Branding Basics from the Presidential Campaigns

By Warren Lutz – Contributing Writer

Branded political buttons from the 2012 election.

Regardless of one’s personal preferences, there are many important marketing lessons to draw from political campaigns. Winning and losing usually boils down to how well a candidate handles “the branding basics.” Here’s some key brand management take-aways from the campaigns:

Research Your Market

Whether you’re running for president or running a product launch, you need customers. How well you understand those customers will mean the difference between winning and losing market share.  Find out whose needs are not being served and determine if you can you get enough “votes” to win—or at least enough to grow sales.


Of course, the success of political races and marketing campaigns are measured in different terms. But for any campaign to succeed, understanding the market is critical. Thorough and accurate market research can make all the difference.

Remember: both major party presidential candidates were confident they had the votes to win based on their individual analyses of the polls and voter turnout. Only one was right.

Research your market and identify your audience.Identify Your Audience

In general terms, Republican candidate Mitt Romney could rely on carrying the South, while President Barack Obama had the Northeast and Pacific regions sewn up. But both candidates needed more.

If your market audience is too narrow, or relies too heavily on a shrinking demographic group – such as white males, for example – your challenge becomes much harder. But aiming too broadly can hurt, too. People eat at Wendy’s for hamburgers and fries, not cold cut sandwiches – which is why the fast food chain’s Frescata line didn’t last more than a year.

Knowing your audience, what they want, and delivering consistently to them will help ensure your marketing campaign’s success.


Interact and EngageSocial media made all the difference in the outcome of the 2012 election

The Internet, social media, and smartphones have led to more personalized and intimate customer relationships and politics – like marketing – is personal.

By early September, 2012, according to Inc. magazine, one of the presidential candidates had far exceeded the other in the number of combined social media posts, shared posts, tweets and retweets. That candidate won on November 7th.

The important lesson here: don’t fail to seize important opportunities to engage your audience.

Stay on Message

“We can’t afford four more years.” “Real change.” “This is not what a real recovery looks like.” In spite of having a reputation for sending conflicting messages, Romney stuck to such phrases during the waning months of the campaign as his popularity surged in the polls.

Another great example of consistent brand messaging is that of 7-Eleven. Its current slogan, “Oh Thank Heaven,” was created in 1969. Since then, 7-Eleven has become the world’s largest retailer in unit stores. Why change?

Knowing your audience, engaging that audience, and delivering consistent messaging will help ensure your marketing campaign’s success.

Be Prepared to Counter Objections

To some degree, Romney’s supporters were able to counter objections that he was a corporate raider by showing a fairly impressive track record of philanthropy. Similarly, his opponent was able to counter accusations that his policies were hurting the economy by pointing to modest improvements in the nation’s employment and manufacturing outlook.

On the other hand, no sufficient argument was ever able to counter the argument against buying your dog Thirsty Dog! “Crispy Beef” flavored water. (And yes, it was an actual product.)

Knowing your brand’s weaknesses as well as its strengths will go a long way in ensuring you can address challenges effectively.

Now that the election is over, what branding lessons have you learned? Share them below!



Six Obvious Lessons From Obama’s Victory

Who’s Winning the 2012 Social Media Election?

What Marketers Can Take From the Presidential Campaigns’ Best Tactics

Further reading:

Marketing Polls – Who is Your Candidate?

Using Brand Journalism to Tell Your Story

4 thoughts on “Branding Basics from the Presidential Campaigns

  1. You have to have accurate polling data to have a realistic assessment of the market. Recently, one pollster admitted he provided his side overly optimistic results in order to keep morale up. That kind of disception doesn’t help anybody.

  2. I think that SoMe was truly helpful with getting out the vote, but at the end of the day, it’s audience, audience, audience, message, message, message. Both sides had powerful presences. Their approaches were different, but in the end, I believe that brand blurred with issue. And, depending who the voter was, a lot of folks voted brand, but a lot of them voted issue as well!

  3. While it’s obvious that you need to know your audience, a great lesson from this campaign was that you need to know the other persons audience. People change their minds for a myriad of reasons, without notice, and frequently without cause. If you don’t know your opponents audience as well as your own, you risk alienating those people that are on the fence.

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