Politics as Marketing Update

gs_choice Here’s your TCT update on how the 2008 Marketer of the Year defended his title in 2012, per Advertising Age and The New York Times. The methods, of course, continued to follow the usual path as they grew.

Here’s Ad Age on the use of market research as a substitute for political listening and representation:

Successful political campaigns, Barack Obama’s among them, put real-time data to use rapidly and aggressively. Corporate brands could learn a thing or two, whether it’s how data can incite speedier decisions, or the ways offline info can benefit online messaging.

“Political campaigns use real-time insights and data to make creative decisions on the fly. Everything is tested and decisions are made almost instantaneously,” said Michael Bassik, CEO of Proof Integrated Communications, a WPP-owned agency serving political and corporate clients.

The Obama campaign famously built the largest data team in political history to integrate data gleaned via social media and the web with offline data, such as shopping information and voter-file data. As early as July of 2011, predictive-modeling and data-mining analysts were in demand for the in-house analytics department in Chicago.

Key to that team’s success, wrote Michael Scherer in Time, was this “single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states.” That data fed into many strategies, from helping media buyers find unconventional — and thus, less expensive — TV buys (FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” was one), to figuring out which celebrity messages were most likely to get high-value fundraisers to open their wallets.

This data mining was also supplemented with a “dream team” of academic experts in verbal and behavioral trickery. According to The New York Times for November 12:

The group — which calls itself the “consortium of behavioral scientists,” or COBS — provided ideas on how to counter false rumors, like one that President Obama is a Muslim. It suggested how to characterize the Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in advertisements. It also delivered research-based advice on how to mobilize voters.

The operations, actions, and impact of the team are, of course, secret:

When asked about the outside psychologists, the Obama campaign would neither confirm nor deny a relationship with them. “This campaign was built on the energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity of thousands of grass-roots supporters and our staff in the states and in Chicago,” said Adam Fetcher, a campaign spokesman. “Throughout the campaign we saw an outpouring of individuals across the country who lent a wide variety of ideas and input to our efforts to get the president re-elected.”

For their part, consortium members said…they could talk only in general terms about the research, because they had signed nondisclosure agreements with the campaign.

Such is now the stuff of “democracy.”

I would also wager very heavily that the findings of these political marketers and psy-ops scholars were the main reason Obama decided last May to re-launch the sales proposition that he somehow* favors marriage equality.

*He has, of course, neither proposed nor promised to propose any new federal laws in the area.