The election of President Obama was significant in many ways to many people. As marketers, it represented a continuing evolution of the use of market research data at the individual level.
Political consultants have used survey statistics for a long time to help their candidate tailor campaign messages. However, small survey samples resulted in imprecise analysis, and messages that were not always on target.
Today, marketers can obtain access to comprehensive databases about what people have bought, which gives some insight into how they make decisions.
Stephen Baker's article What Data Crunchers Did for Obama highlights how the Obama campaign used a consulting firm that helps politicians understand the core values of individual voters.
Marketers have used similar differentiation and segmentation services services, such as PRIZM from Claritas, which creates 66 demographically and behaviorally distinct segments of consumers based on Census and other types of data.
However, the firm Obama's team used "grouped nearly every American of voting age—175 million of us—into 10 'values' tribes."
Obama's use of the market segmentation techniques at the voter level is key to successful one-to-one marketing. By grouping individual people by behavioral traits -- instead of relying just on demographics -- marketers can better understand what people in each group are feeling, thinking, and doing. And once you know that, it's easier to explain why they should buy your product (or candidate) in terms that they will understand.