing States. Voter turnout for these four key demographics was about 70% thereby giving him the numbers he needed to push him over the edge.
At the heart of these two strategies, was micro-targeting.
Micro-targeting is the ability to dissect in this case, the voter population in to narrow segments and customize messaging to them, both in on-the-ground activities and in the media.
Micro-targeting isn’t a new idea in politics or marketing for that matter. Karl Rove expertly exploited this in the successful Bush campaign in 2000 and 2004. But it was the sophistication and the scale of how they executed this strategy that in the end, proved the knock-out punch for the Democrats.
The Obama camp in preparing for this election, established a huge Analytics group that comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians. They worked tirelessly to gather and interpret data to inform every part of the campaign. They built up a voter file that included voter history, demographic profiles, but also collected numerous other data points around interests … for example, did they give to charitable organizations or which magazines did they read to help them better understand who they were and better identify the group of‘persuadables‘ to target.
That data was able to be drilled down to zip codes, individual households and in many cases individuals within those households.
However it is how they deployed this data in activating their campaign that translated the insight they garnered into killer tactics for the Obama campaign.
Volunteers canvassing door to door or calling constituents were able to access these profiles via an app accessed on an iPad, iPhone or Android mobile device to provide an instant transcript to help them steer their conversations. They were also able to input new data from their conversation back into the database real time.
The profiles informed their direct and email fundraising efforts. They used issues such Obama’s support for gay marriage or Romney’s missteps in his portrayal of women to directly target more liberal and professional women on their database, with messages that “Obama is for women,” using that opportunity to solicit contributions to his campaign.
Micro-targeting helped them to steer their broadcast buying approach. While both campaigns followed conventional wisdom to buy spots in Local Broadcast news programming, Obama’s team differentiated their schedule by adding networks like TV Land whose viewers they determined “were less political” and therefore more likely to be a persuadable.
Even the selection of celebrity fundraisers were informed by the data. The team identified women 40-49 as the highest contributors to their campaign. Obama’s analytics team in crunching the numbers uncovered that Sara Jessica Parker of Sex in the City fame popped as the most appealing celebrity to this demographic and called her up to ask if she would host a fundraiser dinner for Obama in New York. Web ads and emails from Michelle Obama were sent targeting this group asking them to “chip in whatever they can” with a chance to win an invitation, hotel and flights to New York to attend the event.
As mentioned earlier, encouraging early voting and a higher turnout of key target groups was critical in winning the swing states. They used classic micro-targeting online advertising to reach those groups. Obama’s team’s use of Facebook this time was also very clever, tapping into Facebook’s individual profile data. A million users downloaded the Obama 2012 app on Facebook. The app was able to identify their Facebook friends that fit favorable profiles located in key swing states, encouraging them to contact these friends to remind them to vote. Sources say one in five of those contacted this way were influenced positively by this contact.
Marketers need to take heed of how the Obama campaign transformed their marketing approach centered around data. They demonstrated incredible discipline to capture data across multiple sources and then to inform every element of the marketing – direct to consumer, on the ground efforts, unpaid and paid media. Their ability to dissect potential prospects into narrow segments or even at an individual level and develop specific relevant messaging created highly persuasive communications. And finally their approach to tap their committed fans was hugely powerful. The Obama campaign provides a compelling case for companies to build their marketing expertise around big data and micro-targeting. How ready is your organization to do the same?
August 17, 2012 3 Comments
It’s rare these days to hear a positive story about the newspaper industry, but I recently learned of the Pembroke and Pembroke Docks Observer, a newspaper in South Wales that decided to bet its future on a hyperlocal strategy. It focused almost entirely on covering local news, local people and local events while soliciting community-generated content — a package not provided by the larger county or national titles. It was rewarded with a doubling of its circulation.
Its owners say their success comes down to remaining local, personal and relevant to their community. That idea has a lot of merit for national brands in the U.S.
We are programmed to play nationally. The national 30-second spot in an “American Idol” or an NFL game is king. While there is clearly an efficiency and value in maintaining a national presence, however, it’s become even more important to engage consumers in order to truly grow brands — or disrupt your competitors. It’s also becoming harder to do. Being relevant locally, as the Pembroke and Pembroke Docks Observer discovered, can be a powerful recipe for growing market share.
“There’s no such thing as a national customer,” a client once said to me. “Just lots of local ones.” And it takes insight into local tastes, local demographics, local issues and local competitors to be relevant and win the consumer. Organize national, act local is starting to get some traction. But the media are leading the way.
Media properties’ local targeting is increasingly offering more precision. Hyperlocal websites are providing local content and localized national advertising platforms by individual towns.
Google recently announced last month the ability to buy search by ZIP code, and again bet on local yesterday when it said it had agreed to buy Frommer’s, including 350 travel guides and a website covering more than 3,500 locations.
Addressable TV is beginning to scale. By end of year, we will be able to target by individual household in 22 million homes. And the large national radio groups have become highly effective on-the-ground local marketing partners on-air, off-air and online.
The question is whether major national and international marketers will invest the time and money to take advantage.
Some sophisticated marketers are moving in that direction. Walmart has introduced a Facebook app customizing marketing for each of its nearly 3,600 U.S. locations, including a dynamic social billboard that serves as an electronic circular with details of sales, special product deals and recipe suggestions. This is a smart local program to move the huge national chain closer to its community.
Nike has been creating city-specific epicenters to spark buzz and credibility for its brand. Its global online reality web competition series “The Chosen” was fueled by local grassroots skating and surfing events. In the U.K., Nike held a 15-day challenge for runners across 48 different post codes in London, using some nifty technology to measure and rank their performance.
The increasing ubiquity, not to mention portability, of mobile media will almost guarantee that all marketers will need a mobile media strategy. And central to that strategy is the ability to embrace location-based messaging and promotion.
National brands are experimenting there. L’Oreal promoted its Vichy line using timeRAZOR, a mobile app to promote and schedule one-on-one beauty consultations at Duane Reade locations in New York, an effort that led to a 150% increase in sales for that promotion.
Search is clearly another major opportunity, with the BIA/Kelsey Group that local searches on mobile phones will exceed local searches on desktop computers by 2015. Perhaps the iPhone’s Siri, which uses Yelp’s reviews, will start to offer brand recommendations in the not-too-distant future.
But ultimately most marketers will need a better payout to shift national dollars to local, posing a riddle for the media companies betting so much of their own money on a local strategy. Data will have to be the compass for media sellers and buyers alike. Mobile ad network xAd recently published data showing that locally-targeted mobile display ads deliver 5% to 8% click-through rates, compared to 0.6% for typical mobile display ads.
There’s no doubt that local will be an increasing play for national marketers. It’s what brands need to do to engage consumers and grow. However, it is going to be more challenging for marketers to execute and more costly and complex to orchestrate. But the possibilities are exciting.