2012 Presidential Marketing Strategy: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

According to an article I read today, Reno is at the “center of the political universe.” While I honestly can’t say whether that is true, one thing I do know is that I have reached my saturation point in terms of political advertising. Apparently, so has this little girl:

According to PBS news, political ad spending has doubled overall since the last election year, and in critical battleground states the numbers are more drastic. Total spending, including the campaigns and outside groups, has now climbed to $907 million, according to an NBC analysis of data provided by ad-buying firm SMG Delta, and is on track to surpass $1 billion! In Nevada, 55 million was spent on political advertising, making it the seventh most targeted state.

As marketers we must ask the question: is any of this really working? According to a Pew Research Center report just released this week, it’s not. In fact, in another survey conducted by Havas Media, findings indicated that “no one thinks the next president will make their life better.” This begs the question: if the point is to build personal brands and the overall positive perception of each candidate through marketing and advertising tactics, is the current overall strategy leading to the desired results?

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Presidential Marketing Strategy

Just yesterday I counted 16 pieces of direct mail relating to political advertising in my mailbox, which to me is an unacceptable waste of advertising dollars, not to mention trees. Below is an overview of the good, the bad, and the ugliest examples of marketing I’ve seen lately. What have you seen?

The Good

  • Blogs – Personal blogs are an excellent way for individuals to own their reputation and talk about what it is that matters most to them. For me, there’s no better communication tool than a blog when it comes to sharing political ideology. In this post, Andrew Bart compares findings from the two presidential blogs and what makes each stand out.
  • Debates – The presidential debates this year brought in a record number of views and spurred unprecedented activity with regard to mobile search and Twitter: more people tweeted about the debates than any other event in U.S. history.  According to this article, whether you’re a politician or an office worker, your personal brand matters if you want to maintain credibility. The presidential debates show that even the smallest elements, like articulation and body language, matter when it comes to promoting your best image.
  • Google+ HangoutsMy husband was recently asked to partake in a Google+ hangout with Obama, hosted by KRNV Channel 4 news in Reno. Until then I hadn’t realized the extent to which Obama was active on this platform. Google + hangouts are essentially a real-time, online video web conference that individuals can “join” and participate in live. Both Obama and Romney have participated in Google+ hangouts to host real-time conversations with various target audiences, which is excellent.
  • LinkedIn “Thought Leaders” – Within the past month, LinkedIn began offering its users the ability to subscribe to certain thought leaders, providing the opportunity for certain key thinkers to share posts on topics that matter to them, which subscribers can then follow.  Subscriptions are a natural fit for any politician wishing to establish him or herself  as a thought leader. According to this post, Obama and Romney are two of top five most followed thought leaders on LinkedIn. With 757,000+ followers, Richard Branson is currently the most-followed public figure on LinkedIn followed by President Obama, Deepak Chopra, Mitt Romney, and Arianna Huffington.
  • Third Party Endorsements – Whether it be a celebrity endorsement of a candidate such as Clint Eastwood’s endorsement of Romney, or an Op-Ed piece such as Bloomberg’s recent endorsement of Obama in the New York Times, endorsements are useful because they create additional influence, they bring in money, and whether they make sense or not, they get people talking. For fun, click here to see what celebrities are in support of Romney vs. Obama.

The Bad

  • Direct Email – In this post from Direct Marketing News entitled “Obama vs. Romney: The email faceoff,” when it comes to employing state-of-the-art email marketing techniques, the Obama and Romney organizations are both losers. While both of their web sites attempt to collect email addresses of visitors, the question is, are they using them properly?
  • Online Ads – According to a recent article from Media Post, the U.S. presidential candidates put a heavy focus on display, social and search ads during the first half of 2012. President Barack Obama spent $4.6 million on display advertising to get reelected — taking 87% share of impressions, compared with Governor Mitt Romney at about $300,000. But are these ads making much of an impact?
  • Promoted Tweets and Sponsored Posts – I haven’t been too happy lately seeing the sponsored posts and promoted tweets from Romney and Obama at the top of my Facebook and Twitter feeds, but I do commend their marketing teams’ ability for at least attempting to integrate with social media. Mashable recently talked about how the trend is backfiring here.

The Ugly

  • Direct Mail Overload – From an article last month in The Atlantic entitled “The Direct-Mail Poetry of Election 2012,” the author writes: “One day, all of the pamphlets I have, and all of the ones I will collect between now and November 6, will either be recycled or will help me start wood fires in my fireplace on the days when I can. Some of this garbage may make a difference in the races on which it touches. Some, no doubt, were as wasted on me, and on the related campaign, as all the other junk mail that comes.”
  • Door-to-Door Canvassing – I’ve had a handful of people stop by my house within the past few months to try and educate me about their politicians and/or to ask questions about the opinions of my household as they relate to our views on politics and certain key issues. This article provides a nice overview of the door-to-door canvassing that’s been taking place in Reno. The author talks about his experience: “The goal was simple, though the work wasn’t. Republicans urged Republicans to vote. Democrats urged Democrats to vote. Both sides tried to entice independents. In this good-against-evil campaign, they didn’t change many minds.” I can’t help but wonder if it’s the medium, and not the message that’s to blame in this case?
  • Horrible TV Commercials – According to this Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled “Obama and Romney prove overside ad budgets don’t work,” Obama’s and Romney’s marketing teams have approached advertising like an arms race, obsessed with matching each other dollar-for-dollar in TV airtime on a state-by-state basis. But is anyone really watching them? I for one completely tune them out.
  • Relentless Cold Calling – We’ve all received our fair share of cold calls from the various representatives of opposing political parties. With caller ID, does anyone even answer these calls anymore knowing exactly what you’re going to hear on the other end before you even pick up?

Now it’s your turn! What are some of the worst ads or marketing tactics you’ve seen thus far in this 2012 election season? What ads/tactics have had an impact on your decision to vote? Which ones have failed miserably? Does any of the advertising even matter?

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