RESEARCH & RESOURCES

Analytics, Voting Habits, and Consumer Buying Habits

Although voters and consumers may often act the same, the analytics used to examine their behavior is vastly different.

By Jason Levesque, CEO, Argo Marketing Group

Business marketers and political strategists operate in two entirely different industries but share a striking similarity: they battle for public perception. In politics, political strategists try to capture the hearts and minds of voters. In marketing, marketers try to capture the hearts and minds of consumers. The voting habits of voters and the buying habits of consumers can be influenced by common strategies, even though the data analytics involved in each differ significantly.

Perception

It starts with an attempt to influence perception. A prime example is when marketers promote the quality of their products or services, giving the impression that the product or service is of a high value because of its high quality. Whole Foods Market has done exactly that, going as far as making quality a core value and promoting it in their messaging. Boeing also brands itself as a company striving to uphold standards of excellence. Companies recognize that sales will increase when a product or service appears to be of a higher value, and that higher value is based in consumer perceptions. Political strategists behave in the same way -- by building the perceived value of a candidate or cause and thus securing more votes.

Building value isn't easy, though. Consumers weigh the pros and cons of a buying decision. In lieu of this reality, marketers and political strategists alike put substantial effort into reducing the perceived risk of buying X or voting for X. With little to no perceived risk of adverse effects from buying, consumers are much more likely to purchase. This is usually the case with inexpensive items that can simply be discarded if they're unsatisfactory with little damage caused. With more expensive items, such as high-end television sets and other electronics, companies aim to lower the perceived risk of such purchases by offering a generous return policy and an extended warranty. The lower the risk in purchasing, the more inclined the consumer will be to purchase.

Exposure also greatly influences consumer and voter perceptions. The more voters become familiar with a candidate, the more inclined they are to vote for him or her. The familiarity begins to establish a level of comfort and confidence. There's a reason television sets are littered with political ads prior to Election Day -- campaigns are deliberately trying to drive home targeted messaging and increase exposure, which increases votes.

This is the same rationale for political dialing. Political dialing involves calling and connecting with voters, reminding them to vote, and building value in a respective candidate. This increases exposure and has the potential to influence election results.

Metrics

The metrics involved in managing and monitoring voter habits verses buying habits are very different. In the political landscape, political strategists often fly blindly in a digital world, trying to win voter perceptions without concrete data to affirm or disprove the success of their efforts. American politics is unique in that polling data often leads to inaccurate results and cannot be relied upon.

Consider the 2010 midterm elections. According to the New York Times, polls underestimated the performance of Democrats by an average of 3.1 percent. In 2012, polls also underestimated President Obama in 9 out of 10 battleground states by an average of 2 percent (see Note 1)1. Political operatives who make strategic decisions based on data that is inherently flawed expose themselves to potential miscalculations.

An unreliable measurement system forces strategists to make educated guesses ahead of time rather than making informed decisions based on concrete data. Polls usually have a 3 percent margin of error, and election results can swing either way -- sometimes even by a landslide. In politics, strategists generally make a best guess, work with the data they have, and hope for the best.

Measuring buying habits, on the other hand, is much more quantifiable, especially within the direct-response industry. Instead of polling ahead of time, marketers use historical data and sophisticated calculations and assessments based on demographics to target a specific audience. They then run a campaign by sending a direct advertisement to this specific audience, quantify their results afterwards by measuring conversion rates, and recalibrate their efforts as needed for the next campaign. This approach is much more data-centric and reliable.

Whether measuring voting habits or buying habits, the goal is to draft best practices to influence perceptions. The core of any voting or buying decision is how people feel about the candidate, cause, product, or service. By promoting quality, mitigating perceived risk, increasing exposure over time, and tracking and utilizing data as best as the respective industry allows, marketers and strategists can influence buying decisions and voting habits in their favor.

Jason Levesque is the founder and CEO of Argo Marketing Group, which specializes in customer engagement and the psychology behind consumers' decision-making habits. You can contact the author at Jason@ArgoMarketingGroup.com.

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