Trumped-Up Emotion

Sean Sammon
CEO - Bastion S&GO 

Sean Sammon.jpg

I disagree with almost everything Donald Trump says. I only say almost to provide myself a bit of cover, just in case he has said something, somewhere, sometime that I have not yet read but could be regarded as sane. 

I look at this result as a political pragmatist. Questions have already started to be asked about how the polls got it so wrong and why the media was so off the mark. These are not new questions, not even for 2016 - Brexit at an international level, the swing to the ALP in Western Sydney, One Nation winning four Senate seats much closer to home. 

The question I’m asking myself now, is where do I get the best information. Never before in history have we had access to so many different sources of information, but never before has it so hard to find the right information. 

Political parties know this, and for decades have been measuring their success not on nation wide polls or the media, but much more geographically specific data. In fact, there was a decent amount of commentary early on about how the Clinton campaign was enhancing the same tools used so successfully by Obama.

However that data was collected and whatever assumptions were made, was clearly wrong. What will be very interesting is the Clinton campaign dissection and finger pointing. Did the internal DNC polling demonstrate this result? Was it always going to look this bad?

If the result wasn’t predicted, then how are campaigns in the future going to measure what people want to hear and how they want to be spoken to? 

Or, to flip it on its head, are we moving into a new political paradigm more commonly associated with a time where information wasn’t readily available? Where instead of having data lead campaigns, we have data assisted campaign. To borrow from Steve Jobs, campaigns that aren’t focused on what people want - but campaigns that demonstrate what they need.

Trump sold an unattainable dream. But he sold it well, playing to people's emotions. Data has a difficult time quantifying emotion. Emotion is often not informed, not widely read. Trump told people his version of what they need - and middle, working-class America ate it up.

There is no doubt that this campaign will have ramifications for political campaigns around the world. People will look to what Trump did and take key learnings. It will be impossible to copy, as there is (thankfully) only one Trump, but if something can be copied, history shows it will be. The question that will be asked is how they track this type of campaign and how do you measure success?

While the future is uncertain, how we chose to deal with it will determine the outcome of the next four years.