Democrats always seem to have the edge when it comes to digital strategy. They were the first to effectively use email on a large scale with Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign. Plus, they perfected the email and data targeting approach in Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
“The Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign has replicated the full gambit of best practices borne out of Obama’s digital successes,” Will Bunnett, principal and co-founder of digital agency Clarify and former senior digital writer and producer on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, told Red, White & Blog.
“The influence of the Obama campaigns on the 2016 Clinton campaign is largely due to the accumulated body of testing available to Democratic campaigns. This not only benefits Clinton on a granular or targeting level, but also with defining big campaign positions and how they are delivered to the public,” added Bunnett.
Better tools have served the Clinton campaign well.
Her robust team of data scientists rivals that of global marketing teams; the sophistication of her strategy remains unchallenged. There were a handful of primary Republican hopefuls who could possibly have matched Clinton’s digital prowess, most notably Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
The Trump campaign has struggled with rushing to put together a digital team in the past few months. They are so far behind, that “some down-ballot Democratic candidates are using email better than Trump,” explained Bunnett.
Most likely, there are also down-ballot Republicans doing a better job of harnessing digital opportunities than their presidential candidate.
With the head start Democrats have in digital advertising, it is hard to imagine how the GOP catches up.
“Email has been relatively mature since 2012, Clinton’s team didn’t have to think about advancing that strategy too much,” expounded Bunnett. In 2012, data targeting was tested, we’ve seen that mature in 2016.
Democrats have a strong digital base of work to utilize in 2018 and 2020. Republicans didn't employ a serious approach to digital until the very last months of the 2016 campaign. How they attempt to close the digital gap will be fascinating, but also crucial to Republican electoral success going forward.