Advertising The Next President

"Facts are irrelevant. What matters is what the consumer believes." - Seth Godin

"Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read." - Leo Burnett

"I don't know the rules of grammar. . . . If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular." - David Ogilvy


The power of advertising can never be overstated. This year business' will spend over $191 billion on advertising on all different platforms from TV, radio, print to the internet. Politics has always been compared to a fight. The marketing dollars spent to win show just how important advertising is.

From: The Economist - Mar 7, 2016 - The 2016 presidential campaign is no exception. It is reckoned that political candidates, parties, and outside groups will spend at least $5 billion on the 2016 election, more than double the cost of the 2012 campaign.


Political campaigns have increasingly been compared to marketing campaigns in which the candidate puts himself on the voters' market and uses modern marketing techniques, particularly marketing research and commercial advertising, to maximize voter "purchase." It is argued here that the very essence of a candidate's interface with the voters is a marketing one and always has been. Alleged differences between commercial marketing and political marketing are shown to be overstated.

That was written over 40 years ago by Philip Kotler, of Northwestern University (in a 1975 paper called 'OVERVIEW OF POLITICAL CANDIDATE MARKETING'), and is just as relevant today.

The Kennedy - Nixon election of 1960 is considered the first modern election determined by TV. People who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon won, but people who watched it on TV went for Kennedy. Since then, Presidential candidates have to be aware of how they sound on radio or look on TV, and all media.

John Kennedy was a good looking politician who carried himself well. People liked him and since 1960 he has been the idealized candidate that all politicians have been compared to. Political marketing was changed so much and the sound bites used so commonly in media became important. Candidates need to connect quickly with voters and much of that is marketing.

Candidates with good charisma have been the easiest to market. If you remember Bill Clinton with his 'I feel your pain' quote or Ronald Reagan telling people 'Government is the problem'. These are classic images that were really marketing moments that won them the election.

Political campaigns have used all types of media available to them to get their message out. It started with the newspaper 200+ years ago. In the 1930's FDR used the radio, the 1960's ushered in the TV and today Trump himself uses Twitter via social media and the internet.

Donald Trump has gained momentum all year because he is a known brand, and understands how marketing works. Hillary Clinton has struggled with her image because she is talking about her experience and competence, and this hits on a more cerebral level. Mrs. Clinton does not have great charisma, tie that with a message that does not have much emotion, and people find it hard to connect with her. Trump has good charisma, and goes right to the emotional card, so this current race is very close.  

Scott Adams of Dilbert (the comic strip) fame has been writing about this for months in his personal blog. He discusses it as a theme of 'persuasion'. He made a point about the way Trump speaks is very deliberate, and his supporters really feel he is talking to them.

There has been a major debate this political season about if candidates are lying, or playing too loose with their facts during campaign speeches. Each side is accusing the other on a weekly basis of lying. Then they attack the media for not covering their opponent's comments enough.

This misses the point of what marketing accomplishes and how candidates get votes. People make decisions often on emotion and will rationalize their decision later with some facts. If they like someone in politics, they will not be swayed so easily by accusations since they have an emotional connection and vested interest in that person.

Business (and political campaigns) have spent millions through the years on marketing to do just that. Give consumers an emotional connection with a product. Once this is done, it is very hard to change that perception. That is again why so much money is invested in political ads. The Washington Post offered a good interactive chart with more breakdown on political money.

It does not matter who wins or losses in 2016. This election will be talked about and studied for years to come. The first debate is expected to have record viewership of 100 million people. The lessons learned from it will be used in 2020, and even more money will be spent on advertising. The cycle will continue.







Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?