Thursday, August 4th, 2016 | 6 min read
Marketing and presidential politics: It’s a relationship as old as these “Long live the President” pins made for George Washington (in America, at least). And today, the union is as important as ever.
There are plenty of marketing lessons politicians have gleaned from advertisers: the power of dynamic visuals (like President Obama’s “Hope” poster), the importance of a shareable hashtag (like Hillary Clinton’s #ImWithHer), and the influence of a transparent Twitter account (see: @realDonaldTrump).
But marketers receive their fair share of inspiration from government campaigns, too. By keeping an eye on major political events, advertisers can see how candidates reach and mobilize the masses. They can then take those lessons and apply them to their own strategies.
This year’s RNC and DNC conventions, in particular, were ripe with teachable moments for marketers. They also produced the first-ever major party nomination for a woman, Stephen Colbert’s Caesar Flickerman impression, and tens of millions of tweets. For our breakdown of the top social trends from each convention, click here and here.
From Melania Trump’s Rickroll to Sarah Silverman’s off-script slip, these are the biggest marketing lessons from the RNC and DNC.
If any maxim can sum up the election, it’s this: Expect the unexpected. This year’s conventions were more rife with surprises, but the DNC and RNC didn’t seem fully prepared for the curveballs they were thrown.
For one, before the DNC even started its convention, Wikileaks released 20,000 emails featuring some incriminating information from within the party. In response, DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz swiftly resigned. The DNC has supported the theory that Russia is behind the email leaks. As such, the organization has been able to shift the media’s focus from the content within the emails to their potentially dangerous source.
Over at the RNC, Melania Trump was accused of plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech (and Rickrolling America). With the text of Michelle’s speech readily available (and Rick Astley’s infamous lyrics known by almost every living person), this one was tough to deny. But the RNC still had some trouble figuring out how to address the gaffe. As Time reported, campaign officials went from praising the speech, to admitting it wasn’t unique, to unleashing defensive remarks, to admitting it they made a mistake.
Marketers, take heed. Always have a social media crisis management strategy in place for addressing mistakes and slip-ups. This way, everyone on your team is on the same page and you can deal with any problem quickly and professionally.
Sometimes it’s easier to reach new audiences by partnering with high-profile creators who have built-in fan bases. After all, customers are probably more willing to listen to their favorite movie star than a corporate brand, right? That’s why influencer marketing is so effective––these people already have clout with your target demographic.
We saw this strategy in action at the RNC and DNC. Each convention brought on celebrities to help endorse their respective candidates. These stars drew in outside audiences and even provided some credibility from those who aren’t part of the political process.
For instance, Clinton invited actresses Lena Dunham, America Ferrera, and Chloe Grace Moretz to speak at the DNC convention. With their star power and influence among millennials, they were able reach young women in a way that the candidate and her political colleagues probably couldn’t.
Both Trump and Clinton have a reputation of being somewhat hard-headed and “product-focused,” if you will—with the product being their policies and platforms. As such, the conventions focused quite a bit on humanizing the candidates in the eyes of voters.
Throughout the conventions, both nominees brought out family members to deliver speeches that pulled back the curtain and showed who these people are as parents, spouses, and individuals.
Similarly, advertising isn’t just about sales catalogues anymore; it’s about telling great stories. While it’s crucial to have high-quality products, customers also want you to tell them what makes your brand tick and what lies at the heart of your business.
If you thought running your campaign was tough, try getting millions of people to buy into one solution—all while the media scrutinizes your every move. Actually, wait, that’s probably quite relatable for marketers.
While most advertisers don’t have the future of the country on their shoulders, they are challenged to deal with unexpected gaffes, reach unique demographics, and show who their brands really are by providing real and relatable content.
Throughout this year’s RNC and DNC, both parties showed that they have what it takes to meet these challenges, and even make history in the process. Shouldn’t marketers strive to achieve similar excellence?
If anything, always remember to let your customers know that you’ll never, ever give up and you’ll never let them down.