Precision Targeting From The Political Frontline

Brands and political parties strive to achieve customer/voter loyalty. In the 2015 U.K. election, the success of digital targeting was unprecedented—a useful example for marketers.

Precision Targeting From The Political Frontline

Political parties are embedding data into key campaigning moments to become more sophisticated digital marketers. What are the lessons for brands?

As the U.K. ramps up its preparations for the E.U. referendum and the U.S. election gathers pace, politicians and their associated parties are finessing their rhetoric and assessing the most effective way to interact and communicate particular messages to specific voters. The significance of their efforts shouldn’t be underestimated, as some are achieving an enviable level of sophistication that would rival even the biggest brands.

Digital targeting has been used in political campaigns in the U.K. before, but not to the level seen during the General Election a year ago when political digital marketing got serious. Big budgets were diverted away from traditional, mass-media advertising towards online targeting, with the primary purpose of adding a greater level of precision to the campaign process, tailored around the political sympathies of each voter.

This is nothing new within the private sector, where innovation is fast and strong. But, in the slower-moving public sector, the 2015 election saw social media become the star of the show for the first time, and utilised in an incredibly effective and unprecedented way.

The precision, with which both the SNP (Scottish National Party) and the Conservatives were able to reach 80.65% of Facebook users in marginal seats during the course of the campaign for No. 10, highlights how we’ve reached a new threshold in what success looks like for digital marketing.

So how did both parties achieve such a high level of precision?

Customer Recognition

The key was customer recognition and data connectivity. By using data to provide insights into key target demographics, the Conservatives and the SNP enhanced their ability to identify floating voters along constituency boundary lines, which formed the bedrock of the political campaign. With tight margins between the two main political parties in the run-up to the election, potential swing voters were key to a successful campaign.

The challenge didn’t stop with identification. The Conservatives and SNP still had to send floating voters the right message at the right time with an incredibly high level of accuracy. Ultimately, they wanted to make sure undecided voters were given the necessary information to make an educated and informed decision on polling day.

Facebook was recognised as potentially the best platform through which to achieve this, largely due to the segmentation tools it offers to users. As a result of this approach, messages were able to be adjusted for different areas and demographics, dependant on the daily news agenda or pressing current events. This dynamic approach meant that messages were also communicated in real time, without the delay of other more traditional direct approaches.

Brands and political parties ultimately want to achieve similar outcomes. They are both fighting to achieve customer/voter buy-in. Brand marketers, therefore, need to start evaluating their capabilities and the data they have available to them to serve customers with relevant and real-time content, based around their needs and wants. While brands may not be campaigning for office, they are looking to improve their relationships with their customers, identify, and positively influence their individual journeys and with the goal of gaining brand advocacy.

Data Connectivity

Any brand looking to gain advocacy to drive sales needs to be able to target specific individuals, much like the Conservatives and SNP, to provide them with the information they need to make a decision or purchase. However, the extent to which they are able to do so requires a rich data set and the capability to activate it across a wealth of relevant touch points—an approach known as data connectivity.

Data may help you identify your customer base and their individual preferences, but that’s only the first stage. Stage two involves building a brand’s ability to take this insight and connecting it to additional data assets that inform its digital marketing function in order to drive personalisation and customer engagement at a highly individual level.

The ability to automate parts of this process and scale up activity depending on demand is critical to the long-term success of this approach, and gives brands the transparency to see what’s working and what’s not along each stage of the campaign.

Organisations that are able to connect their data to additional assets quite simply develop a fuller, more up-to-date picture of their customers, even if they belong to a niche segment that can often be difficult to engage. This ensures messages are much more targeted and relevant, leading to more meaningful brand experiences, higher sales conversations, and greater brand awareness.

With the average consumer now reportedly exposed to between 300 to 700 pieces of marketing material every day, change is needed. Marketers need to be smart with their approach and mindful of their investment. With customers frequently exposed to a wealth of touch points, there’s a danger that the key messages are going to get lost in the noise and web of digital and display advertising. Employing a greater level of sophistication ensures that target demographics, whoever they are, or wherever they live, can be addressed directly in a manner that adds value to their lives and empowers key decisions to be made.