Sales, Marketing Lessons From Presidential Campaign

By Lori Turner-Wilson

Despite your political affiliations or how your candidate fared in this year’s presidential election, it’s tough not to appreciate the full-court press the candidates give in selling and marketing their own personal brands. In fact, there are sales and marketing takeaways that we can glean from one of the most expensive elections (AKA “ad campaigns”) in our nation’s history – lessons we can leverage in promoting our own local brands.

10.) Understand Emotional Buying: Consumers make emotional buying decisions first, only later seeking rational support to justify the decision they’ve really already made. That’s why people decide whom to vote for based more on how they feel about the candidates than any rationale argument one could make.

9.) Embrace Technology: Effective use of new technology wins elections: Eisenhower won in 1952 thanks to radio. JFK’s appearance on TV in the 1960 debates against a feverish-looking Nixon helped him secure the win. The “reach” (number of impressions) that Obama generated on YouTube during the 2008 election would have cost the campaign more than $50 million in equivalent TV airtime. Brands and campaigns that fail to embrace technology do so at their own peril.

8.) Keep Messaging Simple: Keep your message simple, easy to understand and share with others. Then stick with it. Historically, campaigns that teeter back and forth between messages fall short of the goal line.

7.) Maintain Positive Tone: Presidential campaigns that focus on their own value proposition versus tearing down their competitors are more often to find their way to a win.

6.) Define WIIFM: In the end, elections are won or lost by a candidate’s ability to talk to people about what affects them directly – the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor. The rest of the rhetoric is just noise.

5.) Know Thy Target: Knowing your audience and targeting your message accordingly is essential. Texas and New York aren’t emphasized by the campaigns for a reason – they don’t have as significant an impact on the outcome as states like Ohio and Virginia. Targeting doesn’t mean that any group of prospective voters (or buyers) is less important than another – it’s just smart marketing.

4.) Act vs. React: Don’t let your competition control your message. Stay on point and drive home your key messages with consistency and frequency versus changing course with every competitor whim.

3.) Promote Brand First: Facts alone simply don’t distinguish a candidate, or a brand, from another. Voters, like consumers, make decisions on a more visceral level. Once they believe in your brand, then the facts become a more important part of the conversation.

2.) Leverage Data: Every year, political campaigns become increasingly data-driven with those most quickly accessing reliable data – and knowing how to use it – often winning elections. Data allows you to know how to properly frame your content so that it resonates with your audience. In other words, metrics allow you to adjust your marketing strategy real-time based on your performance.

1.) Express Personality: Candidates with personality, who engage with voters, win hearts. Have a sense of humor and let down your guard – when promoting any brand, whether it be political or otherwise.

Whether you’re a political junkie or glad all the rhetoric is coming to an end, don’t miss the opportunity to learn a lesson – or 10 – from one of the most expensive advertising and marketing campaigns of our time. Leverage the candidates’ successes and failures for a big impact on your bottom line.

Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and Founder/CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovercompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (