November 4, 2019

The Rise of Personalization in Political Campaigns

The success of Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 serve as excellent case studies into how data driven marketing is fundamentally changing how political campaigns operate. In the not so distant past, candidates relied on huge broadcasting budgets via direct mail, tv and radio to blast their message to as many people as possible. Today, top candidates are using swaths of data to build highly detailed voter personas which are then used to send highly personalized messages that drive increased donations, engagement and voter turnout.

Obama 2012

Obama's 2012 re-election campaign was the first to dive full steam ahead into data driven campaigning. Teddy Goff, the Digital Director of the 2012 campaign stated:

We consistently found that people wanted to get a sense from the campaign that we knew who they were and what they'd done for us in the past. When we were able to know even a little bit about the voter we found the impact to be huge.

How did they gather data on a given voter?

The below flowchart describes an overview of the process.

Trump 2016

Understanding the effectiveness of Obama's tactics, the Trump campaign followed suite. Alexander Nix, CEO of Cambridge Analytica declared in a presentation at the Concordia Summit Economic Forum that “Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," and “we were able to form a model to predict the personality of every single adult in the United States of America.”

Their modeling was based on a combination of three elements:  behavioral  science  using  the OCEAN  Model,  Big  Data  analysis  and  ad  targeting. The campaign even developed a mobile app for canvassers which showed them whether a given household was likely a Trump supporter, the issues they cared about and a script based off their unique persona. As a result, the campaign  targeted  13.5  million persuadable  voters  in sixteen  battleground states, discovering the hidden Trump voters, especially in the Midwest, whom the polls had ignored.

Follow the Money

Using total dollars spent as a proxy for importance, we can see marketing budgets shifting dramatically over the years to support digital.

Are you ready?

Is your campaign harnessing the power of data analytics to engage voters with personalized messaging? Or, are you sticking with the old guards 'established playbook'? The technology and resource cost needed to implement a data driven marketing campaign has decreased substantially over the years. If you want to get elected in 2020 and beyond, you need to make personalization a cornerstone of your campaign.

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