Big data politics comes to the UK.
Heard this morning on The Times’ Did You Read podcast (also reported in the Telegraph) that David Cameron has discovered segmentation. With help from Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina and Lynton Crosby, they have divided the nation into eight tribes. The tribes include interesting groupings such as “young urbanites”, “anxious aspirationals” as well as more traditional formations such as “steady Conservatives”.
It is clear that the Tories need to do something. With 18 months to go, Labour is in the lead and Ed Miliband has lately discovered something of an identity (even if it’s a very socialist one). Question is whether trying to segment UK voters based on big data and target them with different messages is the right thing to do.
Everyone was already surprised with Jim Messina coming on board. And now they’ve discovered segmentation and are applying it like we were back in the 90’s. Remember when 1-1 marketing was the rage and the Internet was supposed to lead to personalized messages for all? With even more data available, that should have just become a better and better strategy in the age of Google. But it didn’t work out too well. It turned out having a distinct message to each person is neither nor effective, nor necessary. A Blue Ocean Strategy of finding a common need and applying it across separate groups is normally much more effective.
This goes especially in a smaller media landscape such as the UK. Much smaller than that of the US, it becomes much harder to not have the lines crossed between the various “tribes” and end up communicating the wrong messages.
Further, in order to constitute a tribe, it should be need-based, like Seth Godin says. These eight groupings might not be based on demographics only like old-style segmentation, but their shared needs seem fairly superficial.
A much more interesting Blue Ocean Strategy would be to go deeper and uncover more hidden needs that could be expressed in policy promises that can resonate between people that previously seemed far apart. A good example would be in the US where promises to rein in the NSA is an area where right-wing libertarians meet left-wing softies. They have very different reasons behind it (freedom versus human rights), but the need is shared.
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