How a small Internet Start-up affected ‘Change’ and created a successful business
Blue State Digital (BSD) is a striking example of a company that uses a holistic approach to design to create sustainable competitive advantage. The company was founded in 2004, after the defeat of John Kerry in the Presidential elections. The web team of the Democratic National Committee formed BSD to provide online strategies for political candidates, issue advocacy groups and non-profit organizations. They saw an opportunity to engage people online as well as in person through the integration of many of the available tools of politics. In the world of politics, a consistent message is key, and offering every service in one spot is a sure fire way to communicate as clearly as possible.
They started small in only one office in Washington, DC, but now have additional branches in Boston, New York and London. The company is still small in numbers but has more than 200 clients for whom they have successfully delivered high quality work. Also, their most famous client just so happens to be Barack Obama.
In 2008 BSD was hired to develop Obama’s online strategy and design. The result was mybarackobama.com, which fused online and offline methods of raising money, awareness and support. By focusing on both online and offline user needs and behaviors, they were able to raise over $500 million online and created 200,000 in-person events. The campaign used the Internet like no Presidential campaign ever had before and raised the bar for future elections.
More recently, the company has branched out to other kinds of clients, including www.gousabid.com, a website devoted to getting the World Cup back to the United States, as well as the Sundance Film Festival. The company’s mainstay continues to be in the political spectrum and this election year should bring about all-new ways of communicating to and organizing people online. Polls show that Obama is not as popular a president as he was a candidate, and the country is less sure about a democratic stronghold on legislature than it was a year ago. It is likely to be a tough election this fall, meaning new innovations will be required online to reach people in ways not thought of before. If I had to bet, many of those innovations will come out of Blue State Digital, which understands the advantage of strategic design in action.