As every news outlet has been reminding us for months, 2020 is an election year in the U.S., and we're all taking in information through different mediums at different rates.
And as we flip through the calendar closer to that important day, you'll start to notice a pretty substantial rise in advertisements that are a bit more politically charged than your average Hulu ad.
Political marketing has been around since colonists first decided that they'd had enough of Britain's rule. With so many new outlets and mediums to share information across being invented year after year, the marketing tactics have become more strategic and crafty.
Even though not many people recognize it, there's a lot to be learned from their development.
What Is Political Marketing?
We've come a long way from the founding fathers passing out pamphlets and publishing letters. Today, political marketing is handled through commercial space on television and Twitter feeds.
In a democracy, politicians need to present their stance on matters to the public to boost their standing and (hopefully) get elected. But, similar to your customers, voters prioritize research, facts, and the opinions of their peers.
So, to meet that demand, campaign runners communicate as they can through a variety of marketing strategies, ranging from email marketing to celebrity endorsements.
In fact, a lot of their tactics are similar to how B2B and B2C industries pull in prospects.
Examples of Impactful Political Marketing
Since Americans first began electing their leaders to now, there are thousands of examples of political marketing.
These marketing efforts have advanced dramatically over the years, so we'll draw on some of the more recent campaigns that we've seen results from.
Obama's Campaign Slogans
In 2008, Barack Obama had a clear theme between his two main slogans: "Hope" and "Change We Can Believe In."
Pretty straightforward, right?
That use of clarity paired with some pretty inspiring word choice worked in his favor. His supporters were certainly ready for change.
But he didn't promote the idea of change by speaking exclusively on what he perceived to be problems in the government. His campaign prioritized a tone of hope and progress.
Keeping his slogans simple and impactful, it wasn't easy to misinterpret his messaging. His campaign built a narrative of progress toward a positive future.
Trump's Twitter Strategy
For the entire duration of his presidency, Donald Trump has been consistently active on two official Twitter accounts: his personal account, @realDonaldtrump, and the official account of the President of the United States, @POTUS. Each account has dramatically different tones of voice and covers different topics.
The @POTUS account sticks primarily to natural disasters, family ventures, and commemorative days in a very passive voice.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Trump doesn't hold back on being controversial and forward about his personal beliefs, national news and controversies, and his daily activities on @realDonaldTrump.
Operating on both accounts has allowed him to target two different, personalized audiences.
Officially, as the president, Trump maintains a persona of neutrality, mostly retweeting other Republican party members and news outlets. But, on the sidelines (though not quietly), he is very vocal and is able to speak directly to his base.
Social media marketing is no small thing in today's day and age. Traditional news outlets spend more and more time covering what is said over tweets or other social mediums over the years. It's clearly an effective way to get people's attention, and Trump has taken full advantage of it.
Super Bowl LIV Commercials
This year, 102 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl LIV. That's 102 million people who witnessed the political battlefield that took place as the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Donald Trump, and other presidential candidates who ran campaign ads.
The ads rolled were surprisingly toned down from the commercials that ran during the 2016 election year, where brands were a lot more vocal in their political preferences.
While brands returned to their traditional over-the-top comedy themes, that didn't prevent the national event from feeling pretty politically charged.
That fact either really annoyed viewers who just wanted to see the game, J. Lo, and Shakira, or encouraged them to pay attention and look closer at their candidates.
It's hard to say if this opportunist action was a good move or a bad one, but it definitely caught people's attention.
Calling back to social media marketing tactics, presidential candidate Andrew Yang has gained a great deal of support this year from his "Yang Gang." The group of supporters began online with the clever play on words, #YangGang.
The tag has taken on a life of its own, being used by those who like Yang and those who oppose him alike. Yang himself has adopted it into his campaign, fully embracing the support.
Media outlets have noted that the subsequent GIFs, tweets, and Reddit activity have helped his campaign in remarkable ways.
That's the power of the internet for you. Bringing Americans together one meme at a time.
7 Political Marketing Strategies You Can Learn From
You can pull marketing ideas from anything if you look at it in the right light. With political marketing at a peak due to the election year, there's plenty of inspiration to draw upon.
Here are some of the most prominent strategies used in politics that you can steal from.
1. Market to Your Target Audience.
Very rarely will you see political ads that aim for a neutral, general audience message. They always have a partisan lean to some degree.
That's because campaigners know that it can be incredibly difficult to appeal to and win over the general public as a whole. Only George Washington got an unanimous vote.
The same idea can be applied to your own marketing strategies. If you aim for a general audience, you're likely not going to see the ROI that you're looking for. It's always better to identify your target audience and market toward them, as they are going to be the easiest to convert.
The more the merrier, of course, but it's wisest to invest your efforts in a market that you know aligns with your messaging.
2. Understand Your Buyer Personas.
This ties into the strategy above. In order to market to your ideal base, you have to identify who they are. This is where buyer personas come in.
Personas are fictional representations of your perfect customer. Through crafting them, you'll learn which pain points your business is best suited to meet and how to approach communicating your value to that specific persona type.
Politicians have a similar practice. They know which demographics they appeal to the most and keep up with their opinions, trends, and political demands, pivoting their campaign as necessary to present solutions to their audience's problems.
How often do you hear of a candidate changing their positioning on an issue half way through a campaign?
3. Keep It Simple.
Remember how Obama kept his campaign slogans pretty straight to the point? Taking a page out of his book isn't a bad idea.
Some of the greatest, most recognizable brand taglines and slogans consist of only a few words. You could probably hum the McDonald's slogan in your sleep.
Keep your messaging simple. We live in an era where consumers are looking for (and expecting) instant gratification when it comes to choosing brands and businesses to work with.
If they have to think too hard about what it is you do, offer, or represent, they'll easily jump ship and swim to one of your competitors for an easier experience.
4. Invest in Social Media.
It's safe to say that if you don't have some sort of social media presence, then you'll be written off as dated and out of touch. Your social media marketing strategy can open your business up to a much larger prospect pool than you may realize.
Not only can you monitor what your audience finds engaging, you can also keep an eye on what your competitors are up to. Whenever Trump tweets a controversial thought or comment, there's at least a dozen other politicians commentating on it within the hour.
Be aware of what you share, though. As helpful as social media can be, it can also backfire fairly quickly. Typos and inaccurate information can have your brand torn apart online for all the world to see. For example, Trump's slip up in 2017:
The confusing tweet caused such a stir that, on top of the the memes and media speculation, it has its own Wikipedia page.
5. Build a Narrative.
Everyone loves a good story. Whether it's one relaying how a candidate worked their way up from an intern to the position they're in now or how a small startup evolved into a multi-million dollar company, audiences appreciate an engaging narrative.
Don't be afraid to share your company's story. It helps personalize your business, which consumers look for in the companies they purchase from.
Long gone are the days where people are comfortable giving their hard-earned money to some anonymous entity. Consumers today want to feel like they know where their money is going and who they're investing in.
When developing your brand and crafting your marketing strategies, be sure to incorporate a certain degree of storytelling or integrity into it.
6. Have a Contingency Plan.
Mistakes are unavoidable, no matter how much you plan and work on a project. We're only human. Things fall through the cracks sometimes.
Thankfully, it's not always the mistake the audience will remember. It's how you handle it afterward. Campaign managers understand this well.
There are so many moving pieces in a campaign (similar to in a business) that they know to have backup plans for their backup plans. Damage control comes with the territory when it comes to politics. The same can be said in marketing.
Not every marketing campaign is going to be a success. You can miss the mark in your messaging or have the project fall apart before it even goes live. Sometimes it's inevitable. That's why it's always a good idea to have a contingency plan in place.
Whether it's having a PR team on call for clean up or a second, fully produced campaign ready to replace the failed one, you'll be glad to have some backup in case things go awry.
7. Engage with Your Audience.
From local politicians going door to door to talk with their constituents to arena-sized rallies, those with political careers know that in order to win the trust (and votes) of the people, they need to engage and interact with them directly.
That's not to say that you have to send your sales team down the sidewalk with some Nikes and a clipboard, but your marketing and sales teams should definitely know how important it is to practice personalized engagement in order to capture leads.
From consultative selling to text message marketing, get up close and personal with your prospects. The more that you can make it feel like your business relationship is a partnership rather than a cold exchange, the better.
Tensions have a tendency to run high during election years. We're all trying to keep track of who said what to who and why and how we feel about it. As busy as it can feel, there's always lessons to be learned in the middle of the chaos.
Pay attention to the political marketing strategies that have influenced you and look closer to figure out why. You may pull a trick or two out of a politician's hat that you can use for your own business.