Donald Trump’s data strategist warns marketers to blow up your playbook for new campaigns as the world has already changed

Donald Trump’s chief data strategist has argued Hilary Clinton copied Obama’s campaign playbook and tried to capitalise on sentiments which were four to eight years out of date, while Trump reinvented the wheel with his election campaign leveraging data to get across the line despite poll numbers dropping every time he appeared on television.

Speaking at yesterday’s Data Day in Sydney, Matthew Oczkowski, the data team leader of Trump’s election campaign and head of product for Cambridge Analytica, said whilst its important to learn from previous successful campaigns and marketing efforts – such as the 2008 Obama campaign – a key lesson from US elections is to blow up your playbook as soon as the campaign finishes, because the world – and the people you’re taking to – have already changed.

“He [Trump] was the right candidate for the right year,” he explained. “Would he have won in 2012? Probably not. Will he win in 2020? We don’t know. But for 2016 in the United States, he was the perfect candidate,” Oczkowski said.

This warning, should be heeded by Australian marketers, he said.

“What I often find with many of my clients is they want to play in the same sandbox as their competitors. People are using the same data for the same commercial [problem], they’re using the same techniques and it becomes a nul-game. There’s no difference when you’re all working on the same data sources for things.”

Matthew-Oczkowski: Trump’s chief data strategist

Citing an anecdote about how when people want to understand lions they go to the jungle – and not the zoo – Oczkowski said brands need to get out of their bubbles to understand how people outside the marketing and political elite work and what makes them tick.

Oczkowski also advised the marketers in the room not to waste time on deadbeats – “a soft name for ‘you have no opinion, you don’t vote, so you don’t really do anything’”. If a brand, politician or campaign has no hope of converting someone, Oczkowski said it’s better simply not to dedicate any resources to them.

Instead, Oczkowski said he used data to target people who could be converted, even if they didn’t fit the traditional Republican voting profile.

“This campaign was almost entirely data-driven – outside of Mr Trump, because he does his own thing – but everything else was very data driven,” he explained, including travel schedules and the ideal paths to victory.

Oczkowski noted data also helped the campaign identify that every time Trump appeared on TV, his approval ratings plummeted, causing the campaign team to drop the candidate from a lot of the persuasion advertising.

“We stopped using Mr Trump at all in persuasion advertising. Any time somebody saw him or Hilary we got a very visceral reaction. The hairs on the back would stand up. ‘Don’t want to see that”, so we didn’t use our own candidate a lot in persuasion advertising. We used surrogates,” he said.

The session, attracted heavy criticism when it was announced with some advocating a boycott of the event and others calling on ADMA to justify promoting Oczkowski’s insights.

Others noted Trump’s questionable and controversial comments on women and Mexicans and the adverse affect the association between the new president and ADMA’s other conference supporters could have on brands.

“I do not see how the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Qantas or any of your other members could support giving a platform for such a message. Your choice to put this kind of bigot up on your stage is a rude slap in the face for your members. I too will not be attending your event and I hope nobody else does either,” said Derek Glass.

Despite the controversy, the session was standing room only as Oczkowski revealed how data helped the unlikely Presidential candidate secure the White House.



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