5 Things We Can Learn From This Year’s Political Campaign

The 2012 presidential campaign has been the most extensive “multi-channel” campaign to-date with a massive increase in digital advertising. Through its highs and lows, here are five things that come to mind from my personal experience. Please do share your own thoughts and opinions – what one thing do you think either campaign has done well? Not so well?

I shared my digital contacts with two political parties – blue and red. My digital contacts included my personal email address, mobile phone number, and various social handles. In the interest of transparency with all of you, I created multiple email IDs just for the purpose of testing.

1. How to grow your list? Each political party has this down to a science. They leverage all of their advertising channels. I signed up to receive newsletters from numerous local candidates and waited to see how quickly my digital contacts found their way into the master database (two weeks was the longest it took). Think about it – you sign up for a campaign for the local city council, and in less than two days you get an email from the presidential candidates. Not one email, but a few, welcoming you into the fold.

Lesson for marketers. Test to see how your channels collect consumer data and how long it takes for the consumer’s personal information to reach your master file (ultimately turning into a message back to your consumer). Remember, a shorter acquisition process leads to more revenue!

2. How to segment? I don’t think the candidates care too much about your ethnicity in this election, but instead focus in on your unique interests and preferences. They excel at sending you very targeted emails with very specific offers. What they do next is really amazing – they watch your clicks and then quickly target you with more detail on the same interest. For example, I signed up for campaign stickers for my vehicle. My next campaign was a plea to put up a yard sign, followed by a continuous stream of messages seeking donations to fund the local candidates.

Lesson for marketers. If your consumers don’t tell you much about themselves, use the click-through and activity information to mold your campaigns. Then start to bucket individual ID numbers into categories so you can drive results.

3. How to solicit funds? The request starts with a small plea for a couple of bucks with an offer to match your donation. The parties foster the excitement by targeting you with multiple messages from different people telling you how much more they need to achieve their goal. In every message they quickly remind you about the cause, a recent event, and how their competition is doing. They even close things out by telling you how they finished at the end. Their approach has been absolutely brilliant, as they make the potential voter quickly forget about the “cause” and focus in on making a donation.

Lesson to marketers. There is a three-step process to transacting with a consumer. You start with the plea to purchase – listing all the benefits of the desired product or service. You thank them for their purchase – making them feel good that they are in good company. You then follow up with a note seeking their feedback and a quick referral. If a consumer doesn’t respond to your first request, try sending them a request to purchase a related or similar product or service.

4. How to create buzz? Integrate channels for each campaign. Every piece of content that the parties create is optimized for each channel. For example, we have received post cards from local candidates with an offer to dine at local restaurants. We receive rally invites optimized for mobile, see advertising on television (with an option to view the extended commercial on YouTube), and read several email messages directing you to “credible” newspaper articles. The parties will even push out the same content, with a different headline, from different people to keep the message fresh.

Lesson to marketers. Look for ways to leverage the same content across multiple channels. Be prudent and adjust the content to suit the channel. Sooner or later, your consumer will get your message.

5. How to increase volume? Imagine getting more than 15 emails a day from the same brand – would you still stick around? Imagine being called “sundeep,” “Sundeep,” “sUNDEEP,” “Sun Deep,” “friend,” “Fried,” or better yet “NULL” – would you continue to subscribe? The political parties’ approach to marketing reminds me of the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” – you know things are going to be OK, yet you stick around till the very end just to make sure. You might be surprised; many other recipients I speak to about these campaigns don’t mind the volume, they just want to hear the rest of the story.

Lesson to marketers. How you communicate is very important. You need to learn the art of storytelling so your consumer continues to want to wait till the very end.

Whoever wins, the other half of us might not be happy. But I am glad that they stopped fighting during Hurricane Sandy. A note to everyone in the Northeast who has been affected by the storm, I sincerely hope you get your power back soon.

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