Business Lessons From The Election
Nope, out of respect for everyone, I am not going to say anything about how happy or sad I am today about the election results. Not gonna go there, wouldn’t be prudent… To everyone, worn ragged by the saturation bombing, I come in peace to talk about profits and what the business community can take away from this national lab experiment.
It wasn’t an experiment? Well, maybe not in the classic sense of test tubes and Bunsen burners, perhaps, but it was certainly a natural experiment. It was akin to watching the lives of twins unfolding if they were separated at birth or if one had a disease and the other didn’t. There’s a lot to tease out of this.
Consider the impact of money and the approach to voter outreach, a.k.a. marketing. According to today’s New York Times, this presidential election cost in the neighborhood of $6 billion, much of it spent on radio and TV advertising and a lot of it spent by third parties. But much of the funding raised and much of the communication happened away from traditional broadcast media and came through the combined use of social media, analytics and mobile devices.
Again and again in the coverage of the returns, analysts referred to micro targeting and social media and it was some of the social data that enabled the polling outfits to so precisely measure and predict the outcomes. This data also lifted fund raising from the grass roots and gave field workers the ability to get out the vote even to the point of providing precinct maps with walking directions.
So what do we take from all of this? Well, one of the messages I take, and it is not the only one to be had, is this is what’s possible with modern social and mobile technologies that were pioneered in the front office. It highlights the importance of big data collection and the relevance of modern analytics too.
All parties raised a lot of money to run ads but some of the most effective work was done when the sound was on mute and people could no longer bear to hear another ad, pro or con. The data collection and analysis enabled the micro targeting that gave the political practitioners the raw materials to customize messages for particular voters, to deliver those messages and to be sure they were seen and therein is the key finding for all of business.
The unmistakable take away for me is that when the marketing budget really is constricted and expensive broadcast approaches become ineffective, the winning approach is through social, mobile and analytics. And if it can work in this national experiment it will definitely work in business and we are already seeing it.
The six billion dollars the parties spent on this election may turn out to be a high water mark. Future generations of voters and politicians may look back on recent elections in wonder saying things like, “Remember when we had to…” It will be just like today saying remember when you had to print a letter and put a stamp on it? This is a good thing.
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I agree there is a point of diminishing returns, but in an election people tend to err on the side of saturation because they want no regrets or recriminations. Also, campaigns spend whatever they bring in and then some. I suppose that with little advanced math skills you can look at the moving average of a population and see where it first fixed at the level it eventually ended at. Anything spent beyond that point in time could be considered waste but you don’t know that going in.
Do you think there is a point where the ‘money’ being thrown at the ‘experiment’ doesn’t add another vote or move a vote from one column to another. I guess I’m asking what is the level of diminishing returns if there is one.
To me, the outcome affirms that elections are won with votes; people on the ground and YES SOCIAL – and ALL the money in the world ain’t gonna change that.