Political marketing is the process of creating, managing, and executing marketing campaigns that support the interests of a particular political or ideological group. It includes the use of persuasive communication to influence public opinion and achieve desired outcomes.
It usually involves running a lot of physical rally events for the political campaigns but in 2016 November, 8th – something happens and changed.
Trump won the presidential election campaign despite all odds stacked against him and goes beyond any political science or market research able to explain.
But we can’t help but wonder. How did Trump win the election in 2016 against Hillary Clinton, whom at that time is clearly the favourite to win it? Ever since, Donald Trump’s 2016 surprise victory, we’ve seen some big trends emerge during the election race – and it is not just in the US but around the Globe.
Primarily, there’s a huge emphasis on how great political marketing that make sure of digital marketing ranging from SEO, social media like Facebook advertising, content marketing & more. Candidates are starting to realize how important a solid marketing campaign is for the success of their election bid.
You’ve seen candidates post Twitter updates in place of traditional press releases, create short videos for social media instead of normal TV ads, and much more.
Why has this shift to digital marketing become so prominent?
Well, when you take a look around the world, you’ll see
We’ve identified a few of the main case studies where that elections have been won as a result of excellent marketing strategies.
Here they are below:
US: Donald Trump 2016
It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s 2016 election win was one of the most shocking and unexpected of all time. Nobody saw it coming, particularly when you compared his utter lack of political experience or competency with the other candidates.
So, how did he do it?
Effectively, it all came down to his digital strategy. As this data from Google shows, Trump dominated all candidates in searches throughout the election campaign. If you can get more people to search for you, then you’ll always raise awareness.
But, that’s not all, there were a few key areas that his digital strategy really focused on:
- Social Media
- Online Advertising
Trump himself admitted in an interview that Twitter won him the election rather than mass media. His team gave him full-control over his social media accounts, emphasizing authentic engagement with his followers. The aim was to create a persona that people could relate to – it seemed more natural than the typical jargon put out by other political candidates. This led to more engagement, and his social media following far surpassed Hilary Clinton’s at the time of the election. Just look at the style of the tweet below, and see how many impressions it made – this far surpassed anything his rivals produced.
How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted? https://t.co/gECLNtQizQ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
With online advertising, the Trump Campaign called upon Cambridge Analytica to provide all the data they needed. Here, they are able to do very specific market segmentation to be able to target specific audiences with attack ads on the other candidates. They specifically wanted to hit voters on the fence, using ads to sow seeds of doubt about Clinton.
Overall, it worked surprisingly well, and Trump went on to win the election that nobody saw him winning as it help to establish a sort of ” brand loyalty” to himself among his supporter.
Finland: Sanna Marin
Over in Finland, and we saw the election of the world’s youngest prime minister in 2019. At just 34 years of age, Sanna Marin fought off far more established opposition to become the leader of her country. It was seen as a victory for the youth, but how did it happen?
Again, she was heavily reliant on social media as the cornerstone of her marketing strategy. Like Trump, it was a case of making the audience feel like they’re connecting with someone different. Her tweets read like a regular citizen’s, making her far more relatable to the voting demographic in Finland. This makes it easier for people to engage with what she’s saying, which started to sow the seeds into the voter’s minds.
Sanna Marin also used her blog to excellent effect. Unlike other candidates who released press releases or made formal declarations, she took to creating a great website design and from there use her blog to express views on various topics. Again, it’s a great example of knowing your target audience. She wanted to get young voters on her side as she believed this was the best way to defeat the competition. Based on the fact that she won, it clearly had the desired effect.
Ukraine: Volodymyr Zelensky
Arguably the strangest election result of all time came out of Ukraine last year. To the Ukrainian population, Volodymyr Zelensky was a TV personality that was seen on small screens every single day. He was a comedian but ended up with a staggering 73% of the votes.
So, how did someone with no political background at all end up winning a landslide election? Unlike any of the other examples on this list, Volodymyr didn’t do any campaigning or hold any rallies at all. He was entirely virtual – all of his tactics took place online.
Instead of holding town hall debates, he uploaded short videos on YouTube and Instagram. These videos racked up millions of views, gaining him so much attention. Video blogs were used to convey his key messages, and he didn’t even bother with a proper campaign website.
By making everything digital, it made him more accessible and relatable to most of the voting public. He played on the idea that modern people are impatient and have short attention spans. What’s more likely to get someone’s attention and drive points across; a four-hour rally or a ten-minute video? As his rivals soon found out, the latter option worked a lot better.
Zelensky won his election by playing to the trends of the masses. He realized that we live in a digital and virtual world, so he planned his campaign in those worlds and avoided public appearances.
UK: Boris Johnson 2019 Election
In the UK, Boris Johnson followed in the footsteps of good pal Donald Trump to win an election that he really had no right to win. Both the Labour and Conservative parties conducted an all-out war across social media during this campaign. It formed the central part of everything Johnson and his team did. They put out online videos that targeted Labour policies and politicians all the time.
The strange thing about this victory is that it felt like Labour was dominating the digital channels. They certainly saw more searches than the Conservatives, but Johnson won because of how his team marketed the election. As mentioned, they zoned in on all the weak points of the Labour government. The following tweet is a prime example of that. It saw the second-most engagement out of all tweets during the election campaign.
❌ Every week that Labour delays Brexit will cost Britain another £250 million.
That’s enough to train 5,000 nurses. 👨⚕️👩⚕️ pic.twitter.com/cfJrKk6wts
— Conservatives (@Conservatives) September 12, 2019
All in all, the Tories were smart with their digital strategy as they switched the attention of themselves and their policies and onto the competition. Clearly, it had the effect they were hoping for.
Taiwan: Tsai Ing-Wen
This was another very interesting example of marketing swaying an election that looked to be heading in one direction and veered off into another.
Tsai Ing-Wen looked set to lose her election and concede power to a rival that favored unification with China. Instead, she used a clever digital strategy to drive voters to her side. In essence, she marketed her campaign around one key topic; China. She used the example of Hong Kong to essentially scare voters into thinking that’s what will happen if they let China rule over them. It didn’t go down well in Beijing, with many Chinese media outlets slamming her ‘dirty’ tactics.
Of course, there was nothing wrong with what she did. She took to social media and published videos and content that focused all the attention on avoiding unification with China. By rallying around this significant issue, she found common ground with many voters and won the election with a record of 8.17 million votes, representing 57.1% of the popular vote.
This is the highest vote share won by a DPP candidate in presidential elections.
In 2016, the Philippines presidential election broke records for having the highest turnout ever – 82%. But, it will always be remembered as the first social media dominated election in the history of the country.
Rodrigo Duterte ended up winning, despite having a less than favorable reputation. How did he do it? One word; Facebook.
There’s a very detailed analysis of how Duterte won the election on Facebook by New Mandela, so you can check it out after if you want the long version. For now, all you need to know is that he targeted a support base that dominated the Facebook airways. Most of his supporters used this platform, so that’s where he made most of his announcements and produced all of his content.
The result? More shares and engagement than his rivals, more Facebook followers, and a place in history as the first president of the Philippines to win the social media election race.
USA: 2020 Democratic Elections
This brings us nicely back to 2020. The Democratic nominees have all been trying to implement digital marketing strategies to help them win the election and become the main threat to Donald Trump. We’ve selected a few of the contenders that utilized digital marketing better than the rest.
While he may have dropped out of the race, Andrew Yang was at the forefront of the digital revolution. He had a very strong presence across social media and even ran with the #YangGang hashtag to generate a following. His digital-centric approach took him from a complete nobody to someone that people were paying close attention to. Even the creator of Twitter jumped on board with the hashtags!
Really sad Andrew is dropping out. He’s an incredibly authentic person who was focused on solving the big existential problems facing the world. Thank you Andrew for bringing universal basic income back into the national conversation. It’s well overdue. #yanggangforever https://t.co/hwdeXSPba0
— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) February 12, 2020
By comparison, Bloomberg took an entirely different approach. His campaign is spending around $5.4 million on Google Ads. So much so that the Washington Post estimates they create 30,000 Bloomberg ads a minute. Clearly this generates lots of attention for his campaign. It’s enabled him to skip out on the early rounds entirely, rocking up to recent debates on the back of his heavy ad spending. If you can afford to, this proves that online advertising has the power to put you right in the thick of it even if you enter the race late.
The youngest candidate in the race is marketing himself in a different way to everyone else. While others point out his youth and inexperience as flaws, he’s marketing them as positive things. A lot of Buttigieg’s advertising videos and online content calls upon his youth as a key selling point – you want someone young to lead the country into the future, not an oldie, right? He also covers for his lack of political experience by pulling on experience from other aspects of his life. It’s generated a positive response from many voters, and he’s someone a lot of people are interested in.
Excellent marketing strategies are shaping the world around us. Elections are dependent on digital campaigns that call upon social media, YouTube, Google ads, and more. These examples have shown that they can help relatively unknown individuals win big elections and it definitely shakes up the political world. But, this is just the beginning, expect digital marketing tools to be used more and more by political parties after 2016 Trump’s surprising victory.