A Mobile Guide To Candidate Marketing In The 2014 Election

In 2012, over $4 billion was raised to fund presidential and congressional races. Given the money and what’s at stake in these elections, I’m not the least bit surprised that substantial marketing innovation happens in politics.

For example, while Republican Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency in 2012 was marked by Madison Avenue campaign ads, Barack Obama hired data scientists to help identify voters who, for example, would be most likely to host a campaign event or help drive others to polling stations. Obama’s data-driven strategy is credited with delivering him the victory. Today, brands, publishers, and agencies are coping with exactly the same tension between digital and traditional marketing strategies as they consider the best way to engage, acquire and monetize users.

Recently, a detailed plan to elect Democratic senate candidate Michelle Nunn in Georgia was leaked to the press. I skimmed the memo and looked for only one thing: the campaign’s intentions to use mobile to organize and reach voters. When I searched the 133 page plan, though, I found precisely zero references to the word “mobile.” I’m sure the campaign will adopt mobile elements eventually, but what I saw would have me questioning my operations team if I were candidate Nunn.

Nunn staffers (and others): take note. Here is a simple, non-partisan guide on ways candidates should adopt mobile to win in 2014.

  • Mobile websites: build and test the candidate’s site on all top mobile browsers, including Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. A quick glance at Nunn’s website reveals, for the most part, a solid mobile design. One criticism: it relies heavily on red font, some of which contain links, some of which do not. That’s inconsistent and not very user friendly.
  • Apps: They remain the most powerful mobile tool for delivering relevant information. Budget permitting, build one that gives quick easy access to tools to sign up and make donations, a calendar of candidate events, links to videos, position papers, articles, Twitter, and Facebook feeds, and a way to contact the campaign.
  • Tools for volunteers: Politics is a retail business. Campaigns invest heavily in putting feet on the ground to go door-to-door to promote their candidates. They should make sure they have tools for collecting information, including (on an opt-in basis) all about who they talk to, where those people live, their mobile phone numbers, hot button issues, political preferences, past involvement in campaigns, and donation history, other organizations to which they belong and are active, and their proximity to polling stations. All this data can help the campaign create rich profiles of the electorate, give real-time info on both the neighborhoods they’ve canvassed and the ones they still need to reach, segment people by their tendency to vote and donate, and manage spending and fundraising.
  • Direct emails: Before anyone hits “send,” check that emails render beautifully on tablets and phones. Do all the links work?
  • Text for updates: Texting remains an easy, platform-agnostic way to reach voters with news about campaign stops, appearances, hot issues, requests for donations, and reminders to vote.
  • Geofence polling stations: All the campaigning in the world does no good if voters don’t vote. Candidates can use geofencing to deliver mobile ads to people who are near the place they’ll vote, reminding them where they’ll need to be in November.

Embracing mobile is more important than ever. President Obama won two presidential elections in large part because his message and strategy encouraged younger voters to pull the lever for him. Candidates should assume that younger voters engage the world primarily through their phones and tablets, as opposed to television, direct mail, print or even laptops. Candidates that intend to recreate OBama’s success with this demographic need to put mobile at the heart of their campaign strategy.

Being mobile-friendly may not be enough on its own to push a candidate over the top, but without it, a concession speech seems more likely come November.

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