How the 2016 Presidential Election Was All In The Marketing
Experts including True Influence®’s Brian Giese weigh in on what the surveys got wrong and why Trump won.
Marketing is where Donald Trump clinched his surprise win in his bid for president and where Hillary Clinton lost, according to experts nationwide, including True Influence’s Brian Giese.
Members of the American Marketing Association recently offered a post-game wrap-up of the election in the AMA newsletter, explaining how marketing played such a pivotal role in the outcome.
True Influence’s founder and CEO Brian Giese said Clinton’s campaign was flawed because it used predictive analytics – which are like looking into a crystal ball and essentially guessing what might happen in the future, based on past events.
Looking at previous election results – such as which counties in a certain state had voted Democrat versus which ones had voted Republican – was data that the Clinton camp used to foresee the future, without looking at what was going on in the moment.
The reason for Clinton’s loss was “predictive intelligence,” Giese said. “The Clinton campaign relied on predictive analytics to make assumptions about how people voted. Instead, they should have the used machine-learning approach and intent signal® monitoring to pick up shifts happening in key counties and states that their polling methods missed.”
If, for example, True Influence had been running her campaign using near real-time data based insight, they would have seen by the numbers that there was a shift in voter opinion in what was traditionally Democratic territory. The company then would have offered at-the-ready marketing moves that focused on those counties and their specific needs of residences there rather than assuming things would stay the same, based on predictions driven by the past.
Getting the right data was a critical part of the puzzle, added Mary Garrett, former VP of global marketing with IBM and chair-elect of the American Marketing Association.
“We won’t know the real root cause of flaws in the analysis for a while, but the current outcome of the presidential election only amplifies the importance of getting the data and analysis right,” Garrett said. “Whether it’s for politician predictions or choosing the best target market segments, channels and marketing investments to drive business growth, data matters. Marketing leaders can be the vigilant drivers of this data and analysis.”
Using that data the right way also made a difference.
Trump read the data correctly
According to Sean Martin, founder and managing partner, of Brandiosity, a marking and brand consultancy firm, Trump knew his audience from the data his team compiled, and he knew which of his marketing plans would best address them.
“They knew their target,” said Martin. “They knew that target’s dissatisfaction with incumbency, spoke their language and made people feel like they were part of a movement — highly motivating and translated to votes.”
Clinton never brought that same vigor to her campaign, Martin said, and that was the reason behind her loss.
“It was a failure to motivate, excite and mobilize,” he added. “One of the issues the Hillary campaign will have to reflect on is over-confidence and how they drastically misjudged the upper Midwest. They also failed to see that this was not a traditional campaign and traditional tools like heavy media spend and ground game were not going to be the deciding levers.”
Trump had better messaging
“Make American great again” was a campaign slogan that succinctly summed up many American emotions, and resonated with those who felt disenfranchised in their country. Clinton – who chose “We’re Stronger Together” as her tagline – never came up with such a “memorable” message, said Susan Griffin, chief marketing officer of the marketing research agency BrainJuicer.
In addition to having a very clear brand , Trump was able to make subtle changes to his brand’s message based on real-time data coming from the site of his next campaign stop, rather than potentially relying on data from four years ago.
Social’s the star
Trump also took his message to the right place, and took advantage of social media as a way to spread that message directly to his rapt audience, without the filter of the media, said Todd Grossman, CEO of Talkwalker, a firm that focuses on the analytics of social media.
Social media is by far one of the most powerful mediums for targeting a wide swath of different demographics – so far, 6,000 people have read and shared this particular story from the AMA website on Facebook – Trump’s command of Twitter made his seem more accessible to a younger, more-tech savvy crowd.
“By combining this with a general anti-establishment, anti-media message, Trump made his followers in particular distrust media/establishment opinion in favor of his own messages. The social media profiles of politicians and public figures are very carefully manicured and follow best practices; Trump breaks all the rules. He says whatever he wants and uses an almost conversational tone, particularly on Twitter,” Grossman said.
Against Clinton’s traditional campaign, Trump’s unfettered, “wild West” approach was more successful because he spoke as himself, whatever the warts, and Clinton primarily relied on others, including celebrities, to deliver her message, so although her personal brand was clear, it was negatively reinforced by poor marketing decisions, especially when it came to data.
Trump played on our emotions
Some of the most memorable marketing and ad campaigns are the ones the play on our emotions, like Hallmark ads, those Folger’s coffee ads that usually come out during the holiday season or brands that revisit unforgettable moments in sports history.
While these companies used emotion in their campaigns, Trump targeted anger and anxiety, according to William Cron, director of faculty research and a professor at Texas Christian University’s M. J. Neeley School of Business.
“Two of the most motivating emotions are anger and anxiety,” said Cron. “Using social media in addition to his rallies, he tapped into the anger and anxiety around terrorism, abortion and loss of status among white, older males. Then he was able to tap into the negative side of trade agreements by relating stories of unemployed people as a result of NAFTA (think Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania).”
Because real-time information is more powerful, Trump’s social media stories were more effective than Clinton’s television-based facts about the successes of the Obama presidency and her decision to take the high road and chose to “go high when they go low,” a message that also didn’t resonate, said Linda Popky, founder or Leverage2Market and author of the book “Marketing Above the Noise.”