Doing More with Less – The Dem’s Winning Ground Game

by DJI

The recent federal election provides a great lesson for marketers who have to compete in an environment where a competitor has a bigger budget or great share of voice

The election results reflected a complex interplay of actions and reactions, emotions and ideas that may be impossible to tease apart when analyzing why Obama won and Romney did not. Exciting as the election was, it was also exhausting, and we aren’t seeking to relive it here.

However, who can ignore the buzz and discussion about the campaign? In particular the “ground game” played by the Obama team in first understanding, and then going after the Democratic vote, has attracted a lot of attention.

If you count SuperPac money, Obama supporters had significantly fewer marketing resources than Romney supporters did. So it’s interesting to hear more details now about a highly sophisticated ground game that allowed the Obama team to, in a sense, do more with less. Marketers of all stripes are surely taking notes.

Imagine if you will the world’s biggest, most detailed customer database, and you will get some idea of Catalist, a database of “over 280 million voting-age persons in the US”, with each person individually identified, along with hundreds of bits of detailed personal information – including online behaviors and social media data – which has proven reliably predictive about voting behaviors. Catalist “measures partisanship by looking at all the available characteristics of a voter. This allows Catalist to infer a voter’s partisanship, even in states where voters don’t register by party.”

The more accurately you can predict an individual’s political persuasion and then layer personal information into their profile, the more effectively you can tailor your message to that person…giving them reasons for supporting your political brand that really resonate. Catalist and its partners navigated through this enormous sea of data to come up with very accurate profiling data which allowed for laser-sharp media targeting and a well-informed team of canvassers. Bottom line – the Obama team excelled at combining data analytics with one-to-one marketing.

Catalist is open about what it is and how it works, but is equally forthright about who gets to access it: it was built expressly for the exclusive use of progressive organizations. Team Romney need not apply.

On the other hand, there is nothing preventing Republican organizations from doing the same thing. And there is certainly nothing preventing a Brand Manager from studying and adopting the best ideas for marketing a product or service when a competitor has more and bigger guns.

Like all marketers, political campaigns now have access to reams of personal data gathered from the online and offline behavior of individuals. New data continuously flows in real time and must be assessed, analyzed and incorporated into the picture. As new information is added, the predictions are fine-tuned, accuracy improves, a brand closes in on its target, the team clinches the sale. In the end perhaps, it is really all about arithmetic. Sweet!

Image from