A look back at TMRE 2009: Lessons from the White House from Joel Benenson

The Market Research Event 2010 is taking place this November 8-10, 2010 in San Diego, California. Every Friday leading up to the event, we’ll be recapping one session from The Market Research Event 2009.

Lessons from the White House: Stories From Obama’s Lead Pollster & Strategist
Joel Benenson, Lead Pollster & Senior Strategist, The Obama Administration

What does a politics pollster know about market research’s issues? While looking at the agenda, he saw a session doing with inspired performance, and it’s contending with a session on online communities, as well as building a teen brand, and finally one about leveraging knowledge to prepare for and outwit the competitors. For nearly a century that campaign teams have understood political marketing and how it combines with brand marketing.

In a world of politics, they’re driving by a world that corporate don’t embrace, and they have one measure of success that’s determined on one day. They win or lose. And they’re driving by competition, and they face competitors.

YouTube didn’t exist when Bill Clinton left office, and now consumers can post a video about whoever they want whenever the want. George Allen’s senate race campaign was crippled by a handheld camera taken by an intern in his party. 27million people watch a speech by Obama in February of 2007. This technology creates turbulence that’s new.

Creates
-Risk takers
-Challenge convention thinking
-Embracing heated debates to get to the right strategy

If you’re a pollster and want to have an impact in the debates, you must be there to tell them where the numbers are coming from and why. What are their underlying attitudes that make them determine why voters are voting for a certain politician.

There would not have been a campaign if Obama wasn’t willing to challenge the conventional thinking of the time. In politics you’re never as smart as you look when you win, and you’re never as dumb as you look when you lose. You have to be willing to take the loses, and continue to be daring to keep winning.

Beninson realized that any democrat would be change from Bush. They had to make it so that the only way there was change would be if Barack Obama was the change. They set out to define Clinton’s experience as irrelevant.

What they wanted to do to define change with Obama as the answer . They could gain more quickly and convince voters that they represented change, than trying to convince with democrats that they could compete with Hillary on experience. This set up a template. They defined a change that they could believe in. People were hungry in America, and they wanted to end partisan conflicts, and they wanted a president that they could believe in. A speech in November 2007 in Iowa set up a situation where the candidates had to give a speech. There were no teleprompters, they made an ad of this speech, this message shared the campaign where Obama wanted to create a unified America. Next in South Carolina, and they were holding back.

They took this ad and put it in front of focus groups for African Americans in South America, then it lead to the backing of Obama by African Americans in South Carolina. Campaigns are all about the delegates. The delegate gain is very complex. They have to go down to the congressional districts. Strategy for the Obama campaign was to build up a delegate lead for Obama. On February 5, 2009, the critical day in California, they’d be targeting specific congressional districts. On February 18, 2009, there was a caucus in Idaho. In the last week, they had to decide where to send Obama? They took the risk and sent Obama to Idaho on February 1. There were 14,000 people lined up to see Obama speak at the Boise State arena. They focused their efforts in Idaho. Clinton got a predictive win in California, and she did win, but by marginally less. They neutralized Clinton’s gains in California with Obama’s huge gain in Idaho.

From this, Beninson stated that it’s not about knowing who your customers are, you must understand who your valuable consumers are. You should spend your dollars on them so that profitability is high when they spend their dollars.

The public wanted someone who was strong and steady in the crisis, so when John McCain wanted to cancel the debate the week the stock market crashed, Obama wanted to continue on with the debate because the commander and chief must be able to multitask.

So today, where are we? Obama won by 50% in the popular vote, which hadn’t been done in a long time. Today, Obama’s approval ratings are high, as well as confidence, which is important. He’s also dealing with education, health care and energy.

Parallels between polling and market research client on marketing side: if you’re a researcher on a client side, how can you be more strategic player. Maybe you’re asking yourself the wrong questions.

Clients with strategic research partners should wonder why they aren’t hiring them. How does your organization react when someone comes up with an out of the box solution. What kind of constraints are you placing on thoughts and ideas? You have to breakthrough unfamiliarity. Take a leap, do something different. How many risks have you taken with the data you have in front of you.

Have you let science restrict your creativity? Vendors sell things to people, strategic partners bring something to the table that no one else can. Do you need to reevaluate what you’re addressing your services as?