Data Is Power? Obama App Makes Anyone A Political Bean Counter

by , Aug 6, 2012, 6:25 AM
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In the last week, the Obama campaign reached a new tipping point. They sent me more text messages than my daughter and wife sent me, combined. Obama, 8; Family, 7.  

One more reminder of Barack’s birthday and they were going to get a STOP message.

But at least they are working the tools.

The other day Mitt Romney issued an app that will announce his VP pick. Oh, yay! How 2008. If next-gen media savvy won Presidential elections, then the next five months of tortuous campaigning would be for naught and President Obama would just waltz to a win.

Not that it matters, because I doubt that apps will move the needle for any cogent Democrat or Republican, but the Romney kids might want to take a look at this one. The new Obama for America app is probably the smartest political organization app I have ever seen. It is targeted at Obama supporters who the campaign wants to mobilize as donors and canvassers, but generally as voices in the ongoing campaign arguments. It arms local users with the campaign's own massive databases of voter information and grassroots organization.

Registration records were once the stuff of political dweebs and numbers crunchers. Now you have it them your hand.  

You know the kitchen table political arguments you keep losing because you don’t have any facts and figures in front of you? This app seems to know that sympathizers for a cause need ammo. The app targets that need by feeding a full menu of talking points to the user on every imaginable issue. Jobs and economy? Obama added 489,000 manufacturing jobs to a sector that had not seen such growth since the late '90s. Health care? Over $4 billion has been recovered under Obama in a crackdown on scams of the system. Wish you had remembered these things when you were skirmishing with your neighbor last night over the hedges? You can send him or her the point via all the usual sharing tools.

Agree with the facts in the app or not, what is smart here is what makes any app smart: content is turned into a tool -- not something you consume, but that you use.

The localization of the app is superb. Once it knows where you are, then many of its talking points get contoured to your area. It will tell you how Obama’s policies positively affected basic statistics for your market. It will often take you to areas of the reelection Web site that will calculate how different policies voiced by Romney and Obama will affect your personal finances.

Again, of course, it is propaganda of a high order. This is a campaign. It is all spin. I lived in the same country we all did for the last four years, and no matter what your political sympathies, the President has a hard sell to make this cycle.

Regardless, this app comes closer to being a real grassroots organizing tool than anything I have seen. The events calendar is keyed to your location and even lets you RSVP your intention to attend.  It locates the organizing group in your immediate vicinity and lets you sign up. It even gives you clear canvassing guidelines and a map with the location of your neighbors. The damned thing knows who the registered Democrats are on my block.

You get a script with interactive forms to fill in. Each person you canvas can tell you her level of support and whether he/she wants to volunteer. The app actually lets you chronicle your interactions with individuals on your block and then syncs those records back to Obama HQ when you finish one small list so it can send another list of names in your area.  

Creepy? Well, it just mobilizes information that is in the public record anyway. It was always creepy. Now everyone gets to play.

Like any mobile app from any brand, it is not clear whether this one will actually be used. But it's certainly the most advanced example of what's possible when mobile technology is married to political goals and savvy.

No doubt there are some lessons here for marketers about the power of localizing information in order to spur action. The app brings the resources to you, removes just one more obstacle between complacency and action. It dazzles with the level of detail you didn’t even know was available at all, let alone portable and geo-aware. And it makes it easy to close the loop on inspiration at every turn.

Even the opposition party can see the mobile marketing wisdom in that.

But it does kinda make even an Obama-leaning voter wonder. If these guys are smart enough to make an app like this, then why isn’t this economy fixed by now? Shouldn’t there be an app for that, too?

5 comments on "Data Is Power? Obama App Makes Anyone A Political Bean Counter ".

  1. Ian Straus from VIA Metropolitan Transit
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.
    Re. " If these guys are smart enough to make an app like this, then why isn’t this economy fixed by now? Shouldn’t there be an app for that, too?" Writing an app is 100% under the programmer's control, and presumably the app runs on a machine in good condition. The economy isn't 100% under President Obama's control. And the economic machine was damaged by the same Republicans who now say he didn't fix it fast enough, and whose congresscritters devoted their time to minimizing his successes - whcih means devoted their time to making life hard for as many Americans as possible.
  2. Robert Repas from Machine Design Magazine
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 1:25 p.m.
    THREE months of tortuous campaigning, Steve. Three months. Let's not make things worse than they are. :-)
  3. Sean Williams from Williams
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.
    Ian - I think the author was making what's called a joke.
  4. George Blake from Pridatco Inc.
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 2:52 p.m.
    Data is the new world currency. My company has just launched a couple of websites focused on privacy and data ownership: MoneyForMyData.com and DoNotTrackUs.com. We hold the trademark for the Do Not Track Registry. A profile on me appeared today on newspaperalum.com.
  5. Steve Smith from Mediapost
    commented on: August 6, 2012 at 3:02 p.m.
    @Robert. What was I thinking? It will feel like five months.

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