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How Data and Micro-Targetting won the 2012 Election for Obama

Mindshare Conference

Election night seemed to confound many of the pundits. Governor Romney appeared to put together a strong campaign with the polls leading into the final week suggesting a tight race. Romney won 60% of White voters. He in fact even won the independents vote. Yet he lost the key battleground States of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada... handing the sitting President a second term.

How did Obama win? Got no idea

First, he delivered a well-orchestrated campaign of largely negative advertising targeting Romney, which served the purpose of suppressing voter turnout by traditionally Republican supporters.

Second, he mobilized key voter blocks to register early and vote. 18-24 year olds; African Americans; Latinos and single women in the key swing States. Voter turnout for these four key demographics was about 70% thereby giving him the numbers he needed to push him over the edge. At the heart of these two strategies, was micro-targeting.

Marketers need to take heed of how the Obama campaign transformed their marketing approach centered around data. They demonstrated incredible discipline to capture data across multiple sources and then to inform every element of the marketing - direct to consumer, unpaid and paid media. Their ability to dissect potential prospects into narrow segments or even at an individual level and develop specific relevant messaging created highly persuasive communications. The Obama campaign provides a compelling case for companies to build their marketing expertise around big data and micro-targeting.

Micro-targeting is the ability to dissect in this case, the voter population in to narrow segments and customize messaging to them, both in on-the-ground activities and in the media. Micro-targeting isn't a new idea in politics or marketing for that matter.

The Obama camp in preparing for this election, established a huge Analytics group that comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians. They worked tirelessly to gather data to inform every part of the campaign did they read to help them better understand who they were and better identify the group of 'persuadables' to target.

That data was able to be drilled down to zip codes, individual households and in many cases individuals within those households. However it is how they deployed this data in activating their campaign that translated the insight they garnered into killer tactics for the Obama campaign.