7 Marketing Lessons Businesses Can Learn From The 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign

By Bruce I. Newman, author of THE MARKETING REVOLUTION IN POLITICS:  What Recent U.S. Presidential Campaigns Can Teach Us About Effective Marketing

Donald Trump has catapulted over the heads of other candidates to become one of the leading figures in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign. His tactics, as well as those of the other candidates, reveal very important lessons that business can use. Part of this is because elections in the United States have morphed into full blown hi-tech marketing campaigns where image management, unique branding, and effective communication are keys to success. So what are the marketing lessons for  businesses?

Lesson # 1: Respond to Customer Needs and Wants: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s successes lie with their ability to tap into the discontent of American workers who have not recovered from the Great Recession, but give them hope for a future. Both are selling themselves to voters who believe that they have the leadership abilities necessary to become President. What do your customers most need and want from your  company?

Lesson # 2: Use Technology Strategically: One of the most interesting parts of the 2016 campaign has played out in social media between candidates and their followers, with each one relying on the latest platforms to get their messages out. All businesses today must rely on technology to understand, target, communicate with, and win over customers in the most expeditious way possible.  You need to use technology to interact with customers and be  responsive.

Lesson # 3: Integrate Research Methods: Whether it is Hillary Clinton responding to charges leveled against her as Secretary of State, or Donald Trump attacking his opponents one-by-one as they move up and down in the polls, their branding, communication strategy, and targeted advertisements all rely on research that reveals the pulse and mood of the voters. Polls by the media, professional polling organizations, and interest groups, as well as the candidate’s own organizations, are being used daily to shape their campaigns. You need to look at multiple sources, including customer data and sales figures, to determine your company’s  direction.

Lesson # 4: Develop a Unique Brand Identity: Which candidate in recent times has been more unique than Donald Trump?  Was it Ross Perot, or Ralph Nader, each of whom attempted the almost impossible feat of winning their party’s nomination? All successful businesses say their company’s products and services are better than the competition, but they can learn from Trump, who has reinforced an image that cannot be cracked and dismantled by even the most clever political minds in the  country.

Lesson # 5: Create a Winning Advertising Strategy: Two candidates are lagging so far in the campaign – Jeb Bush has not been able to convince voters he is a strong leader and Dr. Ben Carson cannot get voters to believe that he understands foreign policy. Neither have been able to stitch together a message and identity that is convincing. How have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump succeeded? Both have relied on a consistent advertising strategy that positions them as winners who will not back down to the most fierce attacks against them. The purpose of any advertising strategy is to build and reinforce the identity and image of a company.  Are the advertising strategies for your company’s products or services  winners?

Lesson # 6: Build a Relationship with your Customers: Look at how the candidates in 2016 have connected with their respective voter bases to keep them alive in the campaign.  Who would have known that Trump’s ranting and raving would serve him well?  Who could have forecast that Hillary would have sailed through the campaign so far, despite allegations about Benghazi?  The answer lies in their ability to hang onto their followers by hitting the hot button that resonated with them and stick with a campaign theme that has enabled them to cut through any attack on their character or ideas. By creating the right emotional connection with your customers, you can withstand the  competition.

Lesson # 7: Be Prepared to Engage in Crisis Management: Campaigns at the presidential level are effectively start-ups; in crisis-mode from the start; under constant attack from the competition; under pressure to stay focused on results.  Sound familiar?  It should. In business and politics, the challenge is extreme – you either win the vote or the sale, or you lose! In 2016, a candidate’s marketing campaign must be poised to alter their image and brand instantaneously and resort to strategic activities that could not be envisioned by the most seasoned marketing expert. Over the next several months the candidate whose organization remains the most nimble and flexible will have the best chance of success. Can your business turn on a dime to handle a  crisis?

There is a marketing revolution that has taken place in politics in this country, one where the old rules do not matter. Instead, a technological sea-change allows a candidate to go direct to the voter, the same way Amazon did an end-run around brick-and-mortar retailers and went directly to the customer. You must apply technology effectively, to ensure you are targeting your customers, as well as presenting your products and services in the best way  possible.


Bruce Newman, author of THE MARKETING REVOLUTION IN POLITICS:  What Recent U.S. Presidential Campaigns Can Teach Us About Effective Marketing (Rotman-UTP Publishing/ University of Toronto Press), is a professor of marketing and a Wicklander Fellow in Business Ethics in the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University and founding editor of the Journal of Political  Marketing.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.