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The Political Marketing
Politics Now in Canada and the USA
What It Is: Political Marketing
 Market orientation
 Product development
 Branding/position/segmentation
 Voter as consumer
Why Political Marketing ?
 Explains the way in which parties and other political
entities behave
 In response to social and technological change.
 It fits the consumerist values we have
 It fits the lifestyles people have
 It is easier to figure out how to reach the right people
and what those people are concerned about than it has
 Reaching the right people is the trick
 The current moment is one of niche narrowcasting,
lifestyle communities and discussions within segments
To Be Clear
 Advertising is a key part of marketing but not all of it.
 Marketing includes the overall strategy to design and
sell the product.
 Including paid and earned media but a lot more.
 The product or offering is the party’s candidates,
manifesto and emotions
 The position is the space that the product holds in the
customer’s mind
 The brand is the visual and emotive representation of
the product to the audience
Providing an Incentive
 For political entities to market themselves and their
wares much as do other entities.
 In this, they reflect the society, the technology and the
politics in which they exist as much as they shape that.
 This is a global phenomenon, not just happening in
North America or the United States. See for Example
Lees-Marshment 2011.
 Consultants and partisans learn from each other on a
cross-national basis
 John Howard’s “Aussie Battlers” used in Canada by the
Conservative Party to describe some of its audiences
 The third way used in the USA, Canada and the UK by
Clinton, Chretien and Blair respectively.
 “Hope and Change” became very popular globally after
 The Commonsense Revolution has been launched in
multiple places around the globe.
 Understanding the audience and the marketplace
become vital to building an effective political marketing
 A great deal of emphasis on polls and focus groups.
 To determine effective visuals, language, narrative and
policy priorities
 And what works with which audiences.
 Much more noise than in the past . Reaching the right
audience is more difficult than it once was.
 Many more channels. The proliferation of new
distribution channels makes hitting the right targets
more difficult than in the past.
 Citizens have longer commutes and work hours than
once was the case.
 I can opt out of the political nation and join Leafs nation
or build my world around family/work more easily than
in the past. Less social connection
Social Disconnection
 The party as a membership organization is in trouble
across North America
 More independents pay less attention means that
marketing in general and branding in particular
increase in importance
 They are key tools to build voter awareness of
candidates and platforms
 CDN parties always have a marketing imperative that
their US counterparts don’t: they have to sell
 The dominant values of the age are consumerist.
 The public expects packages, promotion and significant
choice in everything else.
 When did consumerism become our values ? Gradually,
during the last century.
 As Nimijean has argued, the politics of the age are neoliberal meaning that fights are over means not ends.
 Brand battles sharpen distinctions and generate interest.
One Way To Think of All This
 An ongoing conversation between an organization and
its audience targets that includes a campaign and
 Loyalty isn’t build all at once. It can take a while of
showing people why what was promised works as
advertised, that those promises made were kept and
that taking a next step would be a good thing to do.
 The idea of a campaign is to have a plan about that
That Includes
 Products
 Personality
 Positioning
 Brand
 Communications Plan
 Audience Targets
Product Definition
 Politics is about definition in a couple of ways
 Define yourself
 Define your opponent
 Both in terms of the party leader and
 In terms of the brand
Party Leader/Face
 Inextricably linked with the brand in Canada.
 This is the same in the USA when a party occupies the
White House but is more nebulous for the opposition
 Can also sell the leader as being like average people
 Both CDN and USA political parties sometimes do this
and they sometimes sell other personal traits about the
leader like attending an Ivy League University or being
a business owner.
 Or sell values such as empathy or strength.
 Campaigns talk about themselves
 Campaigns talk about their opponents
 Opponents talk about themselves
 Opponents talk about their rivals.
 In the USA, this strategic grid has four spaces and in
Canada it can have four but also up to ten.
The Political Equivalent
 Of educating the consumer about what the offering is
on a given party’s side
 Versus the offerings of rivals.
 One difference is that the battle is more existential than
over market share a lot of the time in politics but
 In a multi-party system like Canada’s, it can be over
market share as well.
 What space do you want occupy in the mind of the
consumer ?
 Generally, somewhere nearer the center is better in
politics but the marketing challenge is
 The center can shift and political types can’t shift with it
all the time if they want to retain overall authenticity.
 Authenticity – the perception of being what one says
one is in marketing.
The Brand
 The total user experience with the product according to
 The image, slogan, music and values supporting a
 The brand needs to fit the product’s features and
benefits but also resonate with its target audience.
In The USA
 USA Republicans have used the Reagan/Conservative
brand since 1980 as one
 Plus the Lincoln heritage has merged with the
Reagan/Conservative one
 And the elephant is still around
 As is an emphasis on tradition
Reagan Heritage
The Elephant
Tea Party Flag
All of which
 More or less work together to build a narrative that is
visually and emotively coherent
 Put the Republican Party in a specific place in the mind
of the prospect
 Provide a specific set of emotions and understandings
to the audience targets
The Democrats
 The Dems are much more muddied. Sometimes it is
Obama, sometimes it has been the Congressional
leadership but it isn’t consistent and this is why their
messaging isn’t consistent.
Or The Kicking Donkey
The First One
 Clearly ties to Obama
 But also looks like a target as one wag put it and
 What happens if Obama loses ?
The Second One
 Ties to the Democrats’ heritage.
 They’re called the Donkeys
 The donkey logo has serious equity
 Changing to the newer logo visually throws all this
away but it clarifies that the D’s are the party of Obama
 There are still individual Obama logos selling him not
the party
 This is far less coherent narratively and visually than
what the Republicans have done but they’ve also been
doing it for longer
 Thus, the muddling of the Democratic Brand continues
The 2012 Version
Canadian Parties
 Use the logo as a key part of the brand
 And are aware that they are doing so.
Electoral Promise/Positioning
New Democrats
 Absolutely own their colors consciously.
 This is different from the USA in which the media
imposes more color discipline than do the parties.
 Fonts can also send messages but the fonts have
changed over time here.
 A picture really is worth a thousand words
 The visuals associated with a brand can be the key
vehicle through which its contents get distributed.
Example I
Example II
Example III
Example IV
 Can be a key conduit to transfer the brand value
 Two Canadian examples: “Forward Together” Ontario
Liberals and “Here For Canada” Conservative Party of
 Two US: “ Change We Can Believe In” and “Together
We Can”
Key US/Canada Difference
 Canadian Parties are more limited in the heat they can
put in their brand/ads
 They cover this in other parts of the ads
 US parties can be much hotter visually and in the
verbiage than can their Canadian counterparts
 As Westin has shown in the US case, much of the way
people experience politics is emotional not analytically.
 The emotions that similar ideological parties work with
around the globe seem the same.
 Thus, the emotions that a party can work with in a
specific setting are limited by what the audience will
respond to.
 Things that might work well in a federal election might
not work so well in a provincial one because the
audience demography is different.
 In the era of niche narrowcasting, the emotions that
might activate one group could outrage another.
 Ontario Provincial Election 2011
 Conservative Party of Canada campaign 2011
 New Democratic Party campaign 2011
 Both USA and CDN parties freight train their paid and
earned media
 The USA parties have a less regulated electronic
media that they can use as well.
 For Republicans: Fox News and talk radio
 For Democrats MSNBC, a smaller talk radio segment
and social media
 Prominence is given to TV coverage and paid electronic
 The talk radio is more regulated
 The value of social media was debated within parties.
 There is Sun TV but that’s as much branded infotainment as
it is a part of a partisan distribution system.
 The distribution system seems smaller and more diffuse
Audience Targets
 The goal is to reach the right audience and turn it out
for both USA parties for example.
 This is called segmentation and it is possible because
of the proliferation of instruments that collect data about
 And digging deeper than that, by looking at all of the
things that a consumer purchases a political marketer
can build a profile of the most likely consumers for the
EG: For Both USA Parties
 The goal is to turn out specific audience segments in
big numbers.
 Dems- visible minorities, younger voters, blue collar
 Repubs-evangelicals, marrieds, and professionals
 This means there’s no point for these parties spending
a lot of time chasing voters they won’t probably win or
campaigning in places that won’t produce wins
Segmentation Gets A Bad
 Because it doesn’t seem inclusive. Hint: It isn’t but it is
really efficient in terms of voter targeting
 And from the marketing and rational actor perspectives
the goal is to win not just to engage in civic education
 With limited resources and the rich veins of data,
targeting becomes a logical thing to do.
Combined With
 Targeting – spending a lot of time try to court specific
segments of the electorate.
 Audience targets will see and hear a lot from a political
marketer. Other audiences will see and hear almost
 Targeting also means a marketer can have a customer
hierarchy in which better customers get more attention,
lesser get less and the worst get fired.
Political Parties
 In the USA clearly do this things and
 The R’s started doing them earlier meaning they
received an advantage for early adoption and
 The R’s did them more accurately for a longer period of
time meaning that they had better identified the
audience and received an advantage as a result of that
as well.
 The D’s were later and less accurate and lost as a
result. Only when they got better did they start to win
Audience Participation
 Which parties in Canada do you think are segmenting
and targeting most effectively and why ?
Marketed Politics makes
 Seek to converse with the audience
 Seek to find new databases, metrics and analytical
techniques to understand the audience
 Seek to test everything before scaling it
All of This Means
 Political Marketing’s negative impact on civic
disengagement is probably overstated
 It can be a key tool to encourage people to take an
interest in the world in which we have now
 A lot of what goes on in the USA and Canada is similar
but it is also market specific.
Thank You
 For a wonderful semester
 For letting me into a great department and a wonderful
new program in political management
 For letting me ask a ton of questions
 For giving me your help and your insights.
 Questions ?

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