Over the past nine years, National has helped New Zealand emerge as one of the brightest, most successful examples of conservative government success in the world. But rather than rest on their laurels, the governing New Zealand National Party made significant, forward-looking investments in digital campaigning infrastructure.

Those investments paid off with a historic result in New Zealand's 2017 General Election. They earned nearly one million votes and securing a fourth consecutive first-party general election finish.

We're proud to have been a critical part of National's 2017 campaign team. Our role was to lead the design and development of their NationBuilder-powered digital campaigning infrastructure alongside their Kiwi-led digital team, Topham Guerin. This case study describes what we believe are the most exceptional achievements of that collaborative effort.

Choosing Key Partners: Hines Digital (Strategy) & NationBuilder (Software)

One of the earliest decisions National made was to build the party's digital infrastructure on NationBuilder's software platform. This platform, which NationBuilder rightly describes as "software for leaders," ultimately powered National's website, email program, volunteer program, and online fundraising.

As internationally recognized experts in NationBuilder's platform, the party brought us in to help deploy and maintain that digital infrastructure throughout the 2017 general election. Specifically, our role was to:

  • design and develop the party's website (including a suite of microsite templates for individual candidates);
  • provide training and support to its internal team on how to get the most out of NationBuilder's platform; and
  • remain on hand to do anything the campaign's exceptional internal team needed to get the job done.

Mainly, our job was to put the party in a position to succeed by giving them the best tools & training available. And they did.

Building a robust, scalable website framework

Our core role for National was to design, develop, and support on the party's NationBuilder website and digital infrastructure: building the party's suite of website templates on NationBuilder's platform and advising the party on how to get the most out of that investment.

We took everything that we'd learned designing more than 100 sites on NationBuilder and developed a website that perfectly matched the party's branding. Moreover, we gave their in-house digital team the tools they needed to campaign effectively.

Screenshot: Homepage
National's homepage, national.org.nz, on September 23, 2017. Click here to view a full-length screenshot.

Rapidly deploying landing pages-without an everyday developer

National's website template supported more than thirty different types of pages-from Posts to Petitions, Events to Endorsements. Each could be created, populated, and published without the assistance of a trained web developer.

Screenshot: Signup page
National's internal team was able to rapidly deploy high-conversion landing pages, without the help of a developer.

National's website template supported more than thirty different types of pages-from Posts to Petitions, Events to Endorsements. Each could be created, populated, and published without the assistance of a trained web developer.

That flexibility gave the party's internal team incredible flexibility to act independently and scale their efforts as the campaign evolved. And scale they did. By Election Day, the party had published more than 8,000 pages and saw tens of thousands of activists sign up to get involved with the campaign.

Combined with an exceptionally well-executed digital media campaign, and effective use of online video, National's party website proved to be an incredibly effective hub for online campaigning activity.

An entire fleet of websites for National's candidates

A powerful website for the national party is important, but we didn't stop there. To ensure brand uniformity and cross-candidate campaign strategy, we helped National deploy an entire fleet of NationBuilder-powered websites-all with a single look, feel, and under-the-hood functionality.

Screenshot: Paula Bennett MP

The party was able to deploy a fully functional, totally stand-alone website for each candidate or member of parliament. This empowered individual and aspiring members of parliament to run fully independent, but also fully integrated, digital campaigns in their constituencies.

Strong email engagement powered by deliverable email templates and respect for their supporters

Email is —without a doubt—the best, most effective way to stay in touch with supporters. Even in this age of social media, that remains the Golden Rule of digital engagement.

And email deliverability - the part art, part science of getting your email blasts into the inboxes of your supporters - is one of the most important (and least sexy) parts of digital campaigning.

National's internal digital team ran among the most effective email programs we've ever been a part of. They got off to a smart start by investing in NationBuilder's email platform-which is known for its strong deliverability and smart targeting functionality - and things only got better from there.

Screenshot: NZNP Email
A brilliant example of a clean, simple, respectful email from the National team.

While the audience, content, and timing of individual emails were all led by the National's internal team, we played a key role in designing the email templates and training the team on how to leverage NationBuilder's email platform.

As of Election Day, the party sent millions of individual emails, with an all-time open rate of more than 40% and a spam complaint rate of ~0.01%. (No—that's not a joke. Those are the real numbers.)

The key to their success over email was a deep and consistent commitment to authenticity. They never "blasted" their "list;" they communicated with their supporters. And by treating their supporters with courtesy and respect, they learned to anticipate and look forward to receiving new updates. Put another way: their spam rate was so low because they didn't send spam.

The Bottom Line

National wasn't the only party in New Zealand to invest in NationBuilder as a cornerstone of its technical infrastructure. In fact, NZ Labour relied on much of the same technology to power their campaign. But National's decision to hire Hines Digital to develop, deploy, and maintain that infrastructure was an important one-and the results speak for themselves.

We're honored to have played our small role as part of the larger National campaign team, and offer our congratulations to Prime Minister Bill English on an outstanding result.