November 2006 - Editor's Perspective

Should You Mix Pop and Politics?

By Vitisia Paynich

Given the fact that it’s an election year, it only seems fitting that I would begin this month’s “Editor’s Perspective” on a political note…only I’m not going to talk about the Congressional race. Instead, I want to discuss something called microtargeting.

I recently came across an interesting story on the morning television news program “Good Morning America” about this form of market research. Did you know that the type of soda you drink could reveal your political affiliation? For example, people who drink Dr Pepper are more likely to be Republicans, while Sprite lovers are more likely Democrats. So, does that mean that old jingle, “I’m a Pepper. He’s a Pepper. She’s a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?” was actually a recruitment ad for the RNC?

What other tidbits did these strategists uncover? Well, the type of car a person drives can be telling. For instance, an Audi seems to be the car of choice for Republicans over a Saab. What’s more, Wal-Mart customers generally tend to sway toward the right.

Microtargeting stems from a book, called “The Influentials,” by John Berry and Ed Keller. According to the authors, there’s one person out of every 10 people in the United States who persuades the other nine people. That person influences them on where to eat, the type of movies they should see, as well as the candidates they should vote for in an election.

Is this a half-baked theory? According to President Bush’s pollster, Matthew Dowd, microtargeting is the real deal. He authored a book, called “Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect With the New American Community,” in which he contends consumers’ product selections reveal a sense of who they are-including how they might vote.

The information is gathered each time a person uses his or her credit card, makes an online purchase or simply logs onto the Internet. Consumer data banks like Axciom will then sell the information to political groups. However, political profiles aren’t crafted solely based on that data.

That data is integrated with voter registration lists, census data and other public records. Once a master list is created, these political pollsters can then hone in on a specific state or county and poll people to categorize them based on their lifestyle and, yes, product choices.

During the 2004 presidential election, the Bush campaign utilized microtargeting to reach voters in key states and custom tailor their political campaigns. Many Republicans believe this method of target marketing was so successful that pollsters will be going full force with microtargeting in preparation for the 2008 presidential race. Democrats also are jumping on the microtargeting bandwagon.
No matter what your political beliefs might be, there’s not doubt that marketers can learn a lot from this type of detailed analysis, especially if they’re trying to market a product to a very specific consumer group.

However, could you imagine using microtargeting in the DR world based on political affiliation? I mean, do you think people who purchase the Swivel Sweeper are Democrats or Republicans? I guess it all depends on whether they mostly sweep to the right or to the left.

Vitisia Paynich


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