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Politics In 2016: Slacktivism & Digital Gamification

Last week, Hillary for America launched Hillary 2016. The app is meant to empower the masses to take action on behalf of the candidate and her issues.

The genius isn’t that the app will be the absolute game-changer in the campaign or will make the kinds of headlines that Pokémon Go has. The genius, in my opinion, is how the Clinton campaign is harnessing two massive digital trends – “slacktivism” and gamification – into a single powerful tool that might prove more effective than any other single digital campaign asset we’ve seen this election cycle.

To start with, let’s define what we’re talking about. In short, slacktivism is term used to described being active in a cause online – posting, commenting, re-posting, starting flame wars – but not so much in real life.

def. slacktivism (noun)
actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.

For years, strategists – both digital and political – have lamented “slacktivists” as being emblematic of an increasingly lazy and disconnected populous. However, recent research suggests that these tweet-do-wells are actually an increasingly positive force.

In fact, there’s even evidence to suggest that slacktivists are more likely than the average online user to take an offline action like voting.

Digital “slacktivists” are 10% to 15% more likely to take an offline action like voting.

Source: The Rise of the Slactivist

This is where gamification comes in.  If you don’t know what gamification is ask the closest millennial to you to explain Pokémon Go.

Ok…back to the Hillary app. What I love about the app is that it takes slactivism and gamification and connects the two together.  For instance, you earn points for taking actions like learning about issues, RSVPing to a watch party, or passing along key messaging points. These points are redeemable for both virtual goods.  You can “purchase” furniture for your virtual campaign HQ or even real-world rewards like an autograph from the candidate, herself.

The HFA app uses slacktivism and gamification to mobilize voters.

Given the need for turnout and voter mobilization in this cycle, the process of collecting and redeeming stars is not only fun, but it helps the campaign.

In fact, I can’t help notice that the stars animation in the app looks exactly like the end scene from Iron Jawed Angels.  In case you haven’t seen it, IJA is features Hillary Swank as legendary suffragette Alice Paul.  As the 19th amendment to the constitution is ratified, Paul and her fellow activists are showered with yellow stars.

The same effect, almost down to the frame, happens in the HFA app.  Maybe a coincidence but I like to think some UI designer was that clever.


The UI aside, I think this is a great play for politics and, in particular, for Hillary for America. This app finally bridges the final mile between otherwise online, passive activists and real world action.

By no means is this a replacement for going out to vote. Nor does the app replace an on-the-ground operation. However one, we haven’t seen all of the app’s functionality.  Second, think of all the insights HFA will be able to gain from this user base.

In 2008, Obama took the humble email list and made it the most powerful digital tool in a campaign. In 2016, Hillary Clinton could very well have done the same thing for an app. Either way, digital strategists like myself will be watching the app performance closely.

We’ll be watching to see what we can learn about human behavior.  We’ll also be watching how we slacktivism and gamification come together to impact an organization and a brand.

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