Mitt’s marketing strategy could lose you the brand race
Obama revolutionised marketing in the campaign by using big data and targeted marketing. He tailored his messaging to reflect the demographic he was taking too and people from different socio economic circumstances. This involved direct marketing, spokespeople and policy.
When my colleague wrote a fantastic piece last week on Obama’s re-election, one point that stuck out to me was when he said:
“His victory last night was secured by maintaining the rainbow coalition that brought him victory four years ago: black and Hispanic voters; young Americans; women; and Americans with post-graduate degrees. These diverse groups outnumbered Mitt Romney’s support base, comprised primarily of white men and older Americans.”
It’s been widely talked about how President Obama used demographic targeting in this year’s election to deliver him a victory. I asked myself what brands can learn from these election techniques used by the Obama campaign to reach demographics with the right messages to win the election.
The rivalries that exist in the world of brands share many parallels with the world of US Presidential politics, not least in the many millions of dollars spent on TV advertising where one mistake (or gaffe) can cost you a campaign. Yet, this hasn’t been the social media election that many predicted. Twitter has been the focus of online blogs (not least their own!) and has broken some records. Yet the signature feature (one that has already re-defined brand marketing) has been the use of demographics, behaviour and media consumption to drive targeting of the electorate.
It’s the data that has become the governing truth for politics and brands. Better technology and data, in theory, means better targeting. But, as in the imperfect world of brands, US voters have experienced the blunt instrument that is behavioural advertising and the clunky use of data-mining techniques to predict voting intentions.
When brands formulate appropriate strategies with the cultural differences of consumers in mind, they can be very effective in engaging different demographics on both authentic and emotionally compelling levels, in order to drive purchase and form stronger, longer term consumer relationships.
Ethnic products in supermarkets for example were worth £244?million 2011, up 15% on the year before. Morrisons has seen a rise in sales of more than 600% in the past five years and Marks & Spencer is expanding its ‘international brands’ range. Tesco has introduced West African and South Indian foods to join the likes of Polish, Greek Cypriot and Filipino, which brings their number of ‘authentic’ ethnic lines to around 3,200.
It is only in the last few years that the major supermarkets have recognised the true value of this market and they have targeted carefully. In general, the ranges are only available in a limited number of stores, where there are significant ethnic minority populations, however this trend is changing. Tesco’s new lines started in only 10 stores, building to 60 by the end of the year, out of a total of more than 800.
Whist it may be easier for large brands to focus on all demographics and the ‘total market’ strategy, by doing this, brands often don’t take the time to understand different consumers’ circumstances and how they affect purchase decisions and brand loyalty.
Big companies tend to segregate their voices and needs rather than find ways to integrate the mindset of different consumers into the entire business strategy. This can be a tricky balance, as on the one hand, brands need to promote their product to the widest possible audience, whilst not alienating any specific consumer groups on the other. In a world of multinational products, being ‘all things to all men’ remains an impossible dream.
Data-driven decision making played a huge role in creating a second term for the 44th President and will be one of the more closely studied elements of the 2012 cycle. It’s another sign that the role of the campaign pros in Washington who make decisions on hunches and experience is rapidly dwindling, being replaced by the work of quants and computer coders who can crack massive data sets for insight. ‘It’s the data, stupid.’ It could become the governing truth for politics, as it has for brands.
Sometimes, politicians fail to understand why the need to be culturally relevant to their constituents outweighs the need to be true to their party’s wider platforms – a mistake the Republicans will have 4 years to come to terms with.