Now that the dust has settled on the presidential election (well, sort of), what can CIOs learn from the Trump campaign’s use of software and data analytics? According to one researcher who has delved into that topic, the answer is that there’s a lot more data for you to tap than you might ever have imagined.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Michael Fauscette, chief research officer at G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer business review platform based in Chicago, whose team has looked extensively at the software the Trump campaign used, and how its software strategy might have helped Trump win the presidential election. I opened the conversation by asking Fauscette how his team determined what software the campaign used. He said they approached it on two levels:
The first one, which some of my research specialists did, was just using some tools that you can find online that enable you to put a sniffer on a website, and it just tells you what technology is there. That’s how we got some of the initial stack. Secondly, what I’ve been working on myself, is looking at that next level to see what were the other very strategic tools they used. A lot of that came out in different news media interviews that I pieced together over the last five months or so, because in the last six months of the campaign, they shifted their strategy pretty heavily, and went into a kind of Big Data, micro-targeting strategy that for me was really interesting.
What gave the Trump campaign an edge, Fauscette said, is that it took better advantage of Big Data than the Clinton campaign did:
It’s this idea of Big Data, and using some tools that are very focused around behavioral modeling. There’s a little bit of history there, because Ted Cruz used some of those tools earlier. But for Trump, they only really did this last big push in the last six months — it was something they built called “Project Alamo,” which was a database that they used to manage the demographic data on about 220 million voters. They collected so much data that it was estimated they had between 4,000 and 5,000 data points on every one of those 220 million voters, which is quite a bit of data. Part of that they got out of a deal they did with the Republican National Committee right at the beginning of that six-month period, because they hadn’t really done a lot of this deep database management and mining. But then over time, there was a set of data brokers that they bought data from, which is a really common marketing tactic now. The one that’s interesting is the one called Cambridge Analytica, which is a UK-based company. Ted Cruz used them a little bit, but Trump’s campaign chairman, Steve Bannon, is on the board. Cambridge Analytica takes Big Data and they apply behavioral models to it in great detail, and they use that for targeting. Trump built a digital operations team in Austin, where they had about 100 programmers and strategists, and they hired Brad Parscale, a digital marketing guy. He and his team pulled in data from typical data sources, like Experian, Datalogic, and Epsilon, but then they brought in this Cambridge Analytica piece. That gave them the ability to do micro-targeted outreach on Facebook.
As for the lessons that CIOs can take away from the Trump campaign’s use of software, Fauscette said CIOs need to understand that the idea of Big Data has gone to a new level:
It’s not just about crunching the data — it’s about finding new sources of data. There are a lot of new data clouds and data sources available — even Oracle has a data cloud that you can buy now that has aggregated data from everywhere. So CIOs need to be involved in bringing that data in-house, and they need to be involved in getting the tools — new predictive analytics tools, and social marketing and management tools — that the marketing guys are going to want. We’re going much deeper into targeting and microtargeting based on behavioral profiles than we’ve ever seen before.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.