Thanks to the rise of Big Data, political marketing should be far more sophisticated in this year's election than it was in 2008. Savvy marketing teams have the opportunity to move away from siloed social, direct-response and branding campaigns and take a more holistic approach to building brand relationships with voters across a diverse set of media channels.
Campaigns can become integrated, multichannel efforts that use unified reporting to analyze the contributions of media exposures to a multitude of objectives, ranging from candidate awareness and volunteerism to campaign contributions. The marketer's question should change from, "What can you contribute to my campaign?" to, "How should I be engaging with you?"
Let's imagine the creation of two hypothetical display impressions. The target for Impression 1 is a college student and first-time voter who is using a streaming music service. Impression 2 is targeted at a frequent business traveler who donated to the Republican National Committee in 2008 and is reading an article about voter-registration efforts. Both individuals are fit against models based on the campaign's database of prospective voters. These models suggest that the student is unlikely to give a donation but may volunteer time, and that the business traveler is likely to vote for the opposition, but may possibly make a donation as well.
The campaign can show messaging to the student that encourages her to register on the campaign's website and "like" the candidate's Facebook page. Once registered, she will begin receiving e-mail messages with volunteering opportunities and notifications to encourage her to share various issue-related content. The business traveler will receive a message highlighting weaknesses in the opposing candidate's record, with links to more information on the issues.
Back in the campaign offices, analysts are monitoring all marketing efforts and tracking reach into desired populations. They measure ROI for donations and social activity and are refining targeting strategies based on ongoing engagement with modeled user groups.
Political marketers in 2012 need to take advantage of data aggregators, both generalized and political-activity specific, to segment audiences. Site analytics and flexible data warehouses and data-management platforms need to store massive amounts of semi-structured data, to provide a feedback loop that will give insight into which messages are most relevant and effective, and for which audiences.
Integrated cross-channel marketing, enabled by Big Data analytics, can be a major leap forward for political advertisers. It can create a more relevant and cohesive experience for the voter. Still, not all campaigners are embracing the latest suite of capabilities. Candidates who interact with voters in a Big Data-enabled manner will create more social awareness around their key messages, increase monetary and non-monetary contribution and energize their voter base. Candidates following the siloed approach will lose efficiency across all fronts when interacting with the voting population.
Looking ahead to 2016, the game should change even more as political marketers schooled in the Big Data election of 2012 renew their efforts. Super political action committees (PACs) that primarily utilized broadcast media will begin to integrate online elements. Groups of like-minded Super PACs will form data partnerships, sharing targeting and exposure data to coordinate messaging for maximum impact.
In 2008, the presidential campaign demonstrated that savvy marketers can build loyal online communities that pay great dividends on Election Day. We will soon know whether those candidates embracing 2012's Big Data capabilities will yield similar if not better returns.