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.