Marco Rubio’s top-flight data team announces its next huge venture

The top-flight data team that worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during his Presidential Campaign is expanding into a new market: the commercial sector.

In an interview with Business Insider, the team at Optimus explained how their political experience will translate well into helping companies win over new consumers.

The idea to break into commercial, market research was sparked from discussions the group had with top political donors — many of whom are business leaders — when co-founders Scott Tranter and Brian Stobie realized there was room for political-campaign style analytics and research in the commercial realm.

To launch the venture, Optimus announced an advisory board to help home in on commercial-based data projects.

“You can no longer buy an 8 p.m. ad on broadcast television like it’s 1965 and see a 10% growth in sales,” Tranter said. “I mean, you see these people and they’re like, ‘Oh, I got 2% year-over-year growth in sales, Hallelujah.’ Not to say that’s bad, but we’re in a market where people are fighting for small inches. It’s no longer the mass marketing of the past.”

As Stobie said, their political venture has been all about targeting the “marginal voter” and finding out how they could turn them onto a campaign — they worked for the Republican National Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, in addition to being contracted by Rubio.

Now, they’ll be looking to target and figure out how a “marginal consumer” can be converted over for a certain product.

“We found out that the giant companies are not that much more advanced [than campaigns],” Stobie said. “There’s a big game of talk out here about how we do everything data-driven and digital now. Usually that means you’re going to a demand-side platform,” such as Facebook.

Using a Swiffer as an example product, Stobie said many companies think of their target market as simply a certain gender within a certain age range.

“There’s actually a big reduction in which ones will actually buy [the Swiffer], versus who the value buyers are, versus who is already locked into their brand and isn’t changing,” he said. So if you can better model out those targets, you can apply more lead to those people who are actually marginal potential consumers for you.”

“No one is doing the hard work of finding out ‘who are my marginal customers, and saying ‘let’s test in a rigorous way for a randomized control experiment, and let’s go the last mile to make sure we’re talking to those people in the most efficient way possible.’”

Tranter used Taco Bell as an example to help explain what will differentiate Optimus in the market research sector. The firm will first use past consumer data to project what additional consumers might “like” to eat tacos, but do not at the moment. Using what he called predictive modeling, the team will then take those models and apply message tests that adhere to Randomized Control Group testing — what is used in medical testing — to figure out which messages work and don’t for those marginal consumers.

Those tests would be used to identify the best mode of communication — TV, digital, or print — to deliver a specific message that would cause someone to buy a taco at Taco Bell. It will also tell them when that message can be delivered most efficiently, a concept similar to how they test messaging for political candidates.

“Our differentiator is that we take a holistic approach to the prospect of growing a product,” Tranter said. “We start at the granular level of the specific customer base, model it out, test message against it, come up with a fancy targeting and message scheme and then ensure using specialized data sets that the message is delivered to how it was spec’d and tested out earlier in the process.”

Tranter said to compete with their testing, you’d have to “meld together four or five different companies and processes.”

“Basically, the only way this works if all these stages and pieces are working in conjunction so in a sense we are the general contractors of this new way to advertise as we see the process through end-to-end and have built tools so that we can accomplish all of this,” he explained.

Tranter said such modeling is very expensive, adding that, to use an example from his work in politics, “If you’ve got a 20-point lead, then you’re not calling us. So we are in there to win, to give you the edge, and we like to think of ourselves as the jocks of marketing and advertising.”

“You need that mercenary attitude,” he added.

That attitude, Tranter said, is what they look to bring to their next foray.