DNC’s Chief Mobilization Officer Shares How The Biden Campaign Pivoted Its Marketing Strategy During The 2020 Election
As Covid-19 has changed the way many Americans have cast their ballots in the 2020 election, Patrick Stevenson, the chief mobilization officer at the Democratic National Committee, has had to make sure people know their options voting during a pandemic.
Stevenson has spent the year putting together a massive digital operation that not only aims to win votes for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but also educates voters on how and where to cast their ballots.
“We were always planning to run a robust digital organizing program, this whole cycle,” he says. “I don't think we were planning to do it without a major on the ground field presence. And like we've developed an underground field presence over time, but it's not as robust as it would have been otherwise. I don't think we would have anticipated the amount of voter contact we had to do was like squarely on the shoulders of digital. So that to me is the biggest difference.”
While there was never a doubt that much of the 2020 campaign was going to be focused on digital, without in-person rallies and grassroots efforts, the pandemic has made has made these platforms even more of a priority. And with more battleground states than usual, Stevenson and others at the DNC have had to make sure even the most avid Democratic voters know where they’re going.
“In any previous campaign cycle, I've never spent nearly this much amount of time thinking about how to how to get hardcore Democrat people to vote,” he says. “Because every election before this one, we’ve kind of approached it from a point of view of if you are already persuaded to vote for the Democrat in this election, we assume you're going to handle that. But with this one, we are like, ‘Okay, do you know about the drop boxes?’ ‘Do you know this is your mail voting location?’ So we certainly have invested a lot of resources there.”
He adds, “The other thing I would say too, and I think one thing polling bears out about this election: there's not that many undecided people in this race. This is a very clear choice between two candidates.”
Forbes spoke with Stevenson the weekend before Election Day to learn more about the DNC’s strategy and what communication mediums have been most effective this campaign cycle.
Driving traffic to IWillVote.com was a priority.
One of the key components yet again this election cycle is pointing people to IWillVote.com, a website maintained by the DNC that serves as a resource hub for voters. Earlier this year, people could request their absentee ballots or start voter registration through the website, but now it’s mostly focused on helping people look up their polling places or other Election Day information.
Another reason why it makes sense to have the DNC maintain the website: Because the Democratic Party works with state parties, it gets a lot of updated information from people who are on the ground in various states and can update it accordingly. This cycle, he says the website has “shattered” past traffic records—thanks to Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris mentioning it during the debates. However, the DNC also directs a lot of paid media—from YouTube Ads and display advertising—to the website. (Last month, the DNC debuted a new ad starring Snoop Dogg that directed voters to IWillVote.com to learn about how to drop off their ballots at a ballot box location.)
“One of my colleagues was in Nevada yesterday, and he saw a plane fly overhead and it has just a banner, but IWillVote.com, so we're hiring aerial advertising. And like, there are barns with IWillVote.com.”
Email marketing has evolved—and is even more effective.
This year, the DNC is using Movable Ink for its email marketing. Stevenson recalls doing email marketing back in 2012 when he first began working on political campaigns, when everyone though it was more important to optimize messages to send to the entire audience. Over the past couple of years, however, he’s found that personalizing messages based on someone’s past donation history or volunteer actions performs better.
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