Leah Anathan, corporate marketing director, Emailvision
Leah Anathan, corporate marketing director, Emailvision
A view from Leah Anathan

Think BR: What every digital marketer can learn from Obama's 2012 campaign

Like or dislike president Obama, his campaign proved that successful online marketing is all about rigorous testing and data analytics, writes Leah Anathan, corporate marketing director, Emailvision.

If you’re working in digital marketing and you didn’t see two of the most recent reports from Joshua Green, a senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek, then it’s time for you to take a coffee break and go read them. Don’t worry; it will only take a few minutes out of your typically chaotic day.

In his investigation, Green discovered a digital petri dish with some powerful evidence that every online marketer should see. It’s the science behind winning campaigns. This campaign just happened to be the 2012 US election for President.

In the post-election analysis, there has been great discussion about polls, voter data and state-by-state numbers. In the weeks leading up to the election, the Republicans were predicting a big win for governor Romney, while the Democrats were predicting an equally big win for President Obama.

It left most in the media to shrug their shoulders with a ‘we don’t know what’s going to happen’ look on their faces. It also left most Americans in a slight panic with the fear that it would take another trip to the Supreme Court to determine the winner.

We have since learned that president Obama’s campaign team had the real numbers the whole time. Why? Part of the answer sits with their data driven campaign and online marketing tactics. It’s not the whole answer, but digital marketers should take note.

The Obama campaign’s marketing strategy is a significant reason why the president will be in the White House for another four years. As reported in Bloomberg Businessweek, "This is seen as the best-run campaign ever," says Google (GOOG) executive chairman Eric Schmidt, an informal campaign adviser. "And there’s a lot of carry-over from political tactics to business tactics."

If you can wrap your head around this, the campaign raised approximately $690 million dollars through online marketing and most of that money was raised through email marketing. That said, it wasn’t email marketing in the form of a daily blast to millions of Americans, it was targeted digital marketing that was rigorously tested, adjusted and then executed.  Yes, millions of Americans received daily updates from the Obama campaign, but not before 18 variations of multivariate testing took place on every email campaign.

As a corporate marketing director, I cringed when I read the October 30th email with the subject line, "Get his back - make some calls," but in the world of digital marketing, opinions are far less important than data. The data said that was a winning subject line.

And speaking of data, it’s difficult to underestimate the role of data analytics in their campaign. After discovering that half of their target [age 29 and under] group could not be reached by phone, most were reached through marketing on Facebook. As reported in Bloomberg Businessweek, the responses from their social campaign represented a higher number of people than Obama’s overall margin of victory.

What happened when the digital team in Obama’s campaign saw that 25% of their clicks were coming from mobile devices? They raced to redevelop a mobile optimized website and release an innovative program that enabled subscribers to make one-click donations from their mobile phones. From Bloomberg Business Week, "The 1.5 million one-click donors gave $115 million, or about $75 million more than tests indicated they would have otherwise."

Those of us in digital marketing dream of having Eric Schmidt as an ‘informal campaign advisor’ plus Obama’s several-hundred person team of digital marketers, developers and data experts. Resources aside, these recent reports provide us with a view into their winning digital strategy, and it’s well worth a second (or third) look.

Leah Anathan, corporate marketing director, Emailvision