6 Marketing Lessons from This Year’s Election Days

This year’s congressional elections are generating lots of excitement. Between a “throw the bums out” sentiment created by public frustration with the economy and a broad array of unconventional candidates there is plenty for political junkies to talk about. Since elections and marketing have a lot in common, online marketers can learn a thing or two from this year’s political campaigns. Like online shoppers, voters have to go through the various phases of the purchase funnel before they cast their ballot.

Here are six marketing lessons from this year’s political campaigns:

  1. Keep your message consistent. Long time Arizona Senator John McCain has changed his views (aka flip-flopped) on high profile topics such as immigration. Until this year, McCain has been a major proponent of immigration reform. Now that the political winds in his home state of Arizona have changed, McCain’s current campaign has turned to follow the public tides. McCain’s ad shows him walking along the border saying, “Build the dang fence!” This has caused discomfort among many voters. It’s critical to be consistent in your branding and marketing messages to build your target market’s trust.
  2. Consider message context. Having associated with witches and witchcraft in her youth, Delaware Senatorial Candidate Christine O’Donnell ran an advertisement aimed at mitigating current concerns about her views on the subject. In the ad, O’Donnell is dressed in black and set against a black background just like people’s image of, you guessed it, witches. In today’s social network enhanced media environment, marketers must be very conscious of the context in which their messages are presented.
  3. Know your target audience. New York Gubernatorial candidate Carl Palidino talked to a group of Hassidic men about gay rights. Palidino’s comments miss the mark with these religious men since his references were out of sync with this audience’s world-view. As part of your marketing planning, assess your prospective market segments to be able to tailor your messaging appropriately.
  4. Don’t underestimate customers’ interest in your firm’s political and other public actions. Ohio Congressional Candidate Rich Iott has consistently defended his participation in Nazi re-enactments dressed in a Waffen-SS uniform.  Iott’s past behavior is anathema to many members of the public and shows total disregard for his potential constituents and colleagues. Today, customers do care about whether a firm is green, pays fair wages, hires illegal immigrants, humanely treats animals, cares about the neighborhood and a broad array of other political and public factors. They are especially vocal and supportive in response to not-for-profit efforts on social media networks.
  5. Get customer reviews. Many high profile Democrats including former President Bill Clinton have endorsed Nevada Senator Harry Reid. While many marketers are concerned that customer reviews will not be unanimously positive, but the reality is that this information can persuade prospects by qualifying products. Also, if customers want this information, they can find it on other third party websites, social media networks and competitive sites.
  6. Know the lifetime value of a customer. California Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, a former e-Bay CEO, and Connecticut Senatorial Candidate Linda McMahon, former WWE CEO, have poured personal millions into their campaigns far exceeding the levels spent by their opponents. Is this expenditure worth it? As a marketer, it’s important to perform analysis to know the lifetime value of your customers. Your investment to acquire a new customer should not exceed this amount.

While high profile political campaigns occur every two years in the US, your marketing campaigns are on-going. They require strong planning against your business goals to ensure that you stay on track and make progress, regardless of the economic environment.

If you have any other examples of this year’s political campaigns that have lessons for marketers, please add them to the comments section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Photo credit: Theresa Thompson via Flickr

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