A presidential election year gives us an interesting opportunity to analyze and understand how some of the biggest constituent engagement operations are spending their dollars to communicate to their constituents. Today we are going to look at some of the trends in the campaigns this year, and more specifically on the Obama for America campaign.
Multi-Channel Strategy and Channel Changes
Obama for America, known for their cutting-edge digital strategy and understanding of constituent behavior, spent $3 million on digital ads in February alone. When combined, the Obama campaign and the DNC has spent over $10 million on digital since the launch of the campaign. During the month of February, OFA spent about the same amount, $3 million in February, on postage and printing, indicating that they are using multiple channels to reach multiple audiences.
Obama for America is using some of the same strategies that won Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago his election. Using social media, and an aggressive digital strategy, Rahm was able to drive voters to the polls and educate them on campaign news and events. Facebook has published a case study.
Data Warehouse and Analytics
The ‘Big Data Movement’ has overtaken politics as well. The Obama campaign has invested significant resources in building a sophisticated centralized digital database of information about potential voters. Data is collected from vendors, web analytics firms, and field offices and fed into a digital data warehouse. Once there, the data is available for complex analysis, allowing the campaign to better target their constituents and focus their messaging on where, when, and to whom it will make the most impact.
They are using this environment to merge information captured online (like email interaction history, website visits, web ad interaction, ecommerce, social media information, mobile information) with traditional offline data (including voter files, 3rd party appended data, demographic data, information from data brokers) to give the campaign the necessary information to target messaging, channel, and frequency to key constituencies, both from the Democratic base and independent, or swing, voters.
What really got my attention, was that during February, the same campaign that spent over $6 million on digital and direct mail, spent only a few hundred thousand dollars on TV advertising, typically a lofty line item for political campaigns, especially national campaigns. How drastically technology has changed the way we communicate and others communicate with us! Campaigns formerly were able to count on the timing and reach of television communications, but with the introduction of TiVo and other recording devices, and Hulu and other streaming websites, the control over messaging is continuously slipping away.
As with any marketing organization, control of the message and measurement of impact is critically important. As more control and measurement is available in digital channels, it is clear why this has drastically overtaken traditional media in a short three election cycles.
What does this mean?
As we’ve seen dramatically over the last three presidential elections (from Dean to Obama), contstituent engagement strategies change about as quickly as I change my socks (thus, the below list might be outdated by the time you finish reading this!)
- Expanded digital channels are increasingly important beyond simple email,
- A strategy that includes multiple channels (mobile, social, mail, email, phone, web advertising, etc) is necessary and expected by constituents to engage them initially and to keep them interested,
- Complex analytics and data warehousing is becoming common place. Those that do not start down the road of collecting and analyzing data will be left behind,
- The precedent (not president!) has been set that organizations will communicate with their constituents with the appropriate channel, frequency, and messaging without the constituent telling you (as my wife would say, “You should know how I feel!”)