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Behind the Presidential Brand
Political Campaign—or Marketing Campaign?
Every successful political campaign, from local office all the way up to presidential hopefuls, utilize the exact same marketing rules as any business. The only major difference between a business’ marketing campaign and a presidential campaign is that the businesses sell a product or service and are paid in cash while the politicians are selling their ideas and policies and are paid in votes. Viewing the presidential campaign through the lens of a marketing campaign allows us to see what tactics they use and just how effective marketing can be to drum up consumers—or voters, in this case.
Company or politician, core messaging is the foundation of your brand and thus the foundation for all your marketing. The best politicians ensure their core messaging is understood by keeping it consistent and simple.
In other words, every presidential campaign needs to broadcast their core message to the public—just like a company.
Just like any business, politicians need the public to be aware of them to garner support. They use logos, branding, slogans, and other marketing techniques to ensure that their message gets out to the largest number of people and drums up more voters, just like a company would to build up their consumer base.
Take a look at some recent examples of how presidential candidates have spread awareness of their core message summed up in their tag lines
- Clinton’s Logo-Clinton’s core message is all about inclusion, which is reflected in her “I’m with Her” slogan.
- Trump’s Slogan-Trump taps into people’s yearning for better days with his slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
- Obama’s Slogan-Obama’s message was all about change and he kept it clear and memorable with his “Yes we Can” slogan.
- McCain’s Slogan-McCain kept patriotism at the forefront of his voter’s minds by using “Country First” as his slogan.
No matter what their core message is, every candidate has had one and has utilized their logos and slogans to share that message with the public.
After politicians have their core messaging solidified and are gearing up to bring more awareness to their campaigns, they must think about just who their target audience is. Often this goes hand in hand with building awareness and is done simultaneously.
However, even though politicians have a good understanding of who their voting base is and how best to target them, they also strive to keep their outreach broad to bring in new support. One, it’s always good to expand whenever possible. Two, demographics change constantly and that’s true for the political and coorporate realms. People die, voters come of age, people move—with change being the only constant, neither a politician nor a business can afford to rest and allow their message to stagnate and for new markets to remain untapped.
Politicians come in different levels of fame. Some are extremely well known (the Cocoa-Cola’s of the political world) and some, no one has ever heard of—but no matter how much they start off with, their goal is to build even more brand equity. Brand equity is a fancy term for a simple idea: the image and impression people think of when they think of that brand.
Given how important brand equity is, you’d think that well-known politicians would start off with a great foot. That’s not always the case, though. True, the public already knows about them, but oftentimes this means that the public has had more time to build up preconceived notions about the candidate. In these cases, Politicians must not only make sure that their core messaging is strong, but work on rebranding themselves to fight against the public’s initial opinions of them.
Less well-known politicians don’t tend to have to fight against negative public opinion because no one knows them. At best, they might be faced with public opinion about the party they are a part of. However, they have to struggle to build their brand equity up, which in a world of political disinterest can be quite difficult and expensive. They have the advantage and disadvantage of a blank slate.
Party Brand Equity
No matter how much brand equity a candidate brings with them, as a general rule they get to share in their party’s brand equity. That means instant access to a dedicated voter base. These safety nets of voters still must be marketed to, though to a lesser frequency and oftentimes with an altered message that’s tailored more around party ideals rather than the specific candidate. In business terms, candidates would use retention marketing techniques to target party voters and acquisition marketing methods to target new voters. A good politician, and business, keep efforts focused on both.
In short, as far as brand equity is concerned, well-known politicians must keep their brand equity strong and fight against negativity, where unknown politicians must build theirs from the ground up. Either way, they need to keep their core messaging strong and know who best to target their marketing towards.
In the past, you had to be there in person to hear your candidate speak and his message could easily be altered through word of mouth, misspeaking or even simply mishearing it to begin with. Today, there are numerous methods that politicians use to spread their message to the public.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common outreach methods:
- Television: Television allows candidates (and businesses) to control the tone and feel of what they’re putting out, while still ensuring that the message is consistent and supplying strong, emotionally-charged visuals.
- Public Relations: Public relations allows candidates to use the media and their public speaking experience to its greatest advantage, and while there are downsides (technical issues, misspeaking, going off topic, or even crowd mishearing) public speaking tends to come across as warmer and more authentic than its televised counterpart.
- Direct Mail: One of the more traditional marketing methods, but still quite effective in the right markets, mailers place information directly into people’s hands and physical reminders are hard to beat.
- Digital Media: Banner ads, blogs, video pre-roll, retargeting, websites—all are part of the digital spectrum and make information easy to access for potential voters.
- Social Media: While this is a relatively new method of marketing, politicians have quickly adapted and are eager to harness this new method. It’s a great method to market to on-the-go populace and, because it’s viewed as a bit more personable than mailers, allows politicians to share a human side of themselves to potential voters. However, it’s easy to overlook and can come across as unprofessional to some.
- Door to Door: Door-to-door campaigning is largely unique to the political spectrum. This method is falling out of favor as a sales technique, but it is a great way for politicians to gather more information on their voter base.
No matter what, regardless of the marketing strategy—but the goal is the same for all: conversion.
Saturation and the Danger of Oversaturation
The danger of saturation is oversaturation. Oversaturation happens when people become sick of a brand due to too much marketing. This is especially common for Presidential candidates that are in the limelight more than any other politician. The problem is, they have a relatively small amount of time to build up their brand equity and they need their brand to reach as many people as possible, so presidential candidates tend to hit an oversaturation point by the time Voting day comes along.
The consequences of oversaturation are major, though. If people become annoyed with the amount of marketing they are subjected to, they’ll associate the candidate with those emotions. In the end that leads to people either voting for another candidate or not voting at all—the opposite of what the candidate originally wished for.
In the business world or the political, there’s no easy answer on how to make sure you saturate your potential market without risking oversaturation, but one thing is clear—come Voting day, pretty much everyone but the most dedicated political activists are ready for it all to come to an end.
Once you start looking at the Presidential campaign as a marketing campaign, the similarities are clear. The only real difference is that the presidential campaign is intent on gathering voters instead of consumers. When you look at the statistics (over 57% of people voted in the last presidential election) you must admit that, love or hate politics, their marketing is effective. After you realize that largely due to their marketing efforts, presidential candidates got more than half of the voting populace out in 2012, it becomes crystal clear how important marketing is—not just for politicians, but for businesses as well.
Be sure to check out more of our blogs (Like this one: https://www.themmachine.com/branding-and-momentum/) to learn more about brand momentum and how to cultivate it like a President!