Case Study: uCampaign- The Gamified Advocacy App That Helped Elect Donald Trump
NOTICE: My work is neither an endorsement nor a reflection of my personal views, as at the time I had zero knowledge of uCampaign’s future affiliations.
uCampaign is a gamified social advocacy platform that harnesses the power of relationships to turn supporters into activists and equips them with the tools to increase awareness of campaigns.
“arguably the most sophisticated app deployed by the current field of presidential candidates” -TechRepublic
The app is widely recognized for helping Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. election, Ted Cruz win Iowa caucus in 2016, and reelect the President of the Dominican Republic in 2016.
When I was first approached in early 2014, uCampaign was just an idea to modernize the way people advocated for causes they cared about. It was my job to design it into existence in the form of an MVP. I was the sole designer and worked along side a single developer over the course of several months and helped with ideation, gamification mechanics, and overall user experience.
The very first step was understanding what uCampaign was trying to solve for by identifying the users and their pain points:
Campaign Managers: Campaign supporters are expensive to identify and difficult to track and organize.
Advocates: Too much effort and hassle to contribute and advocate efficiently.
Next, we defined the goals we wanted to accomplish:
- simplify advocacy
- amplify advocates voices
- multiply the number of advocates
2. Research & Brainstorming
We started to analyze current tools and methods of advocacy to better understand the landscape. To no surprise, social media was the primary way that people share and advocate causes they support. Canvasing and cold-calling were still prevalent tools to grow campaigns, so I started exploring if these antiquated methods could be modernized.
Cold-Calling Meets Tinder
The problem with cold-calling is that it’s… well, cold. There’s nothing warming about a stranger calling and asking for money. Instead of strangers calling strangers, what if they were smart-matched based on commonalities? By mining LinkedIn, advocates could be matched with callers who attended the same school, volunteered at the same organization, or even share acquaintances; anything to warm up their interaction and build a rapport.
I started exploring how that could be translated to an app:
I broke down the calling process in 3 parts:
- Pre-call- Tinder-like matching with potential callers, see if you have any common contacts from LinkedIn
- During Call- access to caller’s personal info, read the script, enter dollar amount pledged, mute, put caller on speaker
- Post-call- log if the caller hung up, is a supporter, is not a supporter, didn’t answer, pledged money; take notes or don’t log the call.
After much exploration, we faced the fact that cold-calling is annoying, obtrusive and outdated- we decided to look elsewhere.
Paradox of Closeness: The closer two people are, the less they interact on social media. Parents, siblings, best friends and significant others are often saved in contacts under nicknames and mostly interact privately, making it very difficult to map those relationships.
Rounds of iterations led us to a social network as a communal space where advocates could organize, communicate and share ideas.
The Gamification Framework
Gamifying the platform seemed like an obvious method to incentivize actions and induce competition amongst advocates. Back in 2012 I took an online gamification course with Kevin Werbach on Coursera and instantly thought of the basic mechanisms taught in class, which seemed like a perfect fit for our goals: PBL- Points, Badges and Leaderboards.
The Point Scale
How many points should a user be rewarded for inviting a friend to join the app? On one end of the spectrum, earning .01 points is discouraging and insignificant, but earning 1,000,000 for the same action is overly inflated.
We settled on middle ground- starting at 5 and going up to 250,000. If the spectrum is too narrow, like 100–500, the user will never earn an extra zero, which diminishes the sense of achievement. Earn too many zeros too fast and the points seem meaningless.
We decided to reward advocates for performing actions that aligned with our business goals, such as: giving access to their contacts, uploading a profile photo, sharing posts, commenting, voting, donating, etc. Badges were to be awarded once a certain point threshold was met, which would vary per campaign.
Donald Trump’s America First
Trump’s presidential campaign started using uCampaign 74 days before election day. Here are the stats that helped him win:
- 150,000 downloads
- users performeded over 1.2 million actions and earned over 124.5M points
- over 3 million contacts accessed
- one activists recruited over 600 personal contacts to join
Brexit’s Vote Leave
Vote Leave was an organization that used uCampaign to advocate for a leave vote in the United Kingdom EU membership referendum of 2016.
- 35,000 supporters downloaded the app
- over 100,000 personal invites sent
- nearly 200,000 user actions
Cruz’s Crew App
Ted Cruz was a presidential candidate in the 2016 U.S. elections whose campaign used uCampaign to grow his support base. Here are some notable stats on the first 6 months of use:
- 42,215 app downloads
- 19.5K political surveys completed
- 17,394 volunteer sign-ups
- over 230,000 personal invites sent
- more than 16,000 individual donations
- over 100,000 campaign messages posted on social media
These results were delivered for about 1/8th the cost of what Donald Trump’s campaign spent on hats during the same period.
The app has been attributed to key state victories.
“In the 72 hours after the Iowa, the app’s supporter base grew by almost 10%, over 1,600 new donations were made, almost 6,000 new invitations sent, and over 8,500 new actions taken.”
Danilo Medina 2016
When Danilo Medina ran to be reelected in the Dominican Republic Presidential election in 2016, he used uCampaign and won by a landslide.
Over the course of 5 months, uCampaign helped the campaign achieve:
- 13,845 downloads- Android (78%) / iPhone (22%)
- 65% shared their phone contact list
- 99.54% notification opt-in
- 362,000 individual actions- almost 50 per supporter
“On election day, 4,306 supporters logged into the app to announce their vote for Danilo Medina and almost 10,000 actions were taken during the 24 hour period before the polls closed.”
President Medina won the election with over 62% of the vote.
uCampaign has been covered by nearly all major publications:
- Business Insider
- CNN Politics
- Fast Company
- The Verge
- USA Today
- Washington Examiner
- Washington Post