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10 Lessons Marketers Can Learn From Political Campaigns

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty tired of seeing and hearing political ads. Whether you’re flipping through a newspaper, watching the morning news, listening to your favorite tunes, checking your mail or email, or even surfing the web, political ads are simply unavoidable. And that’s probably the point.

While traditional political advertising – print, television, radio, and “snail mail” – is far from “dead” from a marketing standpoint, it’s obvious that digital political ads are on the rise.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Case in point: I like to watch true crime shows on my phone – but the app that I use doesn’t have an ad-free option. So every ten minutes or so, I’m forced to not-so-patiently wade through two to three minutes of advertising before I can get back to my show. And what kind of marketing content is ID Go exposing me to? You guessed it: political ads.

In my downtime at home, I occasionally find myself playing games on my phone. One such game that I frequently play is called Flippy Knife. It’s a decently fun way to pass the time, but it’s simply riddled with advertising. Sure, I could pay $2.99 for the ad-free version, but I’m a bit of a cheapskate.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

So, I endure the ads. And can you guess what kinds of ads Flippy Knife has been showing me lately? You got it: political ads! At least these are outside the norm, though.

One memorable ad I saw just yesterday simulates an ‘80s-era video game and depicts a highly pixelated version of a well-known political candidate stating his positions and urging me to vote for him this November 3rd.

Like I said, it’s unavoidable.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

That being said, there’s a lot that marketers like myself can learn from these political campaigns, especially as they increasingly go digital.

Here are 10 takeaways that I’ve been able to…well, take away…from this frenzied election cycle.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Understand Your Target Audience

Marketing and political campaigns alike typically divide customers (or voters) into three major groups: their own pool, their competitor’s pool, and the undecideds.

Own Pool

These are the faithful customers (voters) who are already familiar with your brand (candidate) and are most likely to repurchase (vote for you). These are the people your campaign must diligently focus on to establish loyalty.

Competitor’s Pool

These customers (voters) are loyal to your competition (political opponent). Hence, your strategies toward them must be centered on why your brand (candidate) is superior to the competitor’s. To effect any changes in their way of thinking, you must emphasize your strengths as a brand/candidate as well as your opponent’s weaknesses.


This pool of customers (voters) is still on the fence. Simply put, they’re looking for a reason to trust a particular brand (candidate) over another. Your aim, then, is to amplify your brand’s strengths and advantages in order to shift them in your favor.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Conduct Systematic Targeting

Seldom will you see a political ad targeting a neutral, general-audience message. They almost always have a partisan lean, at least to some degree. That’s because the people running these campaigns know that it can be exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to attract and win over the general public as a whole.

If political campaigns excel at anything, it’s this: they know who their supporters are. Campaigns expend a tremendous amount of time and resources to identify candidate supporters, how passionately they feel about the candidate, and how likely they are to actually go out and vote.

Campaign officials are well aware of which demographics their candidate appeals to the most. They are continually monitoring the opinions, trends, and political demands of their supporters, shifting the campaign’s focus as necessary to deliver solutions to their audience’s most pressing concerns.

This logic-based approach to audience targeting allows campaigns to spend money and time on potential or likely supporters rather than squandering those resources on individuals who will never be swayed to vote for their candidate.

Likewise, in order for marketers to reach their ideal base, they must first have to identify who these people are. This is where the concept of buyer personas comes in. Personas are fictional characterizations of your perfect customer. In crafting these, you’ll be able to identify which pain points your business is best-equipped to meet and how to go about communicating your value to that specific type of persona.

Far too many marketers are concentrating their efforts on a group of people that will almost certainly never buy the product they’re selling. Whether actively or accidentally, they’re overlooking a multitude of prospective buyers who may even already be geared up to become customers.

Sometimes, it’s because they’re unaware that this customer base exists. Other times, they neglect to look beyond the customer base that they do know. They can’t even fathom a particular demographic buying their product.

In both marketing and political campaigns, it’s always best to direct your efforts toward leads that are the most likely to convert. Start with the low-hanging fruit. Go for the near-potentials. Skip the probably-nots.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Execute Strategic Planning

Here’s where political campaigns and digital marketing are exactly alike. Voters and consumers are continuously seeking candidates or brands that have a message or a mission to work towards.

In the same way that a political party takes the time to carefully craft its position on hot-button issues, so must marketers devote ample time and resources into planning what their brand stands for.

Create Data-Driven Content

In the political world, data is nothing new – after all, the first political opinion poll in the United States was conducted in 1824. However, the way this data is collected and analyzed today is certainly more advanced.

With the right data in hand, political campaigns can get answers to crucial questions, like:

  • Is their message resonating with voters?
  • How many people support your candidate?
  • How many support their opponent?
  • Who are these people, and what do they care about?

Thanks to the growth of digital marketing, it’s now easier for marketers to measure, analyze, and review a whopping amount of data in real time. The key is effectively converting this information into content as innovatively as possible in order to send clear, captivating messages.

These data-driven messages are used to address present conditions and outline how your brand can aid in improving these conditions. This helps build trust with customers and increase awareness for your brand.

Unfortunately, many small- to medium-sized businesses don’t concern themselves with data – like, at all. They exhaust their meager marketing resources haphazardly and can’t actually identify what’s working and what isn’t. But today’s technology is cheaper and more accessible than ever. With user-friendly tools like Facebook Insights and Google Analytics in existence, you’re likely collecting valuable data – even if you’re not examining it. Since your competitors are already wielding this data to their advantage, you need to be as well.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Tell Your Story

Speeches, campaign fliers, and other political marketing materials are teeming with stories – miniature narratives about a candidate’s hometown, their family and friendships, early-career adversities, and their “everyman” vision for the country. These stories help soften a candidate’s image, while still making them appear accomplished and trustworthy. They’re designed to resonate – and the best ones do just that.

Small- and medium-sized businesses often fail to remember that they can and should tell compelling stories. Sharing your story helps personalize the company – and today’s consumers are looking for that kind of personalization in the businesses they purchase from.

It’s important to recall that consumers don’t spend their money logically. Purchasing, not unlike voting, is an emotion-based action. People want to feel like they know where their money is going and in whom they’re investing.

Businesses that tell – and live out – engaging stories will attract and retain more customers and land more referrals. When establishing your brand and formulating your marketing strategies, make sure that you integrate a decent measure of storytelling into the process.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Everyone’s a Marketer

It’s difficult for a small marketing department to keep pace with companies that have more personnel, more capital, and more expertise. What’s the solution? Make marketing everyone’s job.

Political campaigns have entire marketing departments dedicated to drafting messages, producing commercials, sending out mailers, and the like. But have a chat with any campaign staffer – from the lowly intern to the campaign manager – and they’ll rattle on indefinitely about why their candidate is the best.

If you’re doing your job, the team you’ve hired and the people you’ve surrounded yourself with are “true believers.” They understand that every dollar matters, because they have a vested interest in the company’s success. These natural brand advocates are capable of recruiting their friends, posting about the business on social media, editing and writing blog posts, and so much more! Marketing doesn’t have to be in their job description – they just have to be given the go-ahead to do it.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Build a Community

Businesses make mention of referrals all the time – and it’s no surprise. After all, people are four times more likely to purchase something if it’s been referred to them by a friend or family member. With all the amazing technological advances in recent years, word of mouth is still one of the most indispensable tools in your marketing toolbox.

Political campaigns have always been very successful at this. Referrals, sharing on social media, personal outreach – these are the things that help develop new relationships and bolster existing ones. Campaigns understand that their success or failure relies on building and maintaining relationships – with constituents, supporters, volunteers, and donors. The most effective campaigns leverage the personal networks of each and every member of their team.

Customers can be great assets when it comes to recruiting new customers, helping you find new markets for your products and services, and sharing your brand story. The way to make this happen is to create a strong community around your brand.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Invest in Social Media

Since the 2008 U.S. presidential election, social media has become an integral part of every major political campaign. Not only can candidates put themselves and their stances front-and-center where the majority of the population already spends a lot of their free time, they can also engage with audiences through live video, boost fundraising efforts, recruit and manage volunteers, and ask/answer questions from potential supporters.

In the business world, it’s clear that if you don’t have some sort of presence on social media, you’ll be disregarded as old-fashioned and out of touch. Having a solid social media marketing strategy for your business can open the door to a much larger prospect pool than you may think. Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter keep your brand consistent and up-to-date on market trends.

Not only can you keep an eye on what your audience finds appealing, you can also monitor what your competitors are up to. Be mindful of what you choose to share, though. As beneficial as social media can be, it can also go wrong pretty quickly. Careless typos and inaccurate info can put an unwelcome spotlight on your brand in front of the community and the world at large.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Engage with Your Audience

From local politicians canvassing constituents door-to-door to presidential contenders and their arena-sized rallies, political candidates are well aware that in order to gain the trust (and votes) of the populace, they need to connect and interact with them personally.

Similarly, your business’s marketing and sales teams should be acutely aware of how crucial it is to exercise personal engagement in an attempt to capture leads.

From consultative selling to SMS marketing, it’s essential to get up close and personal with your customers. The more you can make your business relationship feel like a partnership rather than a dispassionate exchange, the better.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Connect with Influencers

Influencer marketing has undoubtedly proven to significantly benefit both politics and digital marketing. Influencers bring authenticity and trustworthiness to a brand or candidate. This helps both with positive public relations and moving your influencer’s followers in your direction as well.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Have a Contingency Plan

No matter how much you prepare and perfect a project, mistakes are bound to happen. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. Fortunately, it’s not always the mistake that your audience will remember. It’s how you handle it after the fact. Political campaign managers understand this well.

There are lots of moving parts in a campaign – not unlike there are in a business – and the key players understand that they need to have backup plans for their backup plans. Damage control is part and parcel of politics. The same can be said of marketing.

Not every marketing initiative is destined to be a success. You can fall flat in your messaging or have the project come apart at the seams before it even goes live. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B in place.

Marketing Lessons Political Campaigns

Final Results

It’s clear that – as annoying and repetitive as those ubiquitous ads may be – political campaigns have a lot to teach us about marketing.

As this election cycle winds down to its (undoubtedly) dramatic conclusion, organizations large and small would be wise to pay attention to the marketing strategies on display in the political realm. 

We may even be able to rip a page or two out of the  politicians’ playbooks that we can use for our own businesses!

If you need help developing a digital marketing strategy for your business, contact the friendly folks at HighClick Media! We’d be more than happy to help you #elevateyourbrand!

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