Category Archives: conversation marketing

Obama’s data capture ploy

Over the past week, presumptive Democrat candidate Barack Obama dominated once again the US news cycle. In an otherwise relatively uneventful week, there was intense speculation over the airwaves, online and in print about who was on the Democrat VP shortlist… According to Google Trends, always a good buzz indicator, searches for “VP” doubled over the past week.

More importantly, the press gleefully echoed the campaign’s insistent wish that the supporters should be “the first to know” by registering their email or mobile phone number on the Barackobama.com web site. Everyone anticipated a rapid announcement which will come later than expected… but what if that was the plan all along?

Whether you support or not the Democrat hopeful, you have to admire the carefully orchestrated marketing move around this opportunity.

“First To Know” was an elaborate way to boost the size of the presumptive candidate’s direct marketing database. This may sound a bit innocuous right now but in a potentially close race, every little counts and tactics like this may make all the difference on Election Day. The Barack Obama campaign is earning the permission with the VP announcement to regularly broadcast text alerts to its support base in the fall.

There are a few notable subtleties in the way this was executed.

First the Obama campaign is managing this data capture recruitment drive at a minimal cost since they are not resorting primarily to advertising. I guess that like countless other people, I am contributing to spreading the word through the fact that I am blogging about it. Obama seems to have a strong ability to shape the conversation – both in old and new media.

The capture form includes the zip code of where registrants live, and future text messages could therefore be targeted by state or by district if needs be. This is crucial to adapt messages based on the shape of the local political battlefield, and push different issues in different states. The zip code may potentially allow to refine messaging at an even more local level.

Finally, this operation will allow the Obama campaign to communicate primarily by text message to a younger audience that is notoriously using email much less than instant messaging or mobile devices.

The message “be the first to know” is also a textbook example of proven word of mouth marketing techniques… to target the influencer type, offer exclusive, ahead-of-the-crowd information that they can use as a social currency.

As I write these lines, the announcement of Obama’s VP choice will be made in less than 24 hours (on Saturday August 23rd). It is still too early to tell if Obama’s data capture ploy was successful, and the Obama campaign will probably not disclose how many mobile phone numbers and emails they captured over the past week – if only to keep the McCain campaign guessing.

Let’s just sit back, and watch how often the Democrats leverage this new channel in the coming weeks… the political world is getting addicted to the direct relationship opportunities enabled by digital technologies, and there is no turning back.

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The Tipping Point

Adoption curve

This is my first post on this blog!

What took me so long? I feel (for once) like I am a very late adopter. A lot of people around me – friends and colleagues – have had blogs for months, if not years.

The first person who I came across who had a “web diary” (I don’t think the term “weblog” had not even been coined back then) was Chris Worth, a very gifted writer and storyteller who was way ahead of his time. Chris was an archetypal early adopter – like all those people who may feel they have paid too much for their iPhones. Chris’ blog was started back in 1998 or 1997 and was hand-coded in HTML at the time. Chris moved to a “professional” blog platform a couple of years ago – not sure where all the fascinating stories from the previous years reside now

Are we past the tipping point for blogs? It depends on your definition of the market for blogs. We are probably way past the tipping point for blogs as personal diaries – but we are potentially only seeing the beginning of blogs as an information exchange tool, especially in a professional context.

In my case I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for months. I had two main concerns, and certainly very unoriginal ones. How to commit the time to writing new posts regularly? How to keep coming up with relevant and interesting stuff?

A couple of weeks ago, my former colleague Idris Mootee invited me to write a piece to be published on his blog. It made me revisit my initial concerns, and I came to the realization that there was in fact a lot to talk about! I will try to prioritize quality over quantity: expect a weekly post or so.

I welcome any feedback you can give on the posts. Blogs are a way to start dialogs with others in spite of time and distance, and those who see blogs only as a one-way publishing channel are missing on the real potential. This reflects the direction where marketing is headed: brands should increasingly engage in conversations with consumers. Brands need to forget about the old mass media paradigm – pushing intrusive messages that consumers have learnt to filter out or whose relevance is sometimes questionable.

To finish this first post, I’d like to give you an idea of the things I (or rather, we) will be discussing here. This is also reflected in the “about the blog” section. Expect to see comments on business and marketing news, data, articles, blog postings, pictures, books and of course web sites of interest.

Topics that I am passionate about:

  • business, technology and marketing innovation
  • consumer trends, market research, data analysis
  • creativity, design, advertising, brands, communication, digital experiences
  • word of mouth, social networks, online communities, virtual worlds

Voila – I am very much looking forward to sharing stuff with all of you out there, and I hope that this will be a mutually rewarding experiment!