What can marketers learn from the 2016 election?

It’s been said that President Obama is the first true president of the digital age – due to his skillful harnessing of social media in campaigning, monitoring and polishing his presidential brand. In the 2016 presidential election, social media was used even more expansively – and the results included an even greater volume of passionate, and at times vitriolic, discourse.

Political campaigns, hashtag activism and million-user memes seem to drive nearly every conversation these days. Naturally, it’s got marketers wondering which of the strategies that we’ve seen during the campaign should be emulated in the commercial sector – and which should be avoided.

Alex Skatell's election marketing lessons
Alex Skatell, Founder of Independent Journal Review, says marketers should identify their audiences and watch closely for what interests them.

Early this month – prior to election day – industry experts in political marketing and strategy shared their thoughts at Rakuten Marketing’s inaugural Experience event in New York.

A matter of trust

Alex Skatell, Founder of Independent Journal Review, mentioned that public messaging, regardless of whether it emanates from church groups, sporting teams or any other type of organization, has undergone a major erosion of trust this year. For this reason, Skatell notes, users have tended to seek out individual journalists who they can trust, relate to and follow. And, he continued, people are looking beyond the ranks of professional journalists – to friends and family, where they can be exposed to other opinions before making decisions themselves. He suggested marketers identify their audiences and watch closely for what interests them.

Taryn Crouthers's election marketing lessons
Taryn Crouthers, Head of Sales & Partnerships at ATTN, recommends that marketers cull their messages to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Know your consumer’s passions

Taryn Crouthers, Head of Sales & Partnerships, ATTN, advised marketers to understand not only their consumers’ demographics, but their passion points, too, even if those are personal and only expressed privately, like political opinions.

To illustrate her point, she cited the example of tattoo culture, noting that nowadays one in five people have at least one tattoo and, despite that fact, many of them feel tattoo discrimination in the workplace. Body art may seem trivial or foreign to some, but to others it marks an outlook and lifestyle.

Marketers need to be constantly thinking about what matters the most to their audiences, Crouthers said. You can’t market to them if you don’t know who they are or if you miss the clues to the things that matter to them. But don’t oversell yourself or your brand, she added. To seem most authentic, cull down your statements and offerings to make your point effectively and efficiently.

Tim O’Toole's election marketing lessons
Tim O’Toole, Founder of Poolhouse, said the data you have is not as important as the way you leverage it.

The data you have is not as important as the way you leverage it

In an information society, it’s easier than ever to grab fast facts about your target audience. In an interview with Rakuten.Today, Tim O’Toole, who founded ad agency Poolhouse and worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 election campaign, discussed the fact that people sometimes intentionally miss important data points if they’ve already made up their minds to tune out a particular personality or product, as he believes happened unfairly to Romney.

During the panel, O’Toole said that while you might have access to unlimited data and endless information, the most crucial part is how you leverage and disseminate it. Knowing isn’t enough if you’re not utilizing every bit of information to your best advantage. Sharing doesn’t work if your audience isn’t receptive.

Nily Rozic's election marketing lessons
Nily Rozic, Assemblywoman, New York State

Don’t disregard long-form video

Nily Rozic, an Assemblywoman for New York State, said it’s virtually impossible to individually target everyone, since not all brands have the capacity to create massive amounts of content. Short-form video content is the current darling of the marketing industry and can be a cost-effective tool to reach your target audience. But don’t limit yourself, Rozic advised. “I want to dispel the notion that short-form is the best form of video,” said Rozic. She suggested taking as much time as needed to tell your client’s story. People will watch compelling content and they’ll share it – no matter the length.

In a presidential election, there can only be one winner. With marketing, though, if businesses take the time to understand their audiences and their passions, we can all build a winning track record.

Read more posts from the Rakuten Marketing Experience Conference here.

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