Electoral politics has long been one of the most widely covered events in the United States. The presidential election of 2008 is a prime example where the race for the White House captured the imagination of not just America but also the world. More than just bringing a new President to office however, 2008 represented a significant shift in the way mobile technology is used in an election campaign.
Going back to 2004, former Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President. While other candidates held rallies and other fundraising events to secure donations and volunteers, the Dean campaign saw the Internet as a largely untapped means of raising funds and engaging supporters. Making use of this source allowed the Dean campaign to build a big financial lead over the other campaigns in the early stages of the election. Although Dean was ultimately unsuccessful in his bid for the Presidency, the consequences of his campaigns innovative media strategy would be felt in years to come.
In 2008, Barack Obama was a little known Senator from Illinois. While Obama’s campaign had attracted widespread interest, the success of his opponent, Former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton appeared a foregone conclusion. The Obama campaign however countered her widespread support amongst the Democratic Party establishment by building an extensive network of supporters across the country. Mobile technology was a key part of effectively organising this support base. Through sophisticated text marketing campaigns, Obama was able to communicate directly with the electorate and bypass the traditional mainstream media. In an unprecedented step, Obama even announced the selection of his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, by sending a text alert to 2.9 million supporters that had signed up for it.
Moving forward, Obama’s use of mobile technology has proved a template for subsequent campaigns. In 2010, the campaign of Scott Brown, a Republican running for the seat of the recently deceased Massachsetts Senator, Edward Kennedy, created a mobile application that instructed supporters on how they could get involved. This proved decisive as it was Brown’s fervent base of supporters that carried him to one of the most stunning electoral upsets in recent history.
With the upcoming midterm elections fast approaching, it is clear that candidates are exploring further way that mobile technology can be integrated into their campaigns as they search for the winning formula.
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Mobile Marketing and the Political Campaign