Lessons for Julia, Tony and marketers from the US election

Lessons for Julia, Tony and marketers from the US election

Now that the PM has announced we are going to the polls on September 14, no doubt both sides of politics will review the US campaign to see what they could learn. I also think there were valuable learnings for marketers as well.

B&T Magazine
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Two articles post the US election caught my eye. The first talked about the role former Bush advisor Karl Rove played and the second  discusses the use of technology by Obama. They stuck out because I believe the directions the parties took reflect a shift in the communications landscape, including the role data, technology and digital media play in integrating brands in to people’s  everyday lives.

One of the reasons political pundits thought Mitt Romney didn’t win was that his message didn’t resonate strongly with female, African American and Hispanic voters.  Karl Rove, who ran two super PACs, had a strategy to spend $USD127 million for 82,000 TV spots only.  To quote the article linked above “spending that money almost completely on television advertising failed”.

On the other hand, Obama’s team got the ball rolling early using data collected from 2008. However, first they had a hurdle to overcome in getting their donations and political databases to talk to each other.  This is something no doubt many marketers have experienced before.

Often resolving data and IT issues are relegated to the too hard basket and organisations may run back to easy solutions. I.e. TV advertising that talks at the wrong audience and then fails to deliver ROI.

Luckily for Obama, his team had the foresight to correct the issue. Once the data was aligned, they ran a data driven strategy that took information that performed well and applied it using email, apps, and social media in an integrated, highly targeted and personalised manner.

TV and print advertising mostly talks at you.  Direct mail and banner advertising can talk to you. None will talk with you. This is what the Obama campaign was able to master. And while the political arena is somewhat different, it is still about driving engagement and selling a message. The proposition that a brand might want to have an ongoing conversation with consumers is alien to most organisations, except for a few rare examples, as there is often too many obstacles to overcome. This is despite digital technology and social media now allowing this to happen.

The companies that are setting the pace are reaping the rewards and it all starts with data.

However, back to politics for a moment – Facebook tracked the 2010 US House and Senate winners. Of the 98 hotly contested races, as decided by leading political observers, 74% with the most Facebook fans won.

Here’s how the numbers stacked up for the presidential contenders. Obama has more than 25 million followers on twitter, 34.7 million likes on Facebook. Mitt Romney has 1.6 million and 11.7 million respectively.

For those looking for a political forecast in Australia. The PM currently as 151,668 followers on twitter and 328,335 likes on Facebook. Tony Abbott has 93,448 and 27,707 respectively.  I wonder if this will change over the next eight months. 

Peter Jefferson is head of client services for Cubed.