Welcome and thank you for stopping by the ICPM’s blog. It is indeed a pleasure for us to share with you some insights as to how political marketing works and what strategies are used to build a successful political campaign.

It is our goal that our readers become more aware and educated about this very important discipline which is used widely today by many successful campaigns but, oddly enough, is not particularly well understood by the public at large.

So, let’s get straight into the topic!

What is Political Marketing?

Political marketing has been described as the result of the union of two disciplines: political science and marketing (Lees-Marshment, 2014). As such, the field of political marketing may be defined as the art and science of applying product marketing strategies to political campaigns and candidates with a goal of creating unique political brands in order to have a competitive advantage over political rivals.

The art of marketing and creating brands have been around for a very long time and is something that is practised by almost every institution where consumer choice is involved. Whether it is a for-profit organisation like a university, businesses like Ford and Nike, or non-profit organizations like churches and NGOs, they will apply marketing strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Whether it is a for-profit organisation or non-profit organizations, they will apply marketing strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Political marketing essentially applies the same strategies as most businesses in marketing their products or services. Using the marketing process, strategy and marketing mix in developing a brand, political marketing strategy conveys the ideas and messages of the party in order to differentiate them, and thus have a competitive advantage over, rival candidates. In recent times we’ve seen campaigns use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, focus groups, polling, surveys and segmentation along with other tools to understand the pulse of the market and reach voters.

There are three general models being used today in modern politics which are responsible for determining the type of strategies needed to effectively position a political campaign:

  • Product Oriented Party (POP) This is a party or candidate which is primarily interested in ideology and principles. Their brand is generally not designed to be in line with the public consensus and therefore does not tend to engage in significant market research. An example of this would be the Green Party in the 2016 US campaign.
  • Sales Oriented Party (SOP) This type of party or candidate has a firm ideology and incorporates marketing and communication trends into their strategy to build an effective campaign. An example of this would be the US Republican party of 2008 and 2012.
  • Market Oriented Party (MOP)-This type of party or candidate develops their strategy by first studying what the market needs, understanding the pulse of the voters, and then building their campaign around those market demands. The Obama 2008 campaign is a very good example of this type of approach.

It is, in my opinion, that, with the rapid emergence and evolution of technology and social media within the last 10 years, that the most expedient model for a party to utilise should be the MOP (Market Oriented Party). Of course, this depends on the socio- political context of the country or region in which the political campaign is being run. Broadly speaking, however, campaigns such as those run by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 have demonstrated just how effective this approach can be.

Indeed, Donald Trump, who did not run his political campaign on a typical Republican platform, further showed the efficacy of the MOP strategy in providing a competitive advantage. His campaign understood what a large segment of the voter market was saying and developed a non- traditional Republican strategy to win the presidency.

I would like to add, however, that some degree of a POP (Product Oriented Party) approach could, for the purpose of having a firm ideology, build a wider coalition for a party or candidate depending on the demands of the local electorate. Some have argued that ‘voters want a bit of both’; a party willing to stick to its core and party that’s responsive to public opinion, using the appropriate trade-offs.

The Marketing Mix and How it Can be Applied to Politics

The marketing mix is comprised of a unique set of tools which are used in the business sector to deliver the overall business strategy of that firm. These tools are known as the ‘4Ps in marketing’ and are ‘product, price, promotion and place’.

As it relates to politics and political marketing, the marketing mix is used to deliver the overall developed strategy for the campaign. Below are examples drawn from Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign:

  • Product- The product for Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016 was the candidate himself. The Trump brand of ‘telling it like it is’, a television personality, along with his bravado and business success made his brand likeable to many voters. His strong rhetoric and ideological position that America needs to show strength in the world was also a product of his campaign.
  • Price- Staying with the Trump’s campaign, the price which the voters paid was psychological, in the sense that they were willing to put their hopes and aspirations in the hands of someone who had zero experience in politics and was promising something completely different. For many, this was a small price to pay when considering that the traditional politicians have not delivered in the past.
  • Place- In the case of Donald Trump, the traditional distribution method of the rank and file disseminating the candidate’s or party’s message was not on the side of Trump, as many of them were against him. However, he was able to use his surrogates on television, social media and in speeches on the campaign trail to deliver his message effectively.
  • Promotion- The slogans of Donald Trump and John McCain the 2008 presidential candidate were very similar with regards to making America great, however, Donald Trump was a far better orator and had a much stronger appeal and presence than McCain, being able to sway voters with his rational appeal. His ability to speak in a way that was relatable made his promotional effort more successful, especially following the debates.

Segmentation, Targeting, Differentiation and Positioning

In 2019 more and more politicians and political parties are becoming aware of the use of contemporary marketing tools and strategies in campaigning, especially after the remarkable 2008 US presidential elections, and are using these tools to connect more with their political base and potential new voters.

There are four market research tools that are used in political marketing to identify and attract voters:

  • Segmentation- This characterises the process by which the voter market is subdivided into various groups with identifiable or similar characteristics, i.e. age, gender, educational background, cultural and ethnic background, social and economic position etc. Many of these examples fall into four sub-criteria drivers which are: geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioural.
  • Targeting- Identifying which parts of the market to enter or not to enter as a matter of resource allocation, i.e. financial or human resources. As an example, if there are segments of the market that will vote for you regardless, then those particular markets would require fewer resources than ones that may tilt slightly one way or the other.
  • Differentiation- The described the creation of a winning brand or product that is distinguishable from competitors. This is similar to the way in which phone manufacturers use differentiation to better market their phones such that they outsell a competitor’s, such as a better camera, style or price. This same strategy is applied in political marketing.
  • Positioning- This is how a party or candidate, along with their brand, want to be viewed in the market by the voters. For example, in the US, the Democratic party is seen as a more liberal and sympathetic party that is more in touch with the average person and serves the poorer classes of people; so, they market themselves as such. Conversely, they portray the Republican party as one that fights for corporations and the rich and is detached from the voters.

We hope that you have enjoyed the information provided and welcome any comments or questions you may have. In an upcoming post, we will go even deeper into some of the major tools and drivers used by political marketing strategists to bring all of the above together.

Written by Daniel Caesar, co-founder of ICPM and CEO of supply chain firm, on 15.4.2019


Cynthia · 22. April, 2019 at 18:40

Kudos to the author for writting a fully explanatory yet concise article on what political marketing essentially is!

The breakdown of describing types of campaigns with real world examples allows the reader to draw an actual association to some political parties and candidates on their campaign styles.

A good inormative read.

Giaquinto34817 · 28. September, 2019 at 11:24

Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thnkx

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