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Politics and Marketing: More Like 1796 than 1996

I think at this point we all know politics is really just marketing. (Note, I said politics, not policy.) As I watch this year's presidential campaign unfold, I find the similarities to be remarkable. Sure we use different nomenclature, but conceptually their the same.

  • In the political world we have parties, the business world companies
  • Companies produce products; political parties produce candidates
  • Companies try to win market share; political parties try to win votes
  • Companies have product positions; political parties have campaign platforms
  • Companies have tag lines and jingles; political parties: slogans and songs (Don't stop thinking about tomorrow!)
  • Companies live and die by exposure (PR, ads, signs, etc.); Campaigns, well, ditto.
  • Companies manufacture events for exposure; campaigns, again ditto (debates, conventions, etc.)

And the list goes on and on. In the business world, because technology has created a fairly fragmented society, reaching a large number of people with product messaging has become increasingly difficult. Newspaper circulation is dwindling, same for TV viewership (and even when they're watching, they're not really watching the ads). Hitmaking is hard. And that's when your selling an IPhone - imagine if your product was a boring presidential campaign.

What of the internet you say? Well, good luck there. Google isn't built for hit-making and so far none of the other online ad products have shown they are any good at it. Your best bet for a hit these days is to try to go viral, but that's more art than science in my mind.

So if politics is really just marketing, won't future campaigns run into the same trouble future marketer's have? Are we already seeing the effects of this? Perhaps low voter turnout isn't a result of apathy but rather the world we live in? In 1960 when TV was (1) relatively new (i.e. a novelty), (2) pretty much the only form of in-home entertainment and (3) armed with three channels, from a marketing perspective, reaching 70 million people was easy. Everyone's attention was on the same thing. Accordingly, voter turnout was the highest in the past 50 years. Fast forward to today: does anyone watch debates anymore?

With politics being marketing, just like the business world, political parties will need to figure this out soon. As technology continues to evolve, I can only see our world becoming more and more fragmented. From a marketer's perspective, its more reminiscent of the way things were way, way, way back before the 20th century media revolution. The ubiquity of online distribution (and the disintegration of off-line) is turning the blog into the modern day form of pamphlet. Lots of content, but no critical mass of readers. Just like it was way back when. If your running the 2012 campaign and you want to get a message out, you might be better off going back to the strategies of 1796 not 1996.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 13, 2008 12:02 PM.

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