Rich and Co.

Lessons from the Cruz Marketing Team; Bottom-Up, Best Data Wins, Get Granular, Go to “Ground”

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There are some good, clear lessons her on how marketing and getting people to act is now done professionally.  This is detailed and bit geeky, but that’s what marketing and changing behavior is now!  human behavior, and what effects it, is not infinitely complex so what motivates political action/behavior probably can be generalized to any business that wants to drive “getting behavior.”

Take Away – If you are not willing to get down and dirty with the real data and behavior – don’t waste your time or money (like Trump).

How Ted Cruz Engineered His Iowa Triumph

…Cruz’s analytics department had tried to slice the Iowa caucus electorate in search of an advantage for its candidate. They had divided voters by faction, self-identified ideology, religious belief, personality type—creating 150 different clusters of Iowa caucus-goers—down to sixty Iowa Republicans its statistical models showed as likely to share Cruz’s desire to end a state ban on fireworks sales.

Unlike most of his opponents, Cruz has put a voter-contact specialist in charge of his operation, and it shows in nearly every aspect of the campaign he has run thus far and intends to sustain through a long primary season…

Roe runs a Missouri-based firm that specializes in direct mail and phone calls, and brought the mind of a targeter to the helm of Cruz’s campaign. (By contrast, Jeb Bush’s manager, Danny Diaz, is a former opposition researcher and communications tactician; U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s, Terry Sullivan is a general consultant.) As a result, Roe tends to talk about the electorate as a pile of potential votes that can be piled atop one another—the candidate with the biggest lump wins—rather than a pie to be sliced into fractions. “I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but my background comes from being able to utilize small segments of voting populations and influence them on issues they care about—and not pack them into a big bucket,” says Roe. “The fact is that different people are motivated by different things at different times.”

As he staffed the campaign, Roe made the unusual decision to make Cruz’s director of analytics and his pollster the same person. Wilson met Roe while the two were chiefs of staff for conservative House members both elected in the class of 2000. Roe has granted Wilson the most expansive brief of any pollster in either party’s 2016 field: his surveys not only guide Cruz’s strategy and define his message, but drive targeting decisions both online and off, including digital fundraising appeals.

….Roe began imagining that grassroots enthusiasm could make Cruz’s campaign the exception…

  • In April, Wilson’s analytics department built a statistical model in the early primary states to predict which candidate each prospective voter was likely to support.
  • Early on, such models should be helpful for identifying potential supporters who could be leaned on to donate or volunteer,
  • but as the field sprawled into the double digits, the predictions became effectively useless. “It would fluctuate constantly,” says deputy data director Schultz. “You model on Monday and Cruz gives a speech on Wednesday and the world changes—or Scott Walker announces on Thursday. So we just gave up.” 

[Here is a good example of the close, careful, granular hard work needed to uncover opportunities – which shift – ER]…..

  • Schultz started collecting local newspaper editorials and holding phone calls with local activists and legislators in each of the early states, beginning with his native Iowa.
  • In addition to seeking geographic and gender diversity, and representation from special constituencies like evangelicals and farmers, Schultz insisted that the campaign’s political team bring him participants who were not already Cruz supporters.
  • He told them to put aside national concerns—he didn’t want to hear about Obamacare and immigration—and instead tell him about the concerns that were unique to their communities. Those brainstorming sessions generated a master list of 77 local issues for Iowans. Some had a national tint, such as defending law enforcement against post-Ferguson critics. Others, however, seemed too parochial for even a congressional candidate’s attention, like the repeal of the state fireworks law or a prospective ban on red-light traffic cameras.

[Use of social media for sentiment discovery – ER] Schultz and Wilson designed an experiment on Facebook to see which issues were most salient among voters. They designed small, business-card-sized display ads about each issue (“Outlaw Traffic Cameras” or “Legalize Fireworks”) and placed them in the Facebook feeds of Iowans who identified as Republicans. An “Act Now” button redirected to a landing page without any obvious connection to Cruz—it bore only the name of Wilson’s polling firm—where a voter could sign up with an email address for more information. In each state, Wilson took the five issues with the highest click-through rates and added them to the survey calls that fed into his microtargeting models, so he could begin to predict who among likely Iowa caucus-goers was serious about fireworks deregulation. The campaign built parallel models for five national issues it had identified as paramount among its targets, like stopping the Iran nuclear deal and banning human embryo sales.

A campaign focused on granular issues was somewhat at odds with the data enterprise that Wilson had inherited when he joined Cruz.

Even before there was a Cruz for President organization, it had committed to employ Cambridge Analytica, a London-based outfit reportedly owned by the family of hedge-fund investor Robert Mercer, the country’s single-largest political donor and a longtime Cruz backer. Cambridge Analytica had set out to profile every American voter along each of the five dominant personality factors: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The project was ambitious and extravagant, conceived by British political operatives intent on breaking into the world’s most lucrative electioneering marketplace, but also completely opaque and not self-evidently practical for application in U.S. elections. [Note, this is very old fashioned, but trendy, kind of consulting. It has been replaced by more rigorous behavioral data collection – forget “attitudes”. We don’t care what people feel or say – but what they do. ER]

With his candidate still jostling for marginal advantage against other candidates competing in what his polling called evangelical and tea party lanes, Wilson did see the benefit of some psychological profiling. Yet the 32 different personality types into which Cambridge Analytica segregated voters would be unmanageable if layered onto other divisions in the electorate. Wilson pushed the company to simplify its framework by pushing voters into just five clusters, including Timid Traditionalist, Relaxed Leader, and Temperamental. At the same time, he deployed the two full-time analysts that Cambridge had embedded in Cruz’s headquarters to work on building statistical models more directly relevant to political attributes. “They are very smart data scientists, so let’s take advantage of where they’re good,” says Wilson. “It’s been a very solid, collaborative relationship.”

More than 300,000 Iowans were potential targets, having participated previously in at least one Republican primary, though Wilson spent 2015 expecting fewer than half that number to actually attend the caucus in February. Based on that turnout, Wilson had set a vote goal of 39,585, a number he expected to reach by both persuading likely caucus-goers and mobilizing new ones predicted to support Cruz. When he took those different behavioral buckets, split them by issue preference, and then again by personality groups, Wilson ended up with more than 150 segments in Iowa alone. [I’ll bet 90% of the behavioral prediction comes from 2-5 variables. Again, 150 segments is very old fashioned. ER]

When he had done a more primitive targeting project for Texas Governor Greg Abbottt’s campaign in 2014, Wilson had distributed a potential voting population of five million across eight clusters. “We’re totally testing the limits of everything, from overall addressable audience to niche targeting and niche creative,” says Michael Beach, a co-founder of Targeted Victory, the digital-advertising agency that had collaborated with Wilson on Abbott’s race and later working for Cruz. Now the firm was expected to manage boutique campaigns for each segment, which eventually had to be numbered because no one could keep track of them otherwise.

Many had barely a few hundred potential caucus goers in them, far too few to justify paid communications efforts. Most online ad networks require at least 10,000 targets for a buy; Cruz’s data department made a determination that a flight of direct mail was inefficient with fewer then 2,500 recipients. Schultz sought any opportunity to lump together like minded segments across states until they became large enough to justify such ad campaigns.

When there was no way that a segment could be rolled up into a larger universe, as was the case with the sixty Iowans who were expected to make a priority of fireworks reform, Cruz’s volunteers would see the message reflected in the scripts they read from phone banks, adjusted to the expected profile of the listener. A Stoic Traditionalist would hear that “an arbitrary ban of this kind is infringing on liberty,” as a messaging plan prepared by Cambridge Analytica put it, while Relaxed Leaders are “likely to enjoy parties and community celebrations, such as the 4th of July, and thus a fun-killing measure of this kind is unlikely to sit well with them.”

Late last week, social-media director Josh Perry sent Wilson a post by a Twitter user who identifies himself as Scott Mathes saying, “I will caucus for the candidate who supports legalized fireworks in the state of Iowa.” Perry didn’t append any context in the email, and Wilson didn’t require it, “since everyone makes fun of me for these narrow models.” Nonetheless, Perry had made sure to reply to Mathes, with a picture of Cruz’s “Legalize Fireworks in Iowa” and a link to a site where he could find his caucus location. If everything worked correctly, doing so would allow Mathes to flag his record in Cruz’s database, and one of Cruz’s volunteers would call not long thereafter to confirm his identity as a supporter.

When Roe and Wilson began setting vote goals for the early states, Trump was not even a candidate. As Trump came to dominate the race, his apparent success in expanding the potential electorate nudged Wilson’s turnout numbers up, from a low of around 120,000 to 135,338, where it would settle on caucus day. Pegging the ultimate effect Trump would have on participation was impossible. Wilson had simulated the outcome at various levels of turnout, but there was little to go on in deciding which scenario was most likely to ultimately materialize. (With good targeting, the voters about whom a campaign should know least are those whom an opponent is working to mobilize.)

Trump was uncommonly discreet about what his team would do to get out the vote….Cruz’s communications team made a decision to be uncommonly public about such mechanics…

“The old rule was ‘Don’t talk about strategy—don’t talk about process,’ …[Again, very old fashioned. ER]

[Guerrilla tactics. ER] About three thousand of Cruz’s turnout targets were selected to receive the mail, an aggressive version of a common technique refined through dozens, possibly hundreds, of different social-science experiments confirming that the “social pressure” of shaming non-voters can in fact serve to motivate them. The “Voting Violation” design evoked an official government document, and the inclusion of neighbors’ supposed voting records had been shown to be far more potent than merely letting voters know their own records were public. Cruz’s campaign had to send the mail out under its own name—as opposed to that of a super-PAC or other outside group, as is preferred with such tactics liable to incite blowback—because it was the one with the most current list of the people Cruz needed to mobilize. (Some other campaigns, notably John Kasich’s, have effectively outsourced all their highly targeted voter contact to allied super-PACs.)

Cruz advisers anticipated the cynical media response, but accepted the risk. Recipients were highly unlikely to caucus in the first place, but if nudged Wilson was confident they would go for his candidate; the statistical models had them all more than 85-percent likely to back Cruz. The odds that an infrequent voter would respond by attending what was probably his or her first caucus and then attempt to spite Cruz for his mailer by supporting one of his rivals seemed unlikely. Like most of Cruz’s methods, it was what a campaign transparent about its tactics—and unafraid to be seen trying to win at any cost—would choose to do.


Written by Rich and Co.

February 3, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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