That’s Debatable: Mobile Innovation for 2012 Election

Dave LawsonAs we find ourselves on the precipice of the presidential debate onslaught (4 in 4 weeks- frequency capping anyone?), with finance as a central focus of any candidate’s platform, it’s amazing to assess the investments made to win a job more thankless than an NFL replacement referee.
In 1860, Abraham Lincoln trumped 3 other candidates (as our country divided, so did our political parties), plunking down a 2012 adjusted $2.8 million. In 2008 Obama and McCain went puño al puño at a rate of about $730 million each. Of course this year the buy-in is even higher and within the next 40 days, almost $200 million will be spent on digital marketing alone by both campaigns.

From a strictly mobile marketing perspective in 2008, President Obama, his constituency, and their dollars became our benevolent sponsors. They broke ground with VP running mate SMS announcements, fundraising, app development and deployment, and continued dialogue post election with those that cared to put them in office. Obama’s was the first campaign to have been materially helped by leveraging the digital channels, and mobile was front and center (at our finger tips.) Not that the McCain campaign did nothing, but clearly Obama “got it” and “it” helped his cause.

Since then, times have changed. Much has been made of the 53% of America that according to Neilsen and Pew pay their own monthly carrier bills for access to highly capable smartphones… (comScore estimates a more conservative 43-47%.) But what we’re seeing this year, from my apolitical mobile marketing perspective is less innovation and more iteration.

I think this is a very good thing. Too often, marketing teams get caught up on the next shiny object and neglect development of solidly performing opportunities that have the capability of performing at scale.

If you look at the race today, you will see the solid pillars of a mobile strategy within each camp. We’ll review the quality of each of these in future posts, but at user-level today, you have both campaigns leveraging:

  • Apps– Iterative innovation reigns supreme here with Romney announcing his VP choice via push notification (execution matters, just like it did in ’08.) Obama has improved on his ’08 offerings as well. Both are using apps for fund raising, efficient canvassing of geographies, alerts and news updates, and more.
  • SMS– Is still being used effectively for campaign donations, getting out voting information, and updates.
  • Advertising– Geo-targeting is being used in potential swing areas, being used to rally fervor in those areas already perceived as won, also in the works are real-time polling and intelligence gathering.
  • Mobile Web– Both camps have strategies to address this, and similar to technology debates raging in boardrooms and coffee-break areas alike, one has chosen responsive and the other has gone dedicated mobile. I’m looking forward to reviewing the impact of each.

On Friday, I’ll take a look at how the candidates are using fast advancing technologies to amplify the impact of these mobile pillars.

What do you think of these mobile efforts?

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