Managing Director and President, Global Digital Operations, MDC Partners,
Are we there yet? A mere 15 weeks from now, the polls will open, the votes will be tallied, and we’ll finally know whether our next leader is our first woman or our first reality television host.
The days and weeks that follow will be full of analysis of how we wound up #withher or #greatagain and whether (and how) we’re building walls or tearing them down.
Every four years, such campaigns reinvent the wheel. Whether it was Lyndon Johnson’s ground-breaking television ads in 1964 or President Barak Obama’s mastery of technology and social media in 2008, each election cycle has provided us valuable lessons that marketers have then utilized and incorporated into their own campaigns.
This time around has its own “first”: For the first time since 1952, a major party candidate has outright abandoned the certainty and security of paid media. Consider television, once considered the most important political communications tool.
Despite being outspent 15-to-1 on TV ads, Donald Trump was still effectively tied with Hillary Clinton heading into the conventions.
For those of us who obsess over these things, the only thing more unconventional than Trump’s rhetoric has been his ability to remain competitive, forgoing 30-second spots for the free media TV interviews and Twitter posts provide him.
Campaign tactics between the two presidential nominees have differed in other, surprising ways. Taking a page from Obama’s playbook, Clinton has relied heavily on big data to inform campaign decisions. “We are using math to help elect Hillary,” starts one job description posted on her campaign website. As of this writing, the campaign lists over 10 open positions on the “Analytics” team, with searches under way for roles as varied as “Natural Language Processing Analyst” and “Survey Methodologist.”
Despite their divergent approaches, the two campaigns have proven equally adept at reaching and influencing targeted audiences.
From their use of sophisticated targeting methodologies to their unwavering dependence on traditional email, the campaigns have presented other interesting and often useful lessons that apply to all facets of marketing.
1. Online politics is retail politics, and every impression counts.
Every day is game day when you’re running for president. Every hand shaken, baby kissed, event attended and door knocked is a chance to influence a vote and change the fate of your campaign.
In these high-stakes competitions, the campaigns fight for every vote in a one-on-one style known as “retail politics.”
This style, when manifested online, means that every single ad and website experience is personalized to the specific recipient. By matching their efforts to offline voter-file data — appended with various models (e.g., a person’s likelihood to vote, own a gun, be Hispanic, support environmental causes, drive a Volvo, subscribe to the National Geographic, etc.) — political campaigns are able to deliver granular messages to each individual and monitor how each ad or piece of content influences that person’s opinions and behaviors.
According to one Democratic campaign consultant, even voters living in the same household in key states are being served different online ads and messages with varying images, colors and calls-to-action. These messages are altered even further by data gleaned from recipients’ voting history, online behaviors and even offline activities — such as whether they skip through the campaign’s own TV ads.
Winning votes is hand-to-hand combat. So, maybe there should be no surprise that selling a candidate is like selling anything else.
2. When it comes to email, make it personal.
Friends write emails the way people used to write letters. Brands write emails the way they used to advertise in supermarket circulars. Political campaigns? They fall somewhere in between, mixing personal messages with a single, personalized call to action.
“When I think about why I’m running for president,” Clinton offered her supporters in a recent email, “I always come back to one person: my mother.” The email ended with: “Michael [that would be me, this article’s writer], can you chip in $187 today?”
When was the last time you received an email like that from a brand? Probably never.
Another interesting thing is that, beyond their casual tones, emails from both Clinton and Trump are surprisingly light on graphics, are always “signed” by the author and feature just one personalized call-to-action based on your own prior actions and donations. This disciplined, personalized and personal approach results in open rates and engagement rates that would embarrass even the savviest non-political marketers.
So maybe this is something for you to think about: Stop mass-emailing graphic-intense catalogs and start considering a more personalized approach. Invite people to personally participate, just as the campaigns are doing.
3. Supporters crave exclusivity, and they’re willing to pay for it.
Beyond the obvious items one might expect to find in a candidate’s online store, the campaigns today are selling iPhone cases, ties, socks, beer cozies, even decorative throw pillows which cost $55 each. All these items are emblazoned with slogans that reinforce your loyalty, broadcast your support and raise money for campaign activities.
Trump and Clinton have also mastered the art of the high-impact, low-cost contest. Want a chance to dine with George Clooney? Score a ticket to the musical Hamilton? See your name in lights? By signing up for text messages, giving up their email address, syncing their social media account or making an online donation, supporters receive news before it’s public; or else they enter to win everything from a campaign button to access to events usually reserved for high-dollar donors.
So, pay attention: If you’re selling something besides a candidate, such a quid-pro-quo approach just might turn your happy customers into your most passionate fans.
And that might be one of the secrets to making every day your own Election Day.
In the end, there can be only one victor in November, though the lessons from the campaign trail can and should live on in the work of every brand marketer.
Brands that bring a data-driven approach to every consumer interaction, that make communications more personalized and personal and believe in the power of digital media to surprise and delight will find themselves able to inspire their fans and win the day. They won’t win the White House, but they may win something even better.
Today we’re excited to introduce Instant Articles, a new product for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.
As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.
Along with a faster experience, Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways. Zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting your phone. Watch auto-play videos come alive as you scroll through stories. Explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.
We designed Instant Articles to give publishers control over their stories, brand experience and monetization opportunities. Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory. Publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.
“Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook” said Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. “Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”
Facebook is working with nine launch partners for Instant Articles: The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.
Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times Company said, “The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook. We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement. We have a long tradition of meeting readers where they are and that means being available not just on our own sites, but on the social platforms frequented by many current and potential Times users.”
“It is great to see Facebook trialing new ways for quality journalism to flourish on mobile,” said Tony Danker, International Director, Guardian News & Media. “The Guardian is keen to test how the new platform can provide an even more engaging experience for our readers. It is then vital that, over time, Instant Articles delivers recurring benefit for publishers, whose continued investment in original content underpins its success.”
Instant Articles is launching on Facebook for iPhone with a special set of stories published by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic. We will continue developing Instant Articles with our partners over the coming months and will listen to feedback from readers to help us improve the experience. For further information about Instant Articles, visit instantarticles.fb.com