The Evolution of Mobile in Clinton and Trump’s Campaigns

iphone-518101_960_720The following is an exclusive guest contributed post to MMW from Sean Gera, Strategic Analyst at Callfire.

Only a few months remain in the 2016 Presidential election, one that has been characterized by controversy. And as election day draws near, nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are pulling out all the stops to solidify their voter bases and nail down swing voters as they vie for a November victory. One of the methods they are utilizing to connect with voters is mobile marketing, which has become ubiquitous since Obama embraced it in his 2012 Presidential campaign.

Mobile overall has been more salient in this election than ever before. Every candidate has applied a unique mobile strategy comprising of email, ads, and texting. Members of the larger candidate pool – Cruz, Kasich, and Sanders, in particular, embraced SMS as an integral part of their campaigns. For example, Sanders not only built his base support with texting, but used it to sustain that support throughout his campaign. The success he saw likely pushed Clinton to unveil her mobile strategy slightly earlier than she intended.  Mobile is clearly becoming a critical element of political campaigns, and the ability to build a large mobile audience is a likely indicator of success at the polls.

Unlike Bernie Sanders’ early adoption of a mobile communications strategy, during which he actively targeted voters from day one, Clinton and Trump were fairly slow to embrace mobile in their own campaigns. When they first announced their respective candidacies, both were primarily using email and the mobile web to reach voters; there was little to no focus on mobile. As the campaign progressed, Clinton had more foresight with respect to the strength of the medium, putting more time into planning a larger strategy for her mobile campaign, while Trump didn’t hit his stride with mobile until fairly recently. Clinton played it safe with her mobile strategy over the last year – she incorporated a consistent tone in messaging, content, and message cadence. Trump, on the other hand, used mobile inconsistently, but has started recently to build momentum in developing a mobile communications strategy.

While Clinton was specifically targeting the audience she needed to reach on mobile, scientifically pushing certain content to certain types of supporters who were more likely to donate to and vote for her, Trump adopted a “catchall” approach, trying to reach as wide of an audience as possible. As we get closer to November, both candidates will likely make the transition to a more general Get-out-the-Vote (GOTV) approach. The technology of SMS enables both campaigns to send targeted content in their GOTV campaigns, which will add value to the message and get more voters to the booth.

Previously, Trump’s message content and cadence had gone down significantly, while Clinton had been sending content with more frequency, aiming to reach new fundraising goals and gain support from swing voters. When Trump was significantly trailing in the polls, his mobile campaigns were virtually nonexistent, and as he increased in the polls, so did the frequency of his mobile campaigns. And over the next few weeks as the news and polls change, so will the mobile content and cadence.

It will be interesting to see how the nominees’ mobile strategies play out over the next few months. My prediction is that Clinton will continue to play it safe if she maintains her advantage in the polls, and I predict Trump will amp up his mobile reach and frequency, which he has currently slowed down, as the election nears. While the impact of mobile on election results is yet to be seen, I’m confident of one prediction: by 2020, every candidate will have a mobile communications plan in place before they even announce their official run.