May the Best Marketer Win: Strategies from the 2016 Election

The next president of America has been declared, but conversations are still circulating regarding the campaign. Donald J. Trump’s unpredictability and lack of “political correctness” drew a lot of attention during the election. While, Hillary Clinton past infractions seem to never diminish. Despite, the question that has been centripetal in these conversations is how did a billionaire businessman with no previous political experience win the presidency? One answer – the best marketing team won.

A successful campaign is a reflection of in-depth market research and strategy. The candidates enact the same business plan as companies use to sell a product, except they are selling hope. Candidates must address the audience’s mindset with the perfect mix of logic, emotion, and empathy for the audience to believe in them. The candidate then must find the perfect strategy to deliver this message to the public. However during the 2016 presidential election, candidates utilized a mixture of traditional and non-traditional marketing strategies.

Both of candidates started their campaign in traditional manner by selecting a campaign slogan, but these slogans struck very different tenures with the American people. Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was controversial but catchy. His slogan set the tone for the rest of his campaign, as he mentioned repealing some historical proceedings such as Roe v. Wade. This appealed to his followers who believe America was better before these preceding. Trump’s slogan also subtly alluded to returning to Republican authority after eight years of a Democratic president.  Whereas as Hilary’s slogan “I’m with Her” represented a historical event were women and men across the country vowed to elect the first female president. Clinton established an emotional appeal through her slogan, that continued through her campaign. She continued to gain her followers through emotionally charged video on her social media channels addressing verbal attacks on women. This video emphasized her goals of gender equality and “breaking the glass ceiling” for women in politics.  

Clinton and Trump both attempted to attract followers through personalized and unique approaches on social media platforms. Nowadays nothing sells without a social media footprint and political campaigns are not exempted. Hillary Clinton used multiple platforms to expand her audience. She used Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest, which were not popular platforms for the Trump campaign camp. The Clinton campaign wanted to build a personal connection with their audience by sharing everyday images such as Clinton’s family photos and videos from Clinton’s campaign headquarters. This tactic was used to increase Clinton’s relatability with the public, which is a traditional approach.  In contrast, Trump was not focused on making an emotional connection with the public, but instead using his business skills to present an improvement plan to the American people. Trump’s marketing strategy was rooted in the “any publicity is good publicity” principle. This is apparent in his perfectly timed controversial Twitter posts, which were  then disseminated on other media outlets. Whether negative or positive, this drew attention back to Trump. Trump harnessed this energy and made both the public and the media focus on these moments more than his political stance.

Another marketing strategy that both candidates used was endorsements. Since Hillary Clinton had political experience, she took a traditional route and enlisted multiple celebrity endorsements. Hillary Clinton brought along pop stars such Katy Perry and Beyonce to perform for her rallies and attract the youth vote. She interviewed multiple times on the infamously candid radio show The Breakfast Club to increase her popularity in the African American community. Clinton even earned an endorsement that aired on prime time Thursday night television from executive television producer Shonda Rhimes. However, Donald Trump’s campaign took a  different route. He needed powerful political figures and business professionals to support him because he lacked political experience. Clinton wanted to appeal through popularity, while Trump needed powerful representatives to ease any concerns about his lack of experience. His endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich were pivotal in Trump’s campaign because it illustrated that seasoned political figures would support the non-traditional candidate.

Ultimately, Hillary Clinton’s traditional campaign route did not supersede Trump’s fiery message of “Make America Great Again.” Trump was able to successfully divert the media and public attention to himself through his marketing methods, which encouraged constant conversation about his latest tweet or speech. Trump’s success also illustrated that the American people have grown accustomed to tradition. In order to gather their vote, candidates must find a way to stand out from the crowd. In four more years this campaign will be far behind the American people, but we may see a new era in marketing strategies inspired by it.

 

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