As a marketer, I have the same feeling about the presidential campaign season that many people have about the Super Bowl – it’s all about the ads. And, like those infamous half-time ads that the public loves to discuss and critique, candidate advertising can be strategic and clever … or downright shocking and misleading.
Either way, presidential campaigns continue to evolve in scope and sophistication. The candidates themselves are now super brands, and these brands adopt strategies and tactics similar to those of the mega consumer brands out there.
While the 2012 campaigns are just getting underway, the initial media push raises many questions as to how these marketing strategies and tactics will play out – and how effective they will be come November. Here are some of the top issues that come to mind:
What will be each candidate’s brand promise – and how will they deliver on that promise? We all know that Barack Obama promised “change” the first time around. Right now, much of his messaging is focusing on “truth” and asking the public to remember how far we’ve come. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has adopted the tagline “Believe in America,” focusing on restoring our strength at home and abroad. The story that will resonate most with the American public will be the one that is told in an authentic voice – one that provides specific reasons to believe in the claim. Today’s brand-savvy public can detect when a brand promise is overstated.
Will negativity prevail? If the current ad landscape is any indication of the rest of the campaign, negative ads will rule the airwaves. Right now, seven out of 10 presidential ads have been negative. Compare that to 2008, when fewer than one in 10 ads were negative at this point in the campaign. What effect will this have on the candidates’ brands – and will there be a public backlash to all the negative content? A recent Wesleyan Media Project study shows that while negative ads are more memorable, positivity has as large of an impact. It will be interesting to see when the issues become the focus rather than “the other guy’s mistakes”.
How will social media shape the campaigns? In 2008, the Obama campaign successfully harnessed the power of social media and embraced citizen journalists and bloggers. He even announced Joe Biden as his running mate on his social platforms before he addressed the mainstream media. This close connection and access helped his supporters create a bond with his brand. How will the Romney campaign adopt and utilize social media this time around? Will it be an effective marketing tool to reach his constituents? We shall see – at the time of this post, @MittRomney had 489,580 followers. @BarackObama? 15,139,006.
What effect will the 24/7 information cycle have on the American voter? Does today’s nonstop flow of information result in a better-educated voter, or one who is desensitized and overexposed? It will be interesting to see how the candidates harness the power of continuous news. As a recent Inc.com article discussed, this is where marketing best practices like search engine optimization will come into play. If the candidates can strategically take control of both their negative and positive press, they may be able to take control of the race.
How big is the budget? Now this is where the numbers get staggering. As I write this, total political ad spending has already reached $114.9 million. Mitt Romney leads the pack with $14.5 million, followed by Obama with $3.8 million and Ron Paul with $3 million. And the numbers will simply skyrocket from here. How much are the candidates willing to spend to preserve their brand image – and who will end up with the ultimate ROI … the title of President of the United States?
I look forward to watching the progress of the campaigns as they develop, shift and expand – and sharing those thoughts with you this fall when these strategies and tactics go into full swing. In the meantime, share your thoughts on the current political campaign trends and happenings. Like what you see? Disagree with the strategies? Leave your comments below or email me to discuss.
- Four ways to turn your passion into a social movement (thepitagroup.com)
- Strategy Sit-Down: Creating an online game that drives offline action (thepitagroup.com)
- Five reasons to consider a Facebook app over a microsite (thepitagroup.com)