How do you improve on the world’s largest grassroots political movement?
In early 2011, President Obama’s odds of re-election looked anything but certain. While 2008’s digital strategy helped the long-shot candidate mobilize the largest grassroots movement in history, the 2012 race posed different challenges: A growing Tea Party frenzy and a post-Citizens United campaign financing environment meant a more active opposition and hundreds of millions more dollars trashing the president and his record. Blue State Digital partnered with Obama’s re-election campaign to help mobilize more money, volunteers, and voters than ever before.
The digital effort, led by our Founder & CEO, Joe Rospars, grew from the ground up and quickly scaled to 300 people. The team built on the lessons of 2008 but wove in the post-2008 insights from BSD’s advocacy, nonprofit, and brand work to make something entirely new for 2012. A new and improved Tools platform provided the backbone of the campaign, handling fundraising, community-building, communication, mobilization, and overall optimization.
The campaign mobilized tens of millions of voter contacts and raised $690 million online. BSD’s infrastructure and on-call systems experts scaled complex applications, ensuring outlets like barackobama.com handled massive traffic surges in key moments like the Democratic National Convention and presidential debates. Our work helped President Obama bring home 332 electoral votes on election day.
A fresh visual and digital start
Months before the official campaign launch, the team developed a top-level strategy, updated the logo and visual identity, and designed and built a new barackobama.com.
Storytelling that connects the dots
It was critical that we connected the emotions of 2008 with both the presidency and the new campaign in a way that made all of Obama’s efforts feel like a single, compelling story. We created this video to give supporters a better sense of continuity, helping them feel more invested in the election and closer to the President.
Raising the fundraising bar
For every single email we sent, we put it through several rounds of testing on smaller segments of the list, often going through more than a dozen variations before we hit “Send” on an email to millions of people. By way of example, the best performing test of President Obama’s much-discussed “I will be outspent” email outperformed 17 other variants before it was sent to the broader list—a difference in tactics that helped raise more than $2.4 million in a day. Quick Donate made one-click fundraising possible in politics for the first time. 1.5 million donors saved their payment information and became some of the campaign’s most reliable supporters, contributing a total of $115 million, $75 million of which would have been left on the table without this technology.
When the campaign needed an effective way to get voters in swing states out to the polls, we helped develop the earliest iteration of TargetShare. This peer-to-peer advocacy tool helped mobilize millions through the Obama for America Facebook network, and has since gone on to do the same for brands and advocacy groups all over the world. Understanding that a message from a friend is more trusted and effective, the program matched undecided voters in swing states within supporters’ networks, and provided them with a simple yet powerful way to share voting information. The peer-to-peer messages boosted target audience reach by 400% and increased completion rates for important actions like registering to vote by 40%.