How A/B Testing Helped Win the White House—Twice

The $57 Million Button

It was 2007 when then-Senator Barack Obama was running for President, and no one but the Des Moines Register seemed to think he had a chance of winning the Democratic primary.

DAN: I was a product manager at Google at the time, and I'd seen Obama speak at our headquarters several weeks prior to the primary election. “I am a big believer in reason and facts and evidence and science and feedback—everything that allows you to do what you do. That's what we should be doing in our government,” Obama told the packed auditorium. “I think that many of you can help me, so I want you to be involved.” He probably meant that he wanted donations, or maybe votes, but I took him literally. I took a leave of absence from Google initially and eventually quit my job to move from California to Chicago to join the campaign.

I joined what was being called the “new media” team. They used the phrase “new media” because it encompassed everything that didn't typically fit into traditional political campaigns: email, social media, blogging, SMS, and the web. The team had competent bloggers, designers, and email copywriters; I wondered where I might be able to make an impact.

One thing stood out to me: a red button.

Online donations to the campaign came from subscribers to the email newsletter; subscriptions for this came from the campaign website's signup form; and the signup form came as a result of clicking a red button ...

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