Why Obama Won

PerryMarketing Blog22 Comments

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HOW did Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney?

SHALLOW ANSWER: Obama’s talking points were more astute, his ads better, his campaign better organized. Democrats raised & spent more money than the Republicans.

REAL ANSWER: The Obama campaign out-maneuvered, out-segmented and flat out did a superior job of applying 80/20 to a minute percentage of critical swing voters.

I’ve just interviewed an absolutely world-class demographic & psychographic expert, Ben Morris of Kristalytics.

When you think of Ben, think astro-physicist. neuroscientist. A guy who can go miles deep in his field of expertise.

Here I worked with Ben to explain, in Plain English, the HUGE leverage factors that exist in any population, and how highly skilled strategists apply these tactics to alter the course of history.

"What should I do next to grow my business this year?" Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the most bang for your buck.

This conversation is highly relevant to YOU. Because YOU have to win a micro-election EVERY SINGLE DAY. So if you have any kind of “real” business, there is not a single thing we’ll talk about that won’t somehow apply to your own daily bid for office.

You need to eavesdrop on us today.

Download MP3 (Right-click & select “Save Target As…”)

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

22 Comments on “Why Obama Won”

  1. Nothing against Trump, it’s just that It would be very interesting to know how 80/20 rule applied to 2016 Presidential elections and how Trump won ?

  2. we attempt to do low level segmentation in my real estate business but execution of the micro-messaging is difficult to implement. This is the best explantion of the baffling election results that I have seen.

  3. Very interesting analysis and one which resonated and made a lot of sense. Just a few things that sprang to mind:

    1) The analysis assumes that the two “products” were equal and so any difference from the “expected” result must be due to marketing skill.

    Of course, first of all, the candidates were not equal (however much you like / dislike each, you have to admit they come from two very different molds) and secondly as anyone who has been around Planet Perry very long knows, it is the whole package that is important: The USP, the service, the “angle” that no one else has thought of, the guarantees — all of this.

    Marketing is just part of the mix. In that sense, Obama was the more “interesting” candidate with the more coherent overall package (no Tea Party equivalent in the background confusing the message) than old school white patrician challenger Romney.

    2) Anyone who finds this kind of nerdy analysis interesting will enjoy this Econtalk podcast on the geography of voting:

    In fact, if you are into nerdy stuff, you will enjoy pretty much any EconTalk podcast.

    3) Drew Linzer is a statistician who posted on June 23rd that the result of the election would be … 332 Obama v 206 Romney. This was way before the campaigns unleashed the majority of their spending. And yet, this is the result which his analysis of contemporary polls coupled with historical data predicted.


    He stuck with that through thick and thin — even when Obama screwed up the first debate and Romney made his 47% gaff, and when the networks were hyping “to close to call” in the final weeks. Nate Silver is another statistician who also has an excellent record of calling races far in advance of voting day.

    All of this leads to the question: Does this then make the case in the opposite direction — that, in fact, the marketing, segmenting, attack ads and various screw-ups by both candidates made no difference at all to the final outcome?

    I think it would be fair to say that really we just don’t know (in the case of politics at least).

  4. All this said to me (which I already knew) is that great marketing can make up for a stinky product (in the short run…eventually it will catch up to everyone).

  5. This was a great story that someone made up based upon a clever analysis of real (or made up) demographic data to fit a marketing message, but I don’t believe a word of the part where the presidential campaign used email marketing to highly targeted list segments to win the election.

    Taking an election that was already won and reverse engineering the segments is a very interesting exercise that is probably worth studying and made for an interesting webinar. The presenter clearly has some skills and techniques to be mindful of for other applications.

    Maybe that was the real objective of the video, with the election story being a maguffin that made it possible to get eyes and ears engaged with the presenter, which is also instructive.

    The presidential campaign certainly did something right, and the election results underscore a common planet Perry theme, which is you don’t have to outrun the bear (er, solve real problems), you just have to be a few steps ahead of the opponent in order to survive another day.

    So something the winning campaign did very well that the other campaign messed up provided the advantage which turned roughly one percent of the voters to win an extremely tight election.

    And that tiny advantage will have life altering consequences to the whole electorate for good or bad depending on your point of view.

    But the assertion that it was all done via highly targeted emails to sway people doesn’t ring true. Do you guys have any evidence in the form of copies of these emails that anything like this happened? Did the presenter work for the campaign?

    Here’s one problem I have with this story line… how does someone get on the campaign’s email list? I think the answer is by: (1) already being a democrat, (2) opting in on a campaign web page, or (3) contributing to the campaign.

    Therefore few who are undecided and virtually nobody on the other side who isn’t just monitoring the opposition is going to be on that email list.

    So the emails however clever they are only went to people who were already going to vote for the guy.

    Tell me they did the analysis and came up with the right targeted messages to ensure to flock doesn’t scatter, or to squeeze more contributions and commitment from people who are already tight on money, then I might believe you. But that wasn’t the story, and probably didn’t happen, as the battle was over the small number of undecideds up to the end.

    If the story here is that the campaign used a service like the presenter is promoting to determine the segments and come up with the winning messages, then used an email segmentation tool like Infusionsoft to deliver the messages to highly targeted voters on an email list of people who are not already supporters of the campaign to win them over, I can’t follow you down that rabbit hole.

    If you said this market segmentation drove media messages (of all sorts including TV, Radio, web ads, tweets, etc etc) aimed at the target segments, this is more believable. But that wasn’t what you all said.

    In any event, this was a fascinating expose of how one might carve up a market and pursue it. If you are selling this is what got the election won by email campaigns, I can’t go there with you for reasons above.

  6. Mr. Volk,
    A brilliant campaign strategy not withstanding, the term “ignorant minorities” and the mindset it reveals goes a long way toward explaining why Mr. Romney was not elected to office. The majority of voters have spoken. Welcome to America.

  7. [fair warning] I only listened to half of the video. I finished the ironing, went out for some exercise and got back to work[/fair warning]

    The overwelming impression I got from this amazingly intricate analysis – was its … lack of insight … dare I say that? Now he might have done something towards the end, it didn’t seem to be going that way though. Usually when someone is onto something big, you can “smell” it coming.

    It was all a highly skilled manipulation of statistical analyses. Put another way, pretty well all of it inside the box thinking. Because out-of-the-box thinking starts with an analysis of what is missing. There was none of that, and wasn’t even alluded to.

    There was none of the Perry Marshall grit there to chew on. Nothing that might spark another of those lightning-bolt inspirations that pop up once in a while on your better webinars.

    Gemma aka Moriarty.

    PS Was it you who coined the term “Client Sculpting” (or was it Howie?).

  8. Highly interesting. Didn’t think I was gonna stick around for the whole hour but just did.
    I was a bit confused at the beginning on how it relates to the 80/20, since Obama did not necessarily focus his money or time on the clusters that were very likely to vote for him in swing states.

    So this is what I understood: in the case of an election, clusters that will make the state lean towards a side or another are the 80%, because they are the key to success. Whereas group that are already acquired for republicans or democrats are not worth spending too much time or money in, since they already made up their mind.

    Did I get this right?

  9. Well, Perry, I noticed that this post has generated far fewer comments than usual. That is pretty fascinating. Yesterday I wondered if this post might turn out be too scary for many people. Not drawing any early conclusions here, just wondering… What do you think? Truth can be very, very scary when our worldview is challenged. Scary, but necessary. Thanks again for what you do.

    1. Might be cuz it’s an hour long video and most people don’t stick around for the whole thing.

      It got a high click rate from the email, I can tell you that much.

      I thought it might start a political debate but only one person tried to run that direction, fortunately.

  10. source: Times.com
    The polling and voter-contact data were processed and reprocessed nightly to account for every imaginable scenario. “We ran the election 66,000 times every night,” said a senior official, describing the computer simulations the campaign ran to figure out Obama’s odds of winning each swing state. “And every morning we got the spit-out — here are your chances of winning these states. And that is how we allocated resources.”

    Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/07/inside-the-secret-world-of-quants-and-data-crunchers-who-helped-obama-win/#ixzz2CAGKL3X5

  11. Ummm- yeah, he had strategy no doubt. Give away free gifts to the mindless masses who have no idea what reality is, obfuscate the truth with media pundits who will gladly cover up any negative issues like Benghazi and Fast and Furious, promise the world to illegal aliens in exchange for their illegal vote and make sure the ignorant minorities don’t check voter ID, get 46 million people dependent on the Govt. for sustenance like Food Stamps welfare, SSD, and then bribe them with free stuff like phones.
    Then to push it over the line, commit massive voter fraud on such a large scale that no one would believe it.
    So yeah. Marxist strategies worked wonderfully. And Romney was too clean, too nice to play like a street scrapper. Bad guy wins.

    1. Another amazing brainwashing by Glenn Buck, Rush Limppaw,
      Fix News, Roger Ales, Hannity the Manitee, and Bill O’Smiley.

      Look in the mirror and repeat…..I have no original thoughts of my own for 30 minutes. Break the spell.

    2. Hey dude – Mr Volk.

      I just got back from Stendal in the old DDR (East Germany). If you had any idea what Marxism was about you wouldn’t associate any of it to US Politics.

      Put simply: there ain’t no money in Marxism. Just remember that when talking to an American politician because they don’t think of much else.

  12. You give us such world-class, cutting-edge information, Perry. I doubt that most of us can really comprehend the depth and breadth of it, but we can watch and listen and apply what we learn to our own businesses in order to compete. I, for one, deeply appreciate your diligent, tenacious, vigilant exploration of the truth, and what’s really happening on the web. It’s such a jungle out there! This interview is a gripping view of the future of marketing, for sure.

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