Over the last 30 years of watching the intersection of politics with advertising and marketing, one thing is clear:
Candidates and causes that implement the most advanced direct response advertising and marketing strategies and tactics are the winners.
They generate the most funds. They help transform politics. They create winning candidates.
When I first started off in the advertising world, it was in political fundraising and candidate marketing.
What I learned then, versus what is taught today, was a completely different landscape of tactics and strategies. Dramatic changes. Surprising results.
But the basic principles are the same, because human nature – and the direct response marketing rules – don’t change.
The greatest game changing principle today: go and engage people where they are now.
Today’s political market has created new opportunities and choices.
The most advanced political direct marketing machine ever created was President Obama’s 2012 campaign. It transformed the way people will market a candidate or cause in 2016 and beyond.
For 2016, there are 17 important trends – surprising to many – that impact the political world today. Here they are:
1. Integrated Data – Just as the integration of direct marketing data has had a huge impact on the success of marketing for commercial products and services, so it is with the political advocacy and fundraising. That means that for the same select group that you’re marketing to, you use a combination of direct mail, email, Facebook newsfeed and retargeting to the same names – all with a dedicated landing page. Right now, I’m doing multiple campaigns using this strategy.
2. Database Building – Building your database and coding it properly is one of the primary and starting functions of a strategic campaign. Any consultant who does not understand these basic fundamentals of winning an election is marketing as if they were in 1990.
Building a database means more than using the voter file. In fact, it’s more than simply overlaying demographic, even psychographic, data.
At the basic level, it is identifying the demographics. It includes income, ethnicity and other data that will enhance the voter file, knowing the high propensity voters from the low propensity voters and their voting history. It includes adding additional polling information from the field. It means keeping it constantly updated. It means searching for the new move-ins and easy procedure. It means tracking people who have moved within the district. It means growing an email list of people who are persuadable and another email list of those who are supporters. It should be broken down between contributors, volunteers and lawnsigns. For fundraisers, it identifies high donors and low donors and what their issues are. It should be rich with data; their belief systems on abortion, marriage, economics, minimum wage, social security, what their highest response buttons are. These can be done through the field, going door-to-door, recording the messages and translating the data. These can be done through a survey, they can be done through petitions, they can be done through polling, they can be done through a variety of different sources to be able to build a rich dynamic database. To be able to integrate that database with multimedia campaigns of direct mail, email and phones becomes a very profitable and dynamic tool.
3. Multimedia Impact – In marketing to consumers or business, we know that multi-media does have a lift impact on response. So, with the proper data, you can utilize very select TV and radio buys, banner ads, and social media that actually raise the response rate for fundraising or helping your candidate. TV will lift response for mail. Facebook for email.
4. Microtargeting Markets – Internet and satellite radio can help target special niche markets. So can direct mail ads and other media.
5. Facebook Basic – Engage. Motivate. Activate. Carry on a deeper conversation. And, with objectives well defined, fill your townhall, raise your money and create an army of volunteers. Facebook will help you identify the right prospects with a variety of easy-to-use tools.
How are the presidential candidates doing now? Take a look at their likes:
- Ben Carson: 4.2 million
- Donald Trump: 3.9 million
- Rand Paul: 2 million
- Mike Huckabee: 1.8 million
- Bernie Sanders: 1.6 million
- Hillary Clinton: 1.5 million
- Ted Cruz: 1.4 million
- Marco Rubio: 1 million
- Carly Fiorina: 487k
- Jeb Bush: 284k
6. Facebook Niche Marketing – Facebook also has multiple ways of being able to leverage a campaign for specific targeting. For example, the political left uses Facebook custom lists to overwhelm elected officials, change policy by mobilizing support, and achieve success beyond its numbers because of the perception of overwhelming support or opposition.
With the custom list, you feed select, microtargeted emails into Facebook. They identify the target group members’ Facebook pages so you can have separate messages for: donors, volunteers, media, persuadables, prospects, etc.
7. The Email Evolution – Email has changed. Less hard sell, more relationship building. As mentioned in trend #1, our integrated approach will boost return. But email is more than just mailing in an integrated way as mentioned in trend #1. It should also be used where your goals and objectives are to build as large of an email list with as much data in it as possible to raise funds or move people to your candidate.
In business and consumer marketing, segmentation is critical to success. It’s even more so in politics. For candidates, you need at least to be able to know who your supporters are, who the persuadables are and who is a waste of time, money and effort.
8. Conversion Series – Auto responders make it easy to create a conversion series – 4 to 12 part series to develop relationships, overcome objections and achieve your objectives.
9. Social Media with an Objective – It’s great to use Tumbler, Instagram and other social media. But only spend the ad money if you have an objective. I’m still waiting to see how Obama and Netroots nation has figured it out.
10. Twitter – Twitter can be used to build a loyal following. I use it for multiple purposes – fundraising, recruiting, meetings and more.
So far, here’s how the 2016 candidates are doing:
- Hillary Clinton: 4.44 million
- Donald Trump: 4.42 million
- Joe Biden: 945k
- Marco Rubio: 893k
- Ben Carson: 729k
- Rand Paul: 695k
- Bernie Sanders: 642k
- Carly Fiorina: 587k
- Ted Cruz: 524k
- Mike Huckabee: 412k
- Jeb Bush: 331k
Incidentally, I have two Twitter accounts for politics, Craig Huey (@CraigHuey) and Election Forum (@RealityAlert).
11. Envelope Direct Mail – This election, the candidates are using direct mail. Some are using it poorly. Some are using it well.
Ben Carson, for example, is using it well. Note the personality, pre-canceled stamp, teaser – all great.
12. Bookalog – A bookalog looks like a book and feels like a book. But it’s really a sales piece, it can be used for persuasion, to undercut an opponent, to persuade the persuadables and help rally the supporters. It can be used to raise funds. It can be used to generate volunteers. A bookalog has 14 point type and 110 pages broken into chapters. It appears to be a regular book, but it’s written with direct response copy, and it has powerful results. It only takes me 6 weeks to write a powerful bookalog. All of a sudden, the candidate is now an author, all of a sudden, he has a persuasive, powerful tool that distinguishes him from the competition. Many candidates understand the principle, but books they write are pretty unreadable, without much purpose.
13. Magalog – A magalog is an infomercial in print. It looks like a magazine, feels like a magazine. It too can be created for different audiences and different purposes. With the magalog, you’ll have 16-24 pages of copy, pictures, cartoons, graphs and charts to be able to make your case and stand out from the opposition. It can be used for fundraising and persuasion, either to the voters or to the supporters.
14. Videolog – A videolog is combining the power of video with the power of direct mail. You open up an envelope and within it is a 4-page, thin letter. You open up the letter and the video will play; it can be 30 minutes, it can be 3 minutes, and it can be to any audience you want. Here is a link to full details of the videolog.
For high donor outreach, tools like the videolog are extremely powerful in treating high-end donors and supporters differently than anyone else.
15. Video – Video keeps changing and the opportunities to place videos in a variety of places keep changing. Most TV commercials by the candidates today are video. They can have a great viral impact and should be a major part of any campaign.
16. Landing Pages – One of the biggest mistakes any candidate can make is drawing people to just the general candidate site. What’s needed is a site for each segment they are marketing to that matches up to their marketing media message.
17. Telephone Outreach – The telephone is still a powerful tool. That’s why today, landlines versus cellphone data is essential. In the past, candidates and sometimes causes relied upon robo-calls. Robo-calls have a limited amount of benefit to the candidate or fund-raising campaign and certainly should be a tool to be tested. Probably more dynamic today is the telephone townhall. A telephone townhall for raising funds, motivating volunteers, talking to the persuadables, or talking to your support base is powerful. It’s easier to do and has more listeners than a webinar. Many in Congress under-utilize it today and very few campaigns utilize it. What happens is that every household that provides a telephone number gets a phone call. Those who answer are immediately placed into a live conference. Those who don’t answer receive a well-prepared, recorded message.
These are some of the latest and greatest media trends impacting the political world.
What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.