American Primaries: How Far Can Political Marketing Go?




A message is more effective in getting you to vote if it comes from someone you know, so what could be simpler than using the phone contacts of campaign workers?

Since the first presidential campaign of Barack Obama, candidates have wanted the ability to get a message through to every American voter, tailored to voters’ preferences, contacts, demographics, their purchases, etc.

The influence of the internet and social networks, combined with fantastic advances in technology, has meant that, since 2008, it has been possible to build a host of digital devices to respond to this ongoing goal of super-targeting.

Microtargeting was uncovered through the Cambridge Analytica case, a combination of psychometrics, big data and targeted advertising. In much the same way, the Donald Trump team was able to target its advertisements on social networks, including Facebook, so that only the individual being targeted could see it.

Since Trump was elected and now with the primaries, the two Republican and Democratic camps are competing in the innovation stakes, tailoring their messages even further, mobilizing their electorate and dissuading voters from the opposing camp from voting.

The announcement by social network platforms other than Facebook that they are banning political advertising – and that Google will no longer allow advertisements linked to elections to target people according to their political affiliation – has forced the campaign teams to get creative.

How To Use Campaign Workers’ Data To Win People Over

This is what we are now seeing with “relational organizing” apps; they make it possible to organize, coordinate and measure volunteer communication with others and their social media activity. With the consent of the campaign workers, the app then uses their contacts to write tailored text messages, Facebook messages, direct messages on Twitter, etc., from their phone.

In India, using the same principle, the NaMo application, which uses the Indian prime minister’s nickname, offers the same services to campaign workers. The prime minister’s campaign team has even promoted distribution of the app by preinstalling it on smartphones sold by the mobile operator Jio. A future in which one of our mobile operators preinstalls a candidate’s app doesn’t bear thinking about.

Innovation has also enabled the Trump camp to utilize a technique specific to e-commerce: “geofencing.” This involves sending texts to people who are geolocatable in particular places, such as churches and schools. By collecting the identification numbers unique to each mobile phone in a particular location, data is used to identify users and then send them advertisements.

The organization, CatholicVote, does this by using geofencing to target worshippers in churches and encouraging them to vote for Trump, then compares these worshippers against the voter roll to encourage them to register.

This bypassing of traditional social networks in favor of communication issued by a third party whom future voters want to trust is starting to become part of political marketing strategies.

During the election in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro also chose to bypass social networks in favor of direct communication with his supporters. They were then able to redistribute messages on a massive scale among their contacts, thanks to the thousands of WhatsApp groups created according to types of potential voters.

But once these channels outside of social networks have been mastered, content has to be produced, as this is the only way to mobilize voters and dissuade opposing supporters from going to vote.

Once again, the Republicans are the innovators, creating the first talking points website, with genuine arguments that each activist can use while campaigning. This site is entitled simply “snowflakevictory,” the home page of which announces “how to win an argument with your liberal relatives.” It suggests topics, framed in a positive way, such as “The Trump economy is strong,” with written material, figures and explanatory videos. The perfect activist’s kit for spreading campaign messages among friends and family.

Does India, a new breeding ground for innovation in political marketing, point to the future of political communication in the years to come by launching the first web series to be created by a candidate? It relies on a soft power strategy to denounce the actions of the opposing camp.

Political marketing has never been a bed of roses; it has always been able to break away from or bypass societal and legal constraints.

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