Let’s face it. The 2016 election was historic.
Never in American history has a candidate battled sixteen primary opponents, his own party, the opposition party, the media, the pollsters, international corporations, and the outside world and still managed to win. Analysts and history buffs will study this election for years and still be unable to figure it out.
But let’s not debate politics. We’ll leave that to the professionals and the armchair commentators on social media. Our goal is to help you determine what your business can learn about marketing from political campaigns.
Let’s start with some ground rules.
Political parties are brands. Their candidates are products, but each candidate is also a brand unto itself. Think of the relationship between Nabisco and Oreos.
Each brand conveys values and benefits to its target market, aka voters. As consumers, voters buy the brand through voting. They also buy the brand through campaign contributions and purchasing products, but that’s only a small part of the puzzle. The ultimate purchase is a vote.
A political campaign is an organized effort by the brand and its partners to motivate voters to buy. Political operatives, spokespeople, and party members are the Sales and Marketing team.
We assume some people will take issue with the grounds rules above. We even expect a challenge to the analogies. Furthermore, we expect some people to miss the point altogether. But if we stop right here, we can understand how this applies to small businesses.
There are three critical things political campaigns do that you should, too:
1. Know Your Buyer
Political parties and campaigns constantly assess the shifting interests, concerns, and demographics of the voting population. As a brand, the parties have values, features and benefits. They pour vast amounts of money and resources to fully understand which voters are more likely to embrace those values, want those features, and profit from the benefits.
In common conversation we are familiar with the demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioral features of each party’s voter. In general, we could accurately predict which voters are more likely to vote for one party over another and the nature of their lifestyles and spending habits. For example:
Urban, single female between the ages of 25 to 34 with a college degree and a white-collar professional occupation.
Pretty strong chance that voter is a Democrat.
How well do you know your buyers? Have you identified your target market?
Your marketing strategy depends on how well you understand your product/service and the detailed persona of your typical buyer. Use data to inform your next marketing decision. Even a simple report on the last 12 months of contracts can tell you what sells, who’s buying, and how long the sales cycle takes. From there you can set a course to make overall improvements.
2. Speak Their Language
Make America Great Again
Change We Can Believe In
Nothing is more deliberate than a campaign slogan. It is forged from the drafts of dozens of slogans. It is focus-tested. It is given an early “trial balloon” reveal.
Sometimes it hits the mark. Sometimes it fails to connect with voters. Sometimes it is scrapped and replaced altogether.
Once decided, the slogan is everywhere. It’s on placards. It’s on podiums. It’s on yard signs. It’s on hats. Oh, those hats!
But what goes into a campaign slogan? It is an amalgam of concerns, feelings, and values captured in the language of the voters. A slogan is totally useless if it doesn’t speak to the voter, if it doesn’t resonate with them emotionally.
From the slogan comes all other messaging. Website. Commercials. Mailers. Emails. Speeches. Everything revolves around this central theme – the central brand value.
If you speak the language of your buyers and address their concerns you will be well on your way to attracting new clients.
3. Pick A Couple Pain Points and Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Whether we like it or not, Americans don’t enjoy difficult purchases.
Think of a candidate’s platform. The most successful campaigns offer a limited list of policy positions, under which exist a myriad of other campaign promises. The list typically covers 2-3 main topics:
Each main topic is a Problem. Each sub-topic is a Solution. A topic like the Economy is further divided into Trade, Jobs, Taxes, and the like. For example:
Main Topic: The Economy is a mess, and unemployment is at an all time high.
Sub Topic: We will lower the corporate tax rate in order to spur the return of American jobs and stimulate spending.
From this point a campaign repeats this Problem-Solution messaging until it fails to deliver measurable results with voters. Every speech. Every interview. Every commercial. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Does your company offer a Solution to a persistent Problem? Can you break down the Problem and the Solution in bite sized portions? For example:
Aging homes have poor insulation that costs homeowners thousands of dollars each year.
XYZ Company can install energy efficient upgrades that will immediately save you money.
Bonus Point: Use A Consultant
Look at every political campaign and you’ll notice a team of paid consultants, strategists, advisors, and operatives who help the campaign promote the brand to voters. These specialists offer valuable guidance, assistance, and insight to connect with voters, manage the media, and set overall strategy for promoting the brand. You would be wise to do the same.
Calling for backup is never more important than when your company is struggling for growth or transformation. An objective opinion and analysis gives your company a second set of eyes to see what needs to be done and when. In that regard, professional help can help you avoid making terrible decisions or help you uncover the best next step in achieving your goals.