What CMOs Can Learn From Obama

Bruce I. Newman
Marketing News Weekly
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Key Takeaways
What? President Barack Obama’s successful campaigns can offer lessons for CMOs in every industry.

So what? The Obama campaigns have revolutionized marketing by basing all strategies on measurable information, including on millions of voters’ attitudes and behavior, all of which became part of their Internet dashboard.

Now what? Obama’s campaigns employed three innovative technology advances—micro-targeting, social media and Big Data—that now offer an innovative strategic blueprint for executives to apply when responding to customer needs and wants.
Sophisticated data analysis and creative thinking are essential for designing a successful marketing campaign today, no matter if the goal is to elect a president or sell a product or service. The recent successful campaigns of President Barack Obama offer lessons for CMOs in every industry.
The challenges facing a presidential campaign may be unique to the political arena, but the creative solutions are not. Three innovative technology advances—micro-targeting, social media and Big Data—used by the Obama teams in 2008 and 2012 unleashed the power of these tools for business executives and now offer an innovative strategic blueprint for them to apply when responding to customer needs and wants. These technological tools may be used differently in different markets by different organizations, as each finds its own creative solutions.

The three main technological tools are:

1.    Micro-targeting: All companies face the challenge of reaching their customers, just as Obama did in trying to reach the most persuadable voters. Quantitative analysis of the micro-targeted data provided the team with a powerful tool, allowing them to attach “scores” to voters that identified them as either more or less likely to be open to influence. In a partnership between IBM and Toshiba, analytics tools were used to create a system called TCxGravity to provide a multi-channel view of a customer’s purchase history, and propensity to respond to targeted offers. This kind of information exists in all company’s data warehouses, but must be mined to create customer scores.

2.    Social Media: Social media strategies are most effective when they create an interaction with individual consumers. The “Dinner with Barack” contests that featured George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker were notable examples, because they were the celebrities that most appealed to the demographic that the campaign wanted to target: women over 40 who lived in California. One of the biggest organizations in the world, the Vatican, relied on Twitter to allow more than 2 million people to follow and, ultimately, form a closer bond with Pope Benedict XVI. According to Nielsen and NM Incite’s 2012 Social Media Report, more than 25% of social media users indicated they are more likely to pay attention to an ad shared by one of their social friends. Businesses need to find a reason for their customers to interact with them on social media.
 
3.    Big Data and Analytics: Big Data effectively becomes the glue that allows an organization to carry out micro-targeting campaigns. In 2012, as many as 1,000 variables of information on each voter—obtained from voter registration records, consumer data warehouses and prior campaign contacts—were used. Sophisticated use of this information contributed to the success of the team’s micro-targeting efforts in predicting which advertising campaigns would be the most successful. Big Data drove the promotional campaign, culling information from voters’ television viewing patterns to develop advertising appeals that resonated with the desired audience. The MetLife insurance company implemented a new application called the Wall. Similar to a Facebook application, it provided sales reps with a history of their clients and the ability to interact with them in “one click” instead of “40 clicks” as clients navigated their website. Measuring and tracking sales records and other relevant metrics could provide information that a company could use to build relationships with its customers and suppliers.

The Obama campaigns have revolutionized marketing by basing all its strategies on measurable information, including on millions of voters’ attitudes and behavior, all of which became part of their Internet dashboard. Through analysis of this data and statistical modeling, the campaign was able to identify what message and narrative would resonate with a particular target market. The lessons this brings to CMOs is the importance of understanding the integrative nature of marketing in all fields, and not to be afraid to experiment with new strategies and tactics.

Author Bio:

 
Bruce I. Newman
Bruce Newman, author of THE MARKETING REVOLUTION IN POLITICS: What Recent U.S. Presidential Campaigns Can Teach Us About Effective Marketing (Rotman-UTP Publishing/ University of Toronto Press), is a professor of marketing and a Wicklander Fellow in Business Ethics in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University and founding editor of the Journal of Political Marketing.
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