Sunday, November 16, 2008

Election 2008: A Lesson in Marketing

A disclaimer... This entry is by no means intended to reflect or endorse any particular political views. But I think some business owners can learn a lot about how Barack Obama and John McCain handled their respective campaigns. So let's take a brief look at each from a marketing perspective.

First, think about the consistency and clarity of their messages. Can you name either of their slogans? Do you recall the main themes of each campaign? By next election, most of us will probably remember "Change" or some version of it. But, who will remember "Country First?" (How many of you knew that was John McCain's campaign slogan?) The phrases "Change" or "Change We Can Believe In" or "Change We Need" were everywhere; signs, bumper stickers, internet ads, t-shirts, hats, mugs, pins, and just about anything else you might imagine. This point underscores the importance of clear and consistent messages about your products or business. No matter who your audience is, or how they receive the message, be sure they get the same message that you're sending to all others.

Next, think about market segmentation and promotional tools. McCain used traditional communication tools such as TV, radio, and a webpage. When he used these, they were typically in the form of an ad or commercial. He did a great job at reaching those who tend to get news from those sources. Unfortunately for the campaign, that is growing to be a relatively small number of voters. Obama used these tools as well. However, he also used tools, such as text messaging, to reach different (i.e., younger) audiences with his message. Recall that he announced Joe Biden as his running mate via text message. Everyone who signed up for it, the public and the media, received word at the same time. He also bought ad space in some video games. Obama also has more than 3.1 million supporters on Facebook.

What this indicates to me is that the campaign was able to zero in on their audiences and get their message to them where they were. Can you do this in your business? Will the young mother interested in your CSA learn about it the same way that the retired attorney will? If you want to sell your agritourism product, such as a corn maze, do you advertise to church groups in the same way that you would to families looking for a weekend activity? Probably not. Look for ways to target your message to your different segments.

Finally, think about how you might segment the market. Both campaigns segmented by age, race, gender, education level, political affiliation, religion, and all of the other factors that we have heard so much about. Here again, the McCain campaign was able to hit these different segments by appearing at rallies in different locations and venues. Obama did the same thing. However, Obama took it to another level. When a donation or purchase was made on his website, he required the user to provide contact and demographic information. He was able to use this to cross-reference users to solicit more donations and develop more targeted marketing strategies. What do you know about your customers? Who is buying your product? Where are they buying your product? What other products might you be able to sell to them? You should know your customers' profiles and you should be able to use that information to garner more sales.

Regardless of your political persuasion, you should be able to concede that the way presidential candidates will be marketed in the future is forever changed because of the success of Barack Obama's campaign. A Google search will yield a lot more information than what I've provided here. My message to you is; look for marketing tips wherever you can find them. In my view, the 2008 presidential election provides some nice case studies in marketing.

I welcome your feedback...

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