US Election 2016: Marketing the Next President

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Will Jellicoe, the7stars

The so called experts believed we wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) vote for Brexit. It happened and the country quickly realised something that marketers have known for a long time - an emotional message can be more persuasive than rational reasoning.

As American’s prepare to vote for their 45th President on the 8th November, the7stars’ Will Jellicoe looks at the key marketing battlegrounds being contested by Trump and Clinton.

BRAND MESSAGE

Just Do It… Nike

Because you’re worth it… L’Oréal

Vorsprung durch technik… Audi

Have a break, have a… KitKat

Make America Great Again… Trump

……………………..er… Hillary?

Trump applied to trademark his campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ back in 2012 and its high profile, high frequency usage has ensured strong recall. It connects with his supporters because of its emotional promise, and has also, more recently, been adapted to play on fears around immigration and terrorism with ‘Make America Safe Again’.

Clinton’s campaign has lacked a singular theme to rival it, her most recent – ‘Hillary for America’ (surely a given) – has little emotional value. Recounting facts and highlighting her experience is a rational message of credibility and reliability.

Trump’s mnemonic speeches - say it, repeat it and say it again – hammers home his single minded message. Make America Great Again is the election’s most famous headline.

Trump 1 Clinton 0

TV

Marketing campaigns often try to create a ‘cultural movement’, it’s a lofty ambition that can require deep engagement with advocates across multiple touchpoints over long period of time. Trump cuts through all that by making a TV ad and calling it “Movement”. It’s a collection of positive clichés that could’ve been put together by a team of his TV show apprentices. It follows his first TV ad which ramped up the fear factor taking aim firmly at Clinton.

In a campaign that is fast becoming a contest between which candidate is hated least, Clinton’s ads also hold a mirror up to her rival. His views on women “Mirrors” and shortcomings as a role model are exposed in these powerful ads which have taken inspiration from P&G’s Like a Girl.

Trump 0 Clinton 1

SOCIAL

Twitter is one of @realDonaldTrump’s most potent mediums. With 11.8m followers he is ahead of @HillaryClinton 9.11m (though miles behind @BarackObama on 77.6m). The gap is even bigger on Facebook with 10.8m likes to Clinton’s 6.2m. His often incendiary tweets drive buzz and furore in equal measure, particularly when it comes to his views on Rosie O’Donnell.

Clinton’s support is now getting behind #ImWithHer but even if Trump’s trending topics have been as bizarre as #TrumpGirlsBreakTheInternet it is his unabashed and authentic voice that wins this round.

Trump 1 Clinton 0

SHAREABLE CONTENT

‘Trump hair’ returns 68.3m results on Google and so when Trump allowed talk show host Jimmy Fallon to mess with the coiffured crown it caused a stir in both Democrat and Republican camps, the clip has now been viewed 7.9m times on YouTube alone.  

In Clinton’s case appearing on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis  (a path previously trodden by Obama) undoubtedly showed her willingness to play along and take a joke and has so far garnered 10.5m views on YouTube.

The recent comment from Galifianakis that Trump wouldn’t be welcome on his show adds cache to Clinton’s appearance. The reality is neither appearance is likely to have been a vote stealer, but it did show Clinton’s more human side.

Trump 0 Clinton 1

TACTICAL DIGITAL OUTDOOR

When Clinton was taken ill with pneumonia Trump saw a tactical opportunity to show his ‘stamina’ in his home town. It came in the form of a 55-foot Super Trump animated billboard in Times Square, sponsored by the pro-Trump super PAC the  Committee to Restore America's Greatness.

At a cost of $25,000 the ad might’ve looked ludicrous, but his campaign team’s quick action ensured Super Trump loomed large over New York and the Clinton campaign.

Trump 1 Clinton 0

LIVE BROADCASTING (THE DEBATES)

No longer just for TV, the debates are being live streamed online. Facebook teamed up with ABC and were followed by Twitter’s partnership with Bloomberg. These partnerships represent a significant moment in the evolution of live video and heralds a move to more "television-style" content on Facebook Live.

Of the debate itself? Clinton the meticulous and calm lawyer appeared to land more blows than the emotional and aggressive salesman Trump.

Also a special hat-tip to Audi for their appropriate and excellent “Duel” ad which aired during the debate.

Trump 0 Clinton 1

MERCHANDISE & LICENSING

For us Brits a politician in a baseball cap invokes an uncomfortable memory of William Hague on a water slide; for the majority of Republicans it’s a must-have. The Trump baseball cap, available in red or white and yours for $25, has become the Obama Hope poster and efficiently reduces complex issues to a single object.

Trump is merchadise and lisencing and for all Hillary’s custom T’s and Stitch by Stitch Throw Pillows ($55) she doesn’t come close.

Trump 1 Clinton 0

REAL-TIME MARKETING

When Trump’s son Donald Junior tweeted this image (since removed) understandably there was outrage. Skittles emerged a class act by choosing to disengage, instead releasing a statement hours later to media. “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

In marketing circles some have pointed to this as another example of the death of real-time marketing (Oreo’s Super Bowl ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet was 3 years ago), with less and less brands doing opportunistic marketing.

Trump -1 Clinton 0 Skittles 1

BUDGET

For all the clever thinking and strategizing in an election, the record shows that the last 9 campaigns have all been won by the candidate with the bigger campaign budget.

Across the campaign TV still dominates with around 70% share. According to the Associated Press Trump is planning to buy $140 million in political ads between now and Election Day ($100m on TV and the rest on digital). What has been called in to question is whether he can actually afford them.

The Washington Post and Bloomberg differ on the total raised for each candidate, but both agree that Clinton is ahead and by as much as double.

Trump 0 Clinton 1

FINAL SCORES: Trump 3 Clinton 4