Why Location Data Will Decide the Next President of the United States
Throughout most of this campaign season we’ve heard that the rules are being thrown out and traditional campaign strategies are no longer relevant. Most of these claims are made by pundits in the context of Donald Trump’s non-traditional approach to an election. But the reality is that technology is changing the way political campaigns are run. Silicon Valley has been evolving agile development processes, data-driven decisioning and the rise of digital marketing for years; and, those concepts are now fully spilling over into the run for the White House. The true game changer in politics is data and digital expertise. Those without it will not win.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump share two goals: influence the voter’s decision and get that voter to show up at the polls. However, candidates are limited by budgets and time. The winner doesn’t have to spend the most, he or she simply has to spend the most effectively. That’s where technology comes in.
As highlighted in Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, consumers spend 47% of their “media time” on digital channels vs. 35% for traditional television. Digital channels are now king, and the growth of mobile will only continue to magnify that shift. Online and mobile digital platforms give us the ability to deliver targeted messages and content at scale for very precise audiences.
On July 24th, Nate Silver’s popular FiveThirtyEight blog’s “Now-cast” predicted a 56% chance that Hillary Clinton would win. The next day, on July 25th the prediction shifted to a 54% chance that Donald Trump would win. Our 24/7 media cycle and the amplifying effect of social media means that any event can quickly change the landscape and outcome of the election. Candidates must have the capability to very quickly build and deploy targeted content. “Quickly” no longer means days or weeks, it means hours. Gone are the days when candidates could build plans that would be executed over many months to drive home a single message. Now, political campaigns must leverage the same agile development processes that start-ups use to adapt to consumer feedback and usage patterns. Campaign marketing teams and technology stacks must be built for flexibility and speed.
Politics is inherently a location game. In all but two states, it’s winner-take-all in terms of electoral votes. The importance of this fact was seen in 2000, when George W. Bush captured 537 more votes than Al Gore in Florida, which was the deciding factor in his capturing all of Florida’s electoral votes, and the presidency. Yes, 537 votes decided the presidential election. The real fight between Clinton and Trump will take place in 11 key swing states: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Through data collected via in-house polling, network polling and social media monitoring, candidates will know their day-to-day status in each state, district, and precinct.
Location data allows campaign marketers to deploy thousands of unique digital campaigns targeted with location-specific content. Ohio has 16 congressional districts that encompass 8,887 distinct precincts. Imagine a world in which ads and messages are customized for each precinct, and ad dollars are only spent on precincts that are “in-play”. Location data makes that possible, and also ensures budgets aren’t wasted on voters who live outside of a targeted precinct.
The next 100 days will provide a great case study for the impact of digital marketing on consumer behavior. Those of us in stanch blue or red states will miss most of the action. But those of us living in battleground states will see just how far targeted messaging can go - and how fast it can move. The tide of agile marketing and digital technologies is rising quickly, and it will soon be playing in a location near you.