What can business learn from political marketing?

Five things to learn from political campaigns that could be used successfully in the world of business

Jim Mains

Election season is here! You can tell by the litter of signs all over our county roadsides. Recently I spoke to a group of business leaders about marketing to the millennial generation, and much of our conversation focused on how High Five Media markets political campaigns. I guess businesses can learn something from politics after all.

Here are a few marketing tips from a campaign toolkit:

Find the emotion
Political marketing aims to motivate people by using emotion. Especially on the national stage, that emotion is usually fear. Negativity in television ads, radio ads and mailers far exceed the relatively small amount of positivity, because fear is an easier emotion to use to trigger action. That said, for many businesses, triggering emotions of hope, excitement or love can be very powerful.

Narrow your focus
Political advertising works because it’s centered on a single directive: VOTE. As attention spans decrease, “less is more” is becoming more and more true. Don’t try to cover everything or you won’t get anything. Focus on the one specific action you want your customer to take; build marketing and advertising plans around single-focus campaigns.

More contact, better results
In a political campaign, candidates are trying to reach as many voters as possible. A rule of thumb in the political world is to try to reach the voter in five different ways during a campaign cycle. That’s not five ads in the same paper, that’s five different types of contact. Depending on how much money a candidate has, they can spread their message via television, radio, mail, online ads, social media, grassroots door-to-door and sign waving tactics. Small business owners can learn from this approach. I’ve talked with many business owners who invest a large amount of money in just one type of contact and wondered why their audience isn’t growing. Spreading out the budget in a way that can reach clients on multiple levels would give them a greater reach. This could mean a road sign, phone call, Facebook ad, mailer and knock on the door, all within the same campaign cycle. When we aren’t marketing outside the same small circle of influence we can fall short of our goals.

Stay on message
Politicians must be excellent communicators and the same is true of business owners. Know your message, be clear and succinct (especially succinct) and always be ready to share it with confidence. In order to move your marketing to the next level, the business owner and employees need to be well-versed in the mission of the company and the purpose of the product. Always know your target audience and base your marketing platform around them.

Track and use your data
Political campaigns succeed by their ability to have access to information. This information can come from voter databases, polling data, voter turnout and neighborhood percentage grids. The volume of data and amount of detail helps a campaign track the changing demographics of an area and as well as their supporter base. Businesses can start their own database of information by keeping track of their social media likes, website metrics and who’s opening their email blasts. This type of information when tracked and monitored to determine what’s working and what’s not working, can greatly aid in focusing your message for optimal results.

Learning from political campaigns can go a long way in the business world. Since campaign season is an annual endeavor, these tools are constantly being refined as the campaigner must stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest techniques.

Jim Mains is the director of strategy and campaigns at High Five Media, a Vancouver-based marketing firm. He can be reached at Jim@highfivemedia.us.