John, Barack, Joe and Sarah … Marketing Prophets

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ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Since Bill Clinton went from being a pot smoking, draft dodging, womanizing governor of a small state beginning with the letter ‘A’ to becoming the 42nd president of the United States, I have been a believer in and a follower of political marketing. If you think of where America was in 1991, with the first President Bush’s approval rating of 89% at the end of the Gulf War, Governor Clinton’s victory less than 18 months later was a marketing miracle. One could say the same of Karl Rove’s marketing accomplishments for the second Bush president.So what lessons can we learn from the current presidential election campaigns that we can apply to our clients’ campaigns?

1. Digital marketing works – Though we all know and believe that digital marketing works, which is why we have chosen to work in digital marketing, the reality is that in a lot of product categories, less than 2% of marketing budgets are being devoted to digital marketing. We have to create case studies to show current and prospective clients the impact that digital is having on the current election campaign. We then need to translate these case studies into actionable programs for our clients to use to attain their marketing goals.

2. Use video – If there is one online marketing vehicle that both campaigns are using effectively, it’s video. Before the end of the first presidential debate, Senator McCain’s team had already edited and uploaded a video of Senator Obama agreeing with Senator McCain and his policies with a video that was fast, effective and on message (and I don’t expect to hear Senator Obama saying that he agrees with Senator McCain in the following debates).

Beyond user-generated content, there are ways we can use video in order to further our clients’ objectives. Why not upload a video explanation of your product as a link the next time you issue a product press release. What about having your technical support or customer service teams create videos to better explain how to install your product? Today, it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to create videos that will help support your sales and marketing objectives.

3. The best defense is a good offense – Karl Rove made defense the center of his offensive tactics on the way to two presidential victories for the second president Bush. But this is one tactic that must be evaluated carefully before being implemented as part of your marketing strategy. What works in a political campaign (think Swift Boats) might get you booted from your industry’s trade shows for unreasonable conduct.

In addition, some tactics which appear successful internally to your management team end up failing in a real market test. It’s easy to understand why Senator McCain wanted to stop campaigning in light of the financial crisis, but he ended up doing more harm than good when he finally went to the debate without having anything to show for his two days of non-campaigning (and a week before Congress ended up passing the bill he was supposedly working towards while non-campaigning).

There is still some time left in the current election campaign, and I’m sure we’ll learn a few more marketing lessons (personally, I think we’ll see a homerun for the McCain / Palin team if they let Governor Palin host ‘Saturday Night Live’, but we’ll have to wait and see).

Let’s watch and listen to see what we can learn and implement with our clients though November 4th.

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