Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barack Obama's Super Marketing Machine

by Mike Madden - July 16th, 2008 -

The 5 million people on Obama's e-mail list are just the start of what political strategists say is one of the most sophisticated voter databases ever built. Using a combination of the information that supporters are volunteering, data the campaign is digging up on its own and powerful market research tools first developed for corporations, Obama's staff has combined new online organizing with old-school methods of voter outreach to assemble a central database for hitting people with messages tailored as closely as possible to what they're likely to want to hear. It's an ambitious melding of corporate marketing and grassroots organizing that the Obama campaign sees as a key to winning this fall.

I am somewhat surprised at the lack of understanding by Republicans of the consequences of this growing marketing of the Presidency. Howard Dean's campaign failed when he ran for President, but he then won Chairmanship of the Democrat Party against the preferences of the Party power brokers. His efforts then focused on ORGANIZING the Democrat Party down to the grassroots level, using technology and modern techniques to get this done in every precinct across the nation.

The young, who are historically liberal, are the most comfortable with the new technologies that are employed for this purpose. The famous saying, "if you are not a liberal when you are 20 you have no heart, if you are not a conservative when you are 40 you have no brain," still applies to this day. The new techniques cannot work unless a political party uses them, and it cannot use them if there is a major element of the party which will not use the technology. Democrats are clearly more comfortable with requiring their supporters keep in touch by online techniques because they are younger. That requires a computer and an Internet connection. Their supporters almost universally already have these because of this age advantage. A great number of Republicans do not use the Internet. In fact, I have experienced that a great number of Republican activists are hostile to the idea that they will use a computer.

My concern is the weakening of the Republican party as a result, indicated by the growing control of Presidential campaigns over the databases that are used for this marketing. Bush and Rove drove computerization efforts of Republicans and with Bush no longer running, the focus of this information is not passing to the party in a useful form.

Control is the problem, since the instant the campaign is over, the data starts to degrade in usefulness. People change emails regularly. An email for one Presidential campaign is unlikely to be valid the next time around. The relevancy for the political party of this data is also of concern. Since everyone votes for President, a database can use national marketing databases to tie voter information together. At the national level for a national office that is great. However for a House candidate, the information costs the same and yet has 1/435 the relevancy. The value is not there. It is even less relevant for State legislative offices. The effort to tie old-school methods of voter outreach to the computer data are key.

To date attempts to relate campaign information to ongoing party activities by Republicans has simply been ineffectual . Republicans do not even relate their party official lists to the voter lists at the precinct level and keep data accurate and useful. Mailing lists, telephone lists and email lists of party officials, registered voters, marketing information from businesses and advertisers, online databases about issues, specialty organization databases (magazines, conservative organizations, web sites) . . . all exist and need to be correlated with a data purification and currency effort. However these are all controlled by individual campaigns, few of which do an effective job. The party must get more involved in this and efforts must be correlated. That involves planning how to do this. It will not just happen.

Party officials however never care about the value to effectively correlating this information. Party officials are usually passionate about some part of the party platform, but their participation in party activities is about personal ego and control. They have no interest in working for an acquisition of useful information for others. When efforts to utilize the new computer technologies are addressed they rapidly become focused on low level goals of control, not marketing and reaching voters. Thus the efforts never extend to efforts that benefit the party goals, much less the nation's goals. Those always are handled by campaigns and are then lost to the party.

This dichotomy between party goals and campaign goals is a major source of the information chaos.

The difference is that the Democrats are the party of government. Their focus is power. As such they have been much more successful in getting cooperation between the candidate efforts and the party efforts to retain useful information and share it for long term party goals. Unless Republicans start to understand this, and worry about this, and work on this, a huge advantage will accrue to the party which is hostile to free enterprise.


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