3 Marketing Lessons from the Hillary Campaign
With Election Day just weeks away, we marketers will be paying close attention to the strategic and tactical successes—and fails—of the presidential candidates’ campaigns. Regardless of the outcome of the final debate tomorrow night, the marketing behind the candidates to me is the interesting story.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion among three digital marketers on the staff of the Hillary for America campaign. At General Assembly’s New York office, the staffers revealed their challenges in what is being called the most digital race in American history. Here are my key takeaways:
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE CANDIDATE – IT’S ABOUT THE AUDIENCE.
For the candidates, it has never been more important than to know your audience. Who are they? Where are they? How old are they? And what do they care most about? Knowing that can help you get as local as possible to reach them with what you want them to learn. At the same time, you have to be careful not to focus too narrowly on any niche market. Try to keep your target audience broad.
THERE IS NO FORMULA.
Campaign marketers should focus less on getting the message exactly right and more on meeting people. Digital platform presence can help you reach and develop new audiences. But you have to be willing to experiment—to try new approaches to create a character that people want to learn more about. One size does not fit all, especially with 100 different entry points.
Figure out how to create the best experiences for your audience and surprise them by placing content in unexpected places. For example, the Clinton campaign staffers found success in posting throwback photographs of Hillary Clinton on Instagram, creating intrigue about her character from a historical perspective.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
When you go all-in on a campaign that is so far-reaching, mistakes inevitably will be made. So use them as learning opportunities. When the Hillary for America campaign published an article titled “7 Ways Hillary Clinton Is Just Like Your Abuela” (Abuela is the Spanish word for grandmother), Twitter exploded with criticism and the hashtag #notmyabuela. The lesson the culturally aware staffers learned was that, even with a lot of preparation, you can never know or anticipate everything.
That misstep led to a lot of reflection, and a bold new strategy in which the campaign embraces grassroots supporters in the hopes that they will feel a part of the campaign. That worked in the campaign’s favor when a Clinton supporter jumped on a phrase exchanged during the vice presidential debate and created the website thatmexicanthing.com with a redirect to Hillary Clinton’s website. Giving supporters tools to do their own evangelist work and help spread your message certainly can work in your favor.
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