The New Political Marketing Framework


We all know that creating a buzz is vital in today's world if you want to gain traction for whatever you are selling. When it comes to politics, there are two forms of media in play: earned media and paid media. Earned media is traction received from soundbites that go viral through the pundits and the media picking them up. Paid media are ads.

It has been suggested that Hillary (poor thing) has spent more than $50,000,000 thus far on ads, and Trump zilch. How is it possible they are neck in neck the media, you ask? Well, it's been estimated that Trump has received more than $3 BILLION (yes, I mean billion) in earned media. Sound bites have been playing over and over again that reinforce the clever, clown-like, make-you-feel-something persona that has brought him to this moment in history. He's the Where's Waldo in the sea of suits that bores the heck out of Americans, who are not looking for real information, but rather entertainment and clever engagement when it comes to their media breakfast.

So ratings soar when Mr. Trump comes to the camera, and all the networks get on board because their ratings go up and the media buys get larger and larger. Trump's rise to power is no different from our country's obesity epidemic, which has resulted from our habit of eating easy-to-obtain foods that look and taste really good, but have no substance. The substance is the variable you don't notice, and so you respond to the taste rather than considering how it will affect you. Same thing with Trump's approach.

Just look at this chart from March, 2016 assessing purchased versus free media, and you will instantly understand the issue. The other GOP players never had a chance. For the first time in history, earned media is equal in value and power to media that has been purchased. And so Trump's message is reinforced over and over and over and over again.

And what is the content Trump puts out there? It's flash. You don't remember what it means; you just remember how it makes you feel. So if you believe immigration has affected your life in a negative way, and he puts out a sound bite that resonates with that feeling, you are his. If you are terrified of terrorism rearing its ugly head in our country, he gives you that moment by saying he will fix it. HOW he will do these things becomes secondary to the feeling he's evoked, and voilá—you are his. And if you are madder than mad that your taxes are paying for illegal immigrants having children in emergency rooms at your expense rather than theirs, but you are not going to voice that out loud, he starts to make you feel that he might fix it.

Attacking Trump's content will never win this election. It's not about real content. It's about bringing up a feeling. Each and every one of us has a secret bias, and he is not afraid to speak to those biases. When you challenge his ability to actually do the things he promises to do, no one listens or cares. They just know that the feeling has been inside them for years, and not one politician has addressed it, so he surely can't be worse than the status quo.

So, in my view, it will not matter what Hillary spends in advertising if her ads continue to focus on what a louse Trump is (and he is a louse) and his lack of experience and discipline. No one cares. They care about themselves, and as long as he keeps getting sound bites out that make the unthinking masses FEEL, he just may win.

Social media has changed the ability of print or video to sway people. Your message has to give the recipient an association that makes them want to pull that lever in your direction. This is a mega trend that brands have embraced, but politicians haven’t grasped yet. The Bud ad for the Super Bowl doesn't talk about the beer at all, it just evokes a love of dogs and cool guys that are hunks and horses that save the day. Sells more beer than talking about the beer. But Trump gets it. He learned the lesson on early episodes of The Apprentice. So, while he has no political experience, he is the ONLY one who has earned media exposure. And that is a winning ticket.

Hillary is also at a disadvantage because she is a woman. A friend of mine was at a dinner party where a woman said she can't stand to hear Hillary's screeching voice anymore. Trump screams and yells and makes really awkward faces, but because Hillary is a woman, that forceful yelling thing is a turnoff. Why, you ask? I dunno, but it is, and she has to find a softer way. She has to laugh more. She has to entertain, not merely make better sense. Her strongest moment in turning heads was when she said (and it seemed unscripted), that the fact that people didn't like her hurt her feelings. That's the Hillary who can beat Trump in the fall. She has to find that side of herself and bring it to the stage. She can make sense after she's elected.

The election this fall will be won through earned media sound bites, and while that is a sad fact indeed, it is the way it will be. Our society is not running on intelligence and thoughtful discourse, and the sooner the politicians realize this, the better.

© 2020 by Blue Shoe Strategy.