How Trump Changed Political Marketing

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What strategies political marketers should adopt moving forward

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The political marketing times: They are a changin'.

And U.S. President Donald Trump is to blame or thank, depending on your outlook.

The political climate is as divisive as anyone in this lifetime can remember, and political marketers must be aware of the differing behaviors of voters, according to Will Bunnett, Clarify Agency principal and former senior email writer and producer in 2008 at Obama for America.

“The voters that are the subjects of political marketing are behaving much differently in this political climate than they have in the past,” says Bunnett. “Right now, political marketing is less about cajoling people to get them motivated, and more about keeping up with the demands from voters.”

If the voter is changing behavior, so must the political marketer to identify those demands and attempt to meet them. Trump accomplished this feat, according to Bunnett, with branding, a strategy that will impact the future of political marketing strategies.

“The [Trump] brand handled the persuasion and the turnout, so branding strategy will get more attention in the future of political marketing thanks to Trump's success with it,” says Bunnett. “I predict that in the wake of Trump, political marketers will refocus on strategy over tactics.”

To understand those tactics, political marketers don't have to look any further than the voters, who are using political marketing or grassroots efforts to express their issues (e.g. the inauguration protests).

“The shift to grassroots leadership is a big deal for political marketing, which for most of its recent history has been centered on trying to get people involved,” Bunnett says. “Get them in the door, move them up the ladder of engagement by signing a petition then donating then calling their legislator, etc.”

Yet while the state of politics may feel permanent, Bunnett cautions political marketers against fixating too much on the present climate.

“Different behavior requires political marketers to make adjustments right now -- but they must avoid overcompensating for a shift in voter behavior that's ultimately probably temporary,” says Bunnett. “So while political marketers must adapt to the passion right now, they shouldn't forget how to cajole.”

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