In a Mobile Election, Romney Takes the White House (but not by much)

The last presidential election was marked as the social media election, with many noting Obama’s deft use of that channel. This year, mobile will make a difference. And with the heated GOP primary season underway without a clear leader, the candidates need every tactic they can get. Here at Vibes, you can say we’re a bit obsessed with mobile. So it’s only natural that when it comes to who to vote for in the presidential election, our vote will go to the candidate who most understands how to use mobile effectively in his campaign.

After watching the SOPA and PIPA drama unfold in the news recently, we are on the “it’s no longer ok that our congress doesn’t’ know how the Internet works” bandwagon. And while we’re at it, that extends to mobile too. We want to make sure whoever is sitting in the oval office next year not only understands the economy and national security, but the future of technology (i.e. mobile). And what better way than to see them use mobile to directly engage the American people during the election? If candidates actually use mobile to win an election, they will have a good understanding of its role in our daily lives when it comes time to run the country.

We wanted to look at mobile as a political campaign tool a bit more, so we began analyzing the campaigns based on Vibes’ practice of mobile relationship management. MRM is the ideal mobile engagement; it allows marketers to connect brands with customers at just the right time and at just the right place, ultimately resulting in customer transactions and loyalty (or in this case, votes).

To be fair, we tried to keep the list relatively low cost. We know that even though candidates will spend $4.9 billion this year on campaign advertising, they need to spend it wisely, so we capped our budget at just a hair over 0.01% of total spending, or $500,000 for each candidate.  Yeah, basically for the cost of one TV spot, a candidate can fund a nationwide mobile program. Not bad ROI, in our humble opinion.

So, what would a mobile savvy Presidential candidate look like? It’s simple: like a successful consumer brand (think: Starbucks). Below is a checklist of necessary elements and tactics we would recommend a successful brand, or presidential candidate, use as the foundation on which to build a mobile campaign.  

The elements:


  •       The candidate’s site must use a unique version for smartphone, tablet, and  feature phone
  •       The candidate should use mobile advertising to drive traffic to his site
  •       They should include short codes and QR codes on their signage
  •       Their traditional media must have a mobile specific call to action
  •       They have an app… that’s easy to find in an app store

Mobile engagement

  •       They use an SMS call-to-action
  •       They use their SMS call-to-action at campaign events
  •       They use alerts to engage voters regularly
  •       The alerts are timed for specific events and location specific information
  •       They create mobile specific content
  •       They use Foursquare… somehow (we don’t even care how – just have a profile)

Mobile Donation

  •       The candidate requests pledges/donations via mobile
  •       Supporters can pledge/donate via the candidate’s mobile site
  •       Supporters can donate via SMS
  •       Supporters can click-to-call to pledge


  •        The candidate uses mobile to garner participation and involvement (e.g., volunteers)
  •       The candidate activates location/state-specific lists
  •       They offer behind-the-scenes opportunities specifically via mobile
  •       They cross promote social, mobile, and email
  •       Through an alert preference center, they allow voters to select how they prefer to be engaged on their mobile device

Based on our checklist, how are the current GOP candidates doing? Honestly, they are going to have to work much harder for our vote. Out of a total possible score of 19 points (based on the criteria above) the ranking would look like this:

Mitt Romney: 9

Newt Gingrich: 6

Ron Paul: 5

Rick Santorum: 2


Of the four GOP candidates, only Mitt Romney has a website that (kind of) works on feature phones, and he’s the only one using mobile advertising to drive traffic back to his traditional website. Based on our criteria above for engagement, Newt Gingrich is the winner (with Ron Paul in second), due to his use of SMS calls-to-action, alerts and Foursquare integration. But it’s right back to Mitt Romney in terms of mobile donation and support. Maybe all the candidates would do a better job if the message was: ‘you can increase campaign donations through mobile.’

While some of the candidates are doing a few things right, none of them even come close to a perfect score. This is crazy to us. Remember, we’re talking about spending just 0.01% of their advertising budget for the ability to connect directly with voters on their most personal device. Over the next nine months, we will continue to keep a close eye on the candidates to see how they are using mobile to gain support for the White House. Right now, Romney gets our vote but it’s a wide open race – there’s still plenty of time. Here at Vibes, we like to believe the person aiming for the White House will make a commitment to the technologies of today and tomorrow. In our humble opinion, we don’t see how the country could be run without it.


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