Advancements in consumer and voter data has come a long way over the last few decades.
Early on, there was the basic compilation of consumer data. Then came the heydays of commercial sector data profiling and segmentation in the 1990s – targeting the right consumers with the right offer and the right time. This was later translated into micro-targeting in the political world – making a huge difference in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Then this was really expanded to leverage the sharing power of social media in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Now we have learned that for the 2016 election – in addition to the role of “fake news” in social media and other manipulative tactics reminiscent of this 2015 NY Times article “The Agency” on Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine – much of it was being powered by some serious and individual-level psychological targeting.
Their techniques emphasize psychographics, the study of personality traits, attitudes, values and beliefs. According to the article, “By measuring qualities such as openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism, officials say they can craft more effective appeals and drive people to take action.”
Yes, we behavioral and database marketers have been doing this for a long time. But of course our mission has been to drive commerce, and not political gains.
SCL boasts of having a “database of 230 million American adults, with up to 5,000 pieces of demographic, consumer and lifestyle information about each individual, as well as psychological information people have shared with the company through quizzes on social media and extensive surveys.”
Yes, this is the same commercial data available to all of us marketers. But what counts is how it’s used – the analytical techniques to uncover actionable insights, and the marketing tactics to translate those insights into incremental revenue and profits.
One interesting application: SCL will be providing insights to several intelligence agencies to help dissuade military-age males from joining the Islamic State.
Our team strictly uses this type of data to educate consumers and aid their purchase decision-making – rather than attempting to manipulate them.
But if some degree of manipulation could help angry young men seek other options and make the world a safer place, might it be worth it?