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Marketing takeaways from the 2016 Presidential election

January 10, 2017

 

As everybody in America and elsewhere is trying to digest the news of Trump’s surprise victory as the new President elect , maybe now is a good time for marketers to reflect on the teachings of the past  2 years of campaign politics towards their 2017 marketing approach ?

 

Many analysis has been voiced and written in terms of political & social drivers behind this unexpected outcome but I have not read many in regards with-beyond a lot of introspection & confusion from mainstream Media, especially the waning Print newspapers or broadcast TV- what marketer could learn from this epilogue of almost 2 years of campaign in which the US people have been drowned into…

While Digital & Technology are furthering the customization of marketing and empowering one to one conversations/ relationship, social media with platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are more and more used as modern tools of debate or blatant chastising. In the past years division & name calling have soared, from media to political arena or in the streets of inner cities & urban centers of America: the national conversation has never been more exposed but also never more polarized.

 

 

A few key drivers stand out , in my mind, that may translate into Marketing guidelines:

  1. Identity politics vs cohesion/bi partisanship : in this end of 2016 and after a exceptionally bitter Presidential campaign , the USA stands as never more divided than since the Vietnam war: from racial divisions , shootings of cops or African Americans across the Nation, nasty political divide, finger pointing about corruption , white supremacism or war mongering, campus craziness , a more and more partisan media coverage, protests about the legitimacy of the President elect or the electoral college etc… it seems that identity politics is at its highest and that the country and the national conversations  are more polarized –fractured even ?- than ever before.So maybe it’s a good idea for brands to show reconciliation and bi-partisanship in action, emphasizing on what brings us together rather than opposites ( family of all sorts in characters but working together, food with social power, health that sees all sides and helps us as a society etc….The Brands that will be able to balance their appeal and advertised value proposition towards wider segments of the population whilst addressing fragmentation & diversity –a prevalent necessity & trend in the past decade- in one to one/ CRM tailored messages will prevail…The Union and reconciliation in any way or form will be a mainstream aspiration.

  2. Establishment vs anti establishment : when there seems to be so much frustration with Washington and the “mainstream media”, when you hear the cheers to “the swamp will be drained” or “ the media is part of the proble or “ we need better trade deals” or “we can’t let US companies continue to export our jobs….” there is no doubt that the overarching theme resonates with many Americans: how does this translate into marketing ? As there is more & more scrutiny and access to information through internet about Corporate policies when it comes to the environment, social issues or wages, everything that a brand or a company can express to feature the little guy’s voice  vs powerful organizations or put America’s domestic interest on top of the list will surf a strong wave: brands, like Hollywood, get ready to bring the voice of the little guy front & center…Voice of the customer vs status quo.

  3. Media & expert  trustworthiness: as the voice of the Customer has become more & more the center of gravity for all marketers, the call for experts (pollsters, media analysts/ reporters, financial services advisors ) is being more questioned & challenged: the 2009 recession & implosion of complex financial products like the subprimes, the Intelligence failures that presided over the Irak war, the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential election or the many blunders from star Journalists or Media organizations these past years (Dan Rather, Brian Williams anyone… ?), all of that probably accelerated a natural counter power movement that was coming with the rise of the Internet and the  wider access to facts checking & sources that it empowered. So now, be advised Marketers that the public is watching & playing attention to your claims, promises or actions: making the consumers an adult, informed arbiter works probably much better nowadays than standing as an auhtority: any messaging that is delivered with no non-sense and everyday people will resonate stronger than any so-called expert/ specialist...

  4. Guerilla tactics vs national debate, messaging vs issues: as much as issues , platforms should matter, it seems more than ever again, that this election was non typical: the headlines, narrative or trace in the mind of voters after every candidate’s debate or statement-specially the successful one in the end- always ended up being a catchy, provocative few words (crooked Hilary, Little Marco, low-energy Bush etc…) that, like or not, stuck in the mind of both voters and pundits.The susbstance on issues were a blip compared to the leading news cycle everyday. As much as it could be frustrating when it comes to a rational policy-based comparative towards a well-thought voting decision,  the reality of that campaign was mostly summarized by a few tweets and campaign slogans. Social media seemed to play a stronger role than the numerous prime-time debates and most post-mortem analysis have pointed to a weak digital strategy from the loosing side. So, as it did in 2007 and 2012 for candidate Obama, the grassroots and digital made a huge difference vs the ground game or substance of the value proposition of each campaign.In Marketing, we often try to get to the core value proposition and build around it, be it for an overall strategy or a single campaign. Maybe it’s time to come back to the cardinal rule of advertising with strong slogans and punch lines that are repeated a lot in order to stand out and build brand clout. So even with a better value proposition, the game will be won more than ever before on the catchy, the quick and the social digital buzz. Bear that in mind when you allocate your focus, resources & budgets…

 

More generally, while direct & digital marketing are serving consumers with customized offers & messages adapted to their specific profile, big rallies or media forums are now showcasing some sort of new Hunger Games of the 21st century: from  “Facebook live” to the Oscars, street protests across the Nation on news aggregators or Election night on all cable or broadcast TV channels, some peak audience still gathers huge chunks of the population and stand as visible epicenters of a National conversation…It’s as though these two opposite streams were going against each other…so which will have the strongest effect and set the tone for marketing in 2017 ?

 

My educated guess is that they will likely both grow apart in some sort of double personality syndrome that has now become the ethos of our modern societies: I submit that the reaction to globalization and its unintended consequences have made room for people to yearn for renewed , direct connections with their close peers.

Meanwhile, this trend towards self –identification that also bears some degree of isolationism is always fought by natural needs to face mankind’s universal survival challenges that are becoming more top of mind (climate change, terrorism, violence, inequalities, income disparities, natural disasters, cyber security  etc…).So, like a federation of sates, consumers will always need reinsurance that the Federal will play its role when it comes to common issues. However, States like Florida will also be more attached to retirement, hurricanes & gun rights while Colorado will enjoy deregulation of cannabis and skiing, Washington State on its fresh salmon, digital industry & trekking…etc

All in all, if I can see a move back towards resurrecting a civil debate and the “greater common good” state of the Union, the various factions will still be as militants as they have become when advancing their own agenda and seeking wider representation into the national debate. That’s you will probably see some mass-market marketers come back to selling soap or beer to ALL Americans coming together about what makes us all part of the same boat while digital will continue playing to various segments in different modes & tones towards various interest & motivations.

 

So get ready as a bi-polar marketer to balance /navigate both for your brands through a complex mix: some corporate branding will have to surf the renewed wave of universality and togetherness while product and channels will play up identity messages to specific consistuencies.

Happy New Marketing Year !!!

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