Last week the Ad Club had the pleasure of hosting an exciting panel of political strategists and marketers at our most recent Breakfast Club where the topic was “The Marketing of Politics and Policy”. Moderated by Lois Romano, Editor of The Washington Post Live, the panel was a who’s who of political strategy, technology, crisis communications, campaign and social media. The standing-room only audience heard from political experts about the intersection of political and consumer marketing with regards to the upcoming 2016 election.
Since 1996, when presidential campaigns first hit cyberspace, the numerous platforms and channels that have become available to reach the general public have drastically changed the realm and definition of politics. With the constant emergence of new technology, candidates and marketers have new methods of outreach and, as our panel experts all concluded, the media paradigm in politics is shifting from paid to earned. As evidenced in the barrage of free press Donald Trump has received, the question of whether or not campaign coffers are still as important as they were in the past arises.
Co-founder of the Targeted Victory marketing technology and strategy firm, Michael Beach, concluded that what we see happening in the Republican primary field is evidence that earned media has the potential to drown out paid media. And it is proof that social and digital media platforms are not only beneficial cost-wise, but they have created the opportunity to build a more accessible and personal relationship between public figures and individual citizens through targeted messaging, and creativity. And Greta Wilson, Vice President Brand Strategy and Social Media at Pitney Bowes, talked about the power of identifying a network of influencers and brand or candidate advocates who have large followings and can create engagement.
Daniel Franklin, crisis communication partner at Benenson Strategy Group, noted that political marketing is measured differently than consumer marketing. In politics, balance is key. Whereas every day is Election Day for corporate and brand marketers, which means that their respective tolerance for risk differs from their political counterparts. Corporate marketers err toward less risk, understanding that brand perception takes a long time to build and can be ruined forever with the slightest hiccup. Political marketers, on the other hand, are willing to take on more risk because political campaigns only last for a finite period of time; therefore, they need to react quickly in order to leverage any opportunity that offers up a chance at high returns.
Measurement tactics also differ between the two fields of marketing, with brand marketers measuring engagement and propensity of the public to “like” their products and share their news and information. On the other hand, political marketers look to persuasion metrics to determine how targeted audiences have received their candidate. Data analysis has enabled better research and outreach for both consumer and political marketers.
Millennials, an important demographic for both political and consumer marketers, must be approached through the lens of trust and credibility. Political marketers must understand what the American Dream means to this cohort and then incorporate those dreams into their own messaging. Candidates must tell different stories that will best connect and engage this particular audience. By connecting to personal experiences, the customization and conversation of the marketing mediums in regards to this demographic is going to be different than older generations. Mark Skidmore, Partner and Chief Strategist of Bully Pulpit Interactive – the largest digital marketer for democratic campaign work for Obama in 2008 and 2012, spoke about how the American Dream is changing and morphing, and how digital and social platforms allow for closer connections between politicians and Millennials. Thanks to on-line behavior and conversations, political marketers are able to make their candidate’s interaction with voters more personalized than ever before.
At the end of the day, all of our panelists agreed that there are certain situations you can’t “media” you’re way out of — personal experience has an enormous role in audience perception and if they have just one bad experience with your brand or political candidate, it will be an uphill battle to win them back.