Commentary

2016 Will Be An App Election

It's a year before the presidential elections? For whom will you cast your ballot?

App marketers across the country are preparing to help you decide (between the 22 declared candidates) with what will undoubtedly be a political marketing app blitz in the summer and fall of 2016.

If Obama's election victory in 2012 was driven in a large part by effective social media Web site marketing, the 2016 elections will be decided 'in-app.'

35% of Americans owned a smartphone at this point in the last presidential election cycle. Today, 64% of adult Americans own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. 

The change in device usage patterns will make these elections the mobile elections.

So with a year until the presidential elections, here are the mobile marketing tactics political (and other) marketers should focus on in the coming year:

  • Use the data for better segmentation: Though the Obama campaign effectively segmented users in swing states in order to secure a victory in 2012, the political campaigns have access to even richer sets of data based on mobile download and in-app event data.

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Marketers can use technologies, such as cohort analysis, in order to find perspective voters based on their usage behaviors, patterns and devices.

This analysis provides insight into the applications and activities being used and maps and ranks the data criteria, based on their interest in a category or sub-category of activities. Users who download golf and London/ Paris/ Madrid travel apps could provide a candidate or party with unique targeting opportunities as well as ways to identify future targets based on cohort analysis.

  • Go local with geo-targeting: Local advertising has always been critical in presidential campaigns, enabling most campaigns to bypass major (and costly) media markets like New York and Los Angeles, whose voting patterns are not likely to be swung.

Mobile geo-targeting, driven by user-submitted location data, enables a campaign to target users down to a specific neighborhood location.

With Northeast Republicans and Democrats very different from Southern, Midwestern or Western votes of the same party, geo-targeting enables outreach with a message that is targeted down to the neighborhood.

Geo-targeting can be an effective tactic not only for marketing outreach but also to recruit campaign volunteers OR to run election day 'get out and vote' campaigns in neighborhoods exhibiting lower voter turnout rates.

  • Mobilize millennials through mobile: The relative political apathy of the millennial generation, right or wrong, has been written about extensively. Mobile platforms like Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, Meerkat and Periscope provide campaigns with new ways to reach this harder-to-reach demographic.

We’ll probably not achieve the same level of political activity from the under-30 voters as during the 1960s and early ’70s, whose political activism was heightened by the Vietnam War. As long as the content is true to the platform and the target audience, there is no reason that millennials can't be mobilized to volunteer for campaigns and vote in the same numbers as previous younger generations.

  • Think mobile from day one: Given the importance of mobile marketing for the coming election, it's critical that political marketers create marketing content developed for mobile platforms and devices. There isn't time to repurpose content from other media for mobile because this will be a mobile-first election.
  • Look for that breakout app: Somewhere in a developer's garage or at the bottom of an app store list is an app that will come from nowhere and become a breakout hit in 2016. Political marketers need to keep their finger on the pulse in order to find and tap into that breakout app – preferably before rivals do.

Though the campaign will not be won or lost based on one application, the perception of being a technologically forward-thinking candidate, particularly with younger voters, is critical today.

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