For details, you can go read that prior post. In this article, I want to focus on the potential I see for political candidates to benefit from creating digital experiences for supporters and potential supporters.
The concept of "brand experiences" is not new to political candidates. They have long known that the most effective way to engage with voters is to appear and mingle personally with them. That is why you see candidates making the rounds to county and state fairs, BBQ's, dinners, and kissing babies all over the place.
The problem for candidates, especially those running for statewide and national offices, is that attending this endless stream of events can leave them tired. Just look at this photo of Hillary Clinton, taken at a 2008 campaign event - she's obviously exhausted. Tell me how it helped her to have images like this published next to images of a vibrant, well-rested Barack Obama.
On top of that, attending all these events eats up precious resources that would be better spent getting a candidate's message out. As a candidate, imagine the possibilities if you were able to create a digital brand experience "engine" that ran everywhere, 24 hours-per-day, 7 days-per-week. And imagine further that of all the people who experienced your brand online:
- 98% showed increased consideration of you as a candidate
- 97% became more likely to vote for you in the next election; and
- 96% became more likely to recommend to friends that they vote for you, too
Digital Brand Experiences Defined
Digital brand experiences can range widely from passive engagement, such as reading a candidate's blog, to more active engagements such as following a candidate on Twitter or "friending" on Facebook.It is the more active brand engagements that drive the kinds of results I'm talking about. President Obama's campaign was early to the concept, though most of the reporting about his campaign's use of digital experience marketing focused on how much money was raised, rather than WHY so many people were moved to contribute - many of whom had never been politically active before.
According to The Atlantic, by adding social networking to the online fundraising mix, the Obama campaign raised half a billion dollars. In one month alone, Obama raised $45 million online - without hosting a single fundraiser, attending a single BBQ, or kissing a single baby. See why he was so much more well-rested?
Not only that, but the statistics show that virtually all of the millions of people who engaged with Obama via social networks felt as strong a connection to him as the comparatively few who actually got to meet him!
I believe it was this feeling of connection - the digital brand experience of choosing to "friend" or "follow," combined with the ease of giving online, that led so many to give who had never given before.
Clearly, candidates in future elections will have the opportunity to engage with their constituents in ways not possible before. But they are going to need people who can help them create and manage engaging and meaningful digital brand experiences.
That includes much more than just setting up Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It involves content creation, choosing the right medium, writing with the correct tone, being able to respond to threats and opportunities with lightning speed, optimizing it for search engines, and releasing it all with the proper timing. In the future, it will include creating widgets, mobile apps and more.
It is the candidates who do this successfully who will have the enormous advantage. They will be able to run more lean campaigns, spend less time on the road, and be able to devote substantially more of their resources on getting their messages out.
And as a bonus, once they win, they will be able to focus less on fundraising for the next election and more on doing the jobs they were elected to do.
Candidates running for office in 2010 should be well into this already. Those planning campaigns for 2012 need to be bringing digital experience and online marketing experts on board now. The social media world will look completely different in three years, and no one knows yet exactly what is going to become big and what isn't. That means you need to be working, testing, and analyzing all potential digital experience engines now.
Those who don't are likely to find themselves paying off campaign debts long after their opponents have taken the oath of office.