In 2020, Americans will go to the polls to vote for president in what could be the most anticipated, and hotly contested election of all-time. The same election cycle will also see 34 Senate seats up for grabs. In a divided nation, how can candidates win the trust of voters? And how can they leverage their supporters to become their greatest advocates? For 2020, political marketers need to think beyond Facebook ads, which have understandably been deemphasized by the platform and garnered a great deal of skepticism among consumers, given the questionable role these ads played in the 2016 election.
Interestingly, lessons from the revenue partnerships industry may hold some answers for political marketers looking to extend their reach for 2020. At the very least, its growth principles may offer a few lessons in how to efficiently gain ground in the most intensely contested races.
When we think of political advertising, we often think of those TV ads that end with, “I’m so and so, and I approve this message.” Traditional political campaign advertising media like TV have always garnered much higher ad spend than digital. In 2018, for example, according to Tech for Campaigns, TV spending was more than $9 billion, while digital was less than $700 million. By contrast, eMarketer reports that for the same period, total TV advertising was just ahead of digital spending, $115 billion for TV versus $109 billion for digital. Clearly, the political imbalance reveals a serious opportunity for campaigns looking for compelling and cost-effective media opportunities, and partnerships can help make them even more valuable and efficient.
Here are some of the key partner marketing tactics that can help win in the tightest of political races.
Leverage Digital Content Partnerships to Help Build Voter Trust
53 percent of voters say they learn about political issues via digital news outlets or apps, and 18 percent say it is via social media. Clearly, the digital ecosystem can enable a candidate to reach voters in places that are relevant.
Aligning with content partners that share in the mission and vision of a campaign is one way to make such connections on both rational and emotional levels. Once a campaign has determined the right blogs, digital publications, email newsletters, and other content outlets to partner with, they can take advantage of the flexible nature of digital content to refine messaging quickly.
Form Alliances with Digital Affinity Groups
Paying attention to the changing demographics of the electorate is a no-brainer. Speaking to growing voter populations about ways you want to improve their lives and the lives of their families will be vital in this election. Supporting and participating in digital affinity groups is a great way to find mutual benefit.
For example, Hispanics will make up 13 percent of eligible voters in 2020 (up from 7 percent in 2000.) Working together with digital affinity groups with a high composition of Hispanic members can be a powerful way to help change hearts and minds with regard to casting votes on election day.
Influencers Reign Supreme
It’s no secret that partnering with influencers is an extremely smart way to reach Generation Z, as well as Millennials. For brands, these groups represent billions of dollars in purchase potential. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z and Millennials prefer brands that express a social point of view and are purpose-driven.
These factors set up the perfect climate for political campaigns to leverage influencers. In the 2020 presidential election, one in 10 eligible voters will be members of Gen Z, meaning they will be between 18 and 23. The opportunity to use influencers keyed into the social issues that these young, predominantly first-time voters are most passionate about is not something to take lightly. All it takes is one message, shared by the right influencer(s), going viral to change the tide of an election.
Track Activity Throughout the Voter Lifecycle
Partner marketing has evolved from a last-click model to one that can reward partners for contributions at any point in the customer lifecycle. Sophisticated platforms have the capability to deliver attribution data at all points in the path to purchase. Similarly, voters can be viewed through a lifecycle that includes awareness, persuasion, activation, and referral. Political campaign managers can take a page out of the partner marketer’s playbook when it comes to aligning strategy to these points in the life cycle.
Partner marketers are using sophisticated technology to understand activity on mobile devices, whether in-app, email, mobile web, or a combination. Similarly, following voters’ paths to consuming content and messaging can indicate what campaign spend is working and where shifts can be made. Tracking across devices can also help with the delivery of messages that are interesting and resonate with each voter.
Harness Richer Data and Insights
During such a heated election, the ability of candidates to update and personalize messaging in real-time is crucial. Capitalizing on the richness of available data to drive this advertising is the way to win. This is another chapter in the partner marketing playbook that can be followed.
Partner marketers are very sophisticated users of customer data. Theirs is a model that can be used across political campaigns to understand voter intent and optimize their experience with all aspects of messaging. The campaigns that leverage this will undoubtedly see strong digital results across voter groups.
In 2020, every candidate will seek innovative new ways to make an impression on their constituents. Adopting these principles from partner marketing might be just the ticket to dominating on election day.
Miriam Tremelling is the director of marketing strategy and operations at Partnerize.