At the end of October 2021, the CDU North Rhine-Westphalia was facing an uncertain electoral future as it elected a new party leader. Hendrik Wüst had just assumed the position of Minister President for the German state (a position recently vacated by Armin Laschet) and in February would be officially elected as the lead candidate for the party’s impending campaign. While Laschet was off to Berlin with a one-way ticket after a disastrous performance as the CDU’s candidate for Chancellor in the federal elections, projections showed the state chapter trailing behind the rival SPD by 9%, only a slight increase from early October when the SPD led by 13%. With a new federal government spearheaded by an SPD Chancellor and excluding the CDU entirely, the challenge for Wüst was immense. Wüst knew that to be successful, he needed to make significant changes to how the CDU NRW campaigned – and had to do it fast.
To lead the charge, Wüst picked Thomas Breuer as campaign manager. Breuer embraced Wüst’s vision and embarked on a new approach aimed at recapturing voters and proving that the CDU is the right choice for the state. “We looked for opportunities to re-engage and excite voters in a way that had not been done before,” says Breuer. “We wanted to let them know that we are listening to them and try to reach them in new places.”
To achieve this, Breuer looked to Vienna where he found his secret weapons: a digital tool called CamBuildr and the proven expertise of Campaigning Bureau. CamBuildr is an all-inclusive SaaS platform that gives campaigners access to a host of tools aimed at reaching and engaging with voters.
“The trust of our voters was always our top priority,” Breuer states, “While we knew digital would have to be a large part of our campaign – especially given the corona situation at the start – we did not want to do anything menacing or non-transparent. That’s why CamBuildr was a no-brainer for us. We were able to use the tool in a completely GDPR compliant way that gave our voters the ability to become as engaged in the campaign as they wished.”
With the strategic help of Campaigning Bureau, the party chapter ran a digital “listening tour” in the early phase of the campaign focused on getting input from NRW residents about what issues mattered most to them. Using CamBuildr’s built-in engagement apps and tools, the party was able to build out their campaign platform directly from citizen input. The CDU NRW then built numerous, issue-specific landing pages that allowed voters to more deeply engage with topics of interest to them and better understand the party’s position before heading to the polls.
A major focus at every step was asking voters to stay in contact – most frequently via email. Using CamBuildr, the party could then quickly contact and mobilize voters based on topics, events or other campaign milestones. Throughout the campaign, the CDU NRW saw conversion rates on the platform grow from 10% to an average of almost 30%.
“The high increase in constituent interaction proves that voters are open and willing to engage with parties online now more than ever before,” says Christoph Schleifer, Managing Director of CamBuildr. “What is important is that parties provide the right kind of mechanics to facilitate this engagement. While social media platforms are becoming less of a forum for trustworthy political discourse tools like CamBuildr allow that two way communication to happen in a more organic, reliable way.”
On May 15th, NRW voters cast their ballots and the CDU was the clear winner – coming in 9 points ahead of the SPD, who suffered their worst result in the state since the second world war. Wüst’s new campaign style and innovative use of CamBuildr led to a result that many see as a turning point for the party. “For us, the result speaks for itself,” states Breuer. “People want responsive, results-oriented leadership – and that is what the CDU is ready to deliver to the people of NRW.”