The Obama 2012 presidential campaign produced one of the most sophisticated direct marketing systems ever seen, pinpointing potential voters with the right messages delivered in the right format at crucial moments (helping to win the US election as a result). At last month’s DMA Technololgy Summit in London, Harper Reed, the campaign’s chief architect, revealed the secrets to its success and how ‘micro-listening’ can have wider applications for marketers.
Held on 30th April in London, the DMA Technology Summit assembled key industry figures alongside Reed to discuss how technology was helping push direct marketing to ever-more granular levels of targeting, using a growing arsenal of consumer data and ad management platforms.
While the event focused on technology, a key theme from the event was the disconnect between data and other business functions, showing how the growing trend for ‘big data’ is only useful if employed in smart ways that match project goals.
The first speaker, Professor Phil Klaus from Cranfield University looked at what makes effective one-to-one customer communications, linking technology investment to company profitability.
Through extensive research with major global companies, Klaus had identified three key types of customer experience strategies now in use;
• ‘Preservers’ (slow to link tech to customer experience)
• ‘Transformed’ (know multi-channel approach is important but not fully implemented yet)
• ‘Vanguards’ (embracing technology and using it in smart ways to enhance customer’s brand experience across platforms).
‘Vanguards’ tended to enjoy higher average annual profitability than the other groups, and Klaus highlighted how successful companies used technology as the ‘enabler not the focus’.
As technology gets smarter at predicting future customer needs, companies that can create the best experiences for their users will succeed in the future, Klaus asserted.
Watch Dr. Klaus’ presentation below:
Continuing the theme of customer experience, Steve Forde, head of viewer relationship management at Channel 4, showed how the broadcaster went about gaining user trust, using a clear, honest message tied closely to strong branding to garner 7 million registered users on 4oD- improving its video ad targeting as a result.
Forde pointed out that by 2017 the chief marketing officer will spend more on IT than the chief information officer- suggesting that marketing is becoming more of a science than an art. Forde showed how Channel 4’s ‘Viewer Promise’ has struck the right balance in terms of privacy to get viewers to register for 4oD.
Watch Forde’s presentation below
As an example of just what technology and data can now achieve, Steve Plimsoll, chief technology officer for Mindshare Worldwide and the WPP Data Alliance demonstrated the pinpoint accuracy of its latest ad targeting platform.
Powered by Adobe Insight, WPP’s CORE system brings together data sets such as CRM, sales and supply chain data, with media channel spend, social, audience profiles and real-time trading information and reveals consumer actions and insight at a granular level, taking away the guesswork, latency and siloed nature of marketing-spend decision making.
Exciting as all this new technology is, it shouldn’t be the focus of activities, Plimsoll warned. Technology is simply the tool that will help you find the solution. As Plimsoll said: “I need a hole not a drill, but I need a drill to make the hole.”
Plimsoll emphasised that businesses need to use data and technology to join up all customer touch points to give people a consistent customer experience. As an example, he advised marketers that they shouldn’t just focus on delivering a brilliant outdoor poster campaign, but read through the call script in their contact centre to make sure that when people call they get a consistent customer experience.
Just like marketing channels, departments are no longer operating in silos but are integrated, with marketing and IT teams working closely together. Plimsoll predicted that creative teams of the future will include analysts.
Watch Plimsoll’s presentation below:
In the keynote speech, Harper Reed, chief technology officer of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, told delegates that marketers need to create genuine communities ‘that look like the internet, not the brand’ if they are going to talk with people one to one in a very real way.
The high-pressure role was quite the change for Reed. In 2009 he was selling t-shirts as CTO of Threadless, an indie t-shirt e-commerce retailer. By late 2012, he had a played significant role in re-electing the President of the United States.
Explaining the secret to his success, Harper asserted that ‘community’ is a marketers number one asset and yet it is often underestimated. Rather than ‘targeting’, Reed said his team used ‘micro-listening’ techniques though these communities.
Reed assembled a team of developers from Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter to produce a data platform codenamed ‘Narwhal’ to give the President the edge over his rival, Mitt Romney.
Through the campaign, the low-tech practice of doorstep canvasing used high-tech data managment to ensure key potential voters were not only prioritised, but they were interviewed by the people most likely to persuade them to vote. This meant that a veteran spoke to someone from a military background, or elderly people were matched to youngsters.
Despite the raft of technology employed to ensure this level of granularity, Harper insisted that the real innovation of the campaign was the team, claiming to “always hire people smarter than myself’ and ensure diversity and a mix of ideas by hiring people that “don’t look like you”.
The techniques certainly paid off. During the campaign, the team at Obama 2012:
• Increased donations to $1 billion for Obama’s 2012 campaign, including raising $690 million online
• Created a social network for supporters who organised 358,000 campaign events and made 125,646,575 calls
• Turned Facebook into a targeting platform, recruiting 600,000 active supporters who reached five million voters
• Used sophisticated TV audience modelling to buy 20,000 more TV ads than Romney’s campaign – for $100 million less
Reed also explained that the campaign team were deeply concerned by security issues during the re-election campaign, given the rise of hacking incidents and the methods of putting information online, used by groups such as Anonymous.
“We weren’t so worried about people stealing information but about information being leaked and the embarrassment that would cause to the Obama campaign,” he said.
Reed concluded by emphasising the need to ‘practice failure’, ‘celebrate success’, ‘measure everything’ and use communities to power brands (rather than the other way round).
Reed is now taking a step back from the political game to focus on a mobilie commerce app, but he warned his succesors that the next presidential campaigns will be much tougher, with both Democrats and Republicans having just 3 months to produce something he had put together in a year and a half.
Watch Reed’s presentation below: