Digital marketing needs businesses to continually reevaluate their strategy and adapt to new technologies. In today’s digital world, intertwining traditional marketing practices of print media and television ads with digital advertising and promotion has become the key to success. If done right, it has the capability to promote desirable action and change the consumer’s behavior. Trump winning the presidential election proved that digital marketing is crucial even in a presidential election.
The first step towards a successful campaign is to find the right digital strategy that resonates with your consumer base. This can be a challenging undertaking. In electoral campaigns, understanding who will vote for the candidate and why they would do so is instrumental and such is the case for brands too. For both brands and electoral candidates, all activities are designed to revolve around the 3Cs: Catch, Connect and Close.
There are 10 key strategies which electorate campaigns teach us that should be leveraged while planning a digital strategy.
1. Understanding Consumers
Consumers or voters can be divided into three groups:
a. The candidate’s base - This resonates with the current consumers and prospective buyers for consumer brands. We know these consumers have tried our products or have an inclination towards the brand. Hence, the message given to consumers needs to focus on consolidation, upselling and building loyalty.
b. The opponent’s base - This is equivalent to consumers using competitors’ products. The effort and strategy to influence this consumer segment would be different. The message, for example, needs to be more focused on why your brand is better than the competitor that the consumer is currently using. Knowing the pain points of each of the competitor will help target them with effective messaging.
c. The undecided voters - They are similar to Point of Market Entry consumers who are yet to decide on their brand or product. This is the vulnerable consumer segment who are receptive to information and need a reason to trust any brand. Talking about jobs for example to attract young population or, like the Trump campaign’s take on coal mines to win over undecided voters is a good messaging approach to influence the undecided voters.
2. Historic Analysis
Past election results and survey research make it possible to determine who falls into each of the groups mentioned above. Data from surveys, market research and sales data are some information sources to understand the consumer segments for a brand. Based on the campaign objectives and the defined consumer segments, data needs to be analyzed. Test and run campaigns are focused on short campaigns that can be run to test the markets and get the pulse of the market. This could help determine the consumer segment and define the appropriate message for consumers.
3. Logical Targeting
It isn’t possible, nor is it necessary to get everyone’s vote to win an election. However, it is important to define the target segment for a campaign and keep it focused. Choosing your battles is vital in businesses or in an election. Diluting the focus spreads the campaign budgets thin and could potentially have a negative impact on the conversions. Once a strategy has been identified, campaigns should direct resources to critical groups of potential leads, in order not to waste time or money. Similarly, campaigns need to be focused with a set objective and goals and it is necessary to ensure the campaign never deviates and dilutes on the message.
4. Market Signals
The key starting point would be to define the voter goals and vote targets for the election and this can be defined based on historical data, market surveys across different regions and so on. Market research also helps in defining the turnout - the minority parties that could have an impact, does the election coincide with the presidential election (which would result in higher turnouts) and the probable number of swing votes. Surveys and focus groups that are representative of the population can help in estimating the swing votes. The same rules apply for consumer brands. For each campaign, the first step would be to define the goals of the campaign which is to determine the key success criteria and the performance indicators to be tracked during this campaign. This helps in active monitoring of the campaign performance which will help optimize the media spends for the campaign. Running focused and short-term test campaigns can help get the test data for analysis and in-turn help to optimize the campaign and also launch the campaign at a larger scale.
5. Resource and Planning
Running for office is a tedious task. It needs a lot of time and effort to run a successful campaign and even more to keep up with the made promises and hold office. The availability of financial resources and optimal planning of these finances is essential. Timing is equally crucial to know the perfect time to run. Donald Trump running for election is a classic case of how he chose the perfect time to burst on to the political arena. For digital campaigns, finances and timing are equally important. The content strategy needs to align and resonate with the target market and also needs to complement the current thought process of consumers. An environmental sustainability-based campaign would be perfect during this time in the U.S. when consumers see change in the weather patterns. For instance, free Uber boats after floods is a subtle and effective way for building the brand equity. Programmatic marketing can help in optimizing the media spend and it is important to define the digital advertising channels and review on a regular basis to optimize the spend.
6. Data-Driven Content
Electoral candidates must decide their position on key issues, especially the ones that matter to the voters and as a thumb rule, need to ensure that the stance doesn’t change in order to gain the trust of their constituents. The message needs to be clear and focus on resolving their main issues. Perfect content should start with data. It is the art of translating this data and creativity to present the message that gives the best results.
Gerrymandering is the political strategy of redefining the district borders to strategically divide the population and gain an advantage in the elections. Keeping the ethics and politics aside, this is very much a numbers’ game to ensure the ruling party wins in the majority of the districts. This analytical approach is something brands need to leverage in this digital world. Not every consumer is the same even within a segmented demographic and conversion of every consumer is not a possibility. Hence, concepts of hyper-personalization play a critical role in drawing the lines in the digital arena to define ‘what’ message and content is fed to ‘what’ consumer segments. Baseball enthusiasts, for reference, would need to be given a differently targeted advert as compared to skiing enthusiasts.
Phil Bredesen received substantial support for the Senate race from singer Taylor Swift, someone who has always stayed away from politics. This took the media by the storm and resulted in free and more importantly, positive PR. Influencers have become a critical element of digital marketing. The right influencer, not necessarily always a celebrity, can bring credibility and trust to the brand. Utilizing regional influencers with a substantial following and resonating well with the brand equity, enables localized and targeted marketing with higher conversion possibilities.
This is one of the many things Trump's campaign taught us about digital marketing. While Hillary Clinton’s campaign had 66,000 different ads on Facebook, Trump’s campaign had nearly 5.9 million different ads running on Facebook during the last leg of the campaign! It all boils down to the right content and timely push of the content to the right target consumers with the message they resonate well with.
10. Central Budgeting and Strategy
Central budgeting and strategy are other aspects that Trump’s presidential campaign has taught us and was instrumental to his victory. They followed a central message and budget strategy. All channels worked in unison - digital, print media, television ads and even door to door campaigning. This made sure the message was never diluted and maintained consistency. Keeping practicality and facts aside, when Trump spoke about building a wall, all channels of communication were focused on the need for a wall, that created fear about the consequences of not having one. Majority of the brands today have a separate digital marketing team which works more in solution than in unison with the marketing and sales team; thereby, inhibiting the ability to push the right content to a large audience.
Despite not being a Trump follower or a believer of his message, there is plenty that can be learned from his success. The main reason for Trump's success in his presidential campaign was his digital marketing team’s art of translating data to content. Most of the brand and electoral campaigns allow creative agencies to create content and data scientists or analysts to build audiences, resulting in decision making silos which drive repeated failure.
What is your take on marketing industries taking inspiration from successful electoral campaigns?
- Adage.com. (2018). Trump's campaign said it was better at Facebook. Facebook agrees. [online] Available at: https://adage.com/article/digital/trump-campaign-facebook-facebook-agrees/312974/ [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].
- Birnbaum, E. (2018). Justice Department says businesses can discriminate against transgender employees. [online] TheHill. Available at: https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/413062-justice-department-says-businesses-can-discriminate-against-trans [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].
- Chester, J. and Montgomery, K. (2018). The role of digital marketing in political campaigns. [online] Internet Policy Review. Available at: https://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/role-digital-marketing-political-campaigns [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].