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Marketing Lessons From the Presidential Election

Think the presidential election is just about politics? In reality it’s America’s most-watched and most compelling marketing and sales campaign. “It’s a massive case study that’s playing out for us right now, and we can all see it live and in real-time,” says David Meerman Scott, marketing strategist and best-selling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR. “And we can all be armchair QBs to see what candidates are doing and how they’re doing it. It’s fascinating.”

And like any marketing campaign, there are effective strategies used in this year’s election that you can instantly apply to your business. Here are four top-notch ideas:

1. Commenting in Real Time. Meerman Scott says Trump has excelled on social media – particularly Twitter – by making his posts timely, relevant and interactive. “What Trump does is focuses on the news of the moment, what’s happening, what he’s doing, what’s going on,” says Meerman Scott, who years ago coined the term “newsjacking” to describe the idea of businesses commenting and generating media coverage from breaking news. “He’s using Twitter in the way that other people use Twitter, and he’s not just using it as yet another form of advertising, which is essentially what a lot of the other candidates have been doing.”

2. Segmenting Your Audience. Political campaigns have now completely embraced the practice of segmenting voters to craft different messages for those audiences. “Candidates can produce ads overnight, tailor them to specific markets and have them up in the morning,” says Robert Lehrman, author, political speechwriter and American University professor. “For example, policies that make sense for northern Virginia don’t for southern Virginia. Technology didn’t used to allow for that kind of flexibility. Now it does.”

3. Leveraging the Power of Free Media. Why pay when you can get it for free? Trump has soared to be the Republican candidate through billions of dollars in media coverage, underscoring just how powerful this “free advertising” can be. Political information is “now being captured in 140 characters or a 60-second video bite. The significance about that is it’s also going to transform the paid advertising side because all of this is essentially free earned media,” says Joshua Baca, a senior vice president for issue advocacy organization DDC who also worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

4. Not Underestimating the Public. Candidates, just like brands, need to be distinctive and authentic. Those who aren’t will be found out and ultimately ignored. “You can’t make a candidate something they’re not because voters will see through it,” says Dr. Jennifer Lees-Marshment, a professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and a global expert on political marketing. “They have an innate sense of what is genuine or not.”