4 Marketing Lessons from the Presidential Campaign Trail

Brian Halligan
Brian Halligan



The presidential election is a fascinating petri dish for those of us interested in marketing and strategy, so I cannot resist the temptation to comment on some of what's happening. Here are some of the marketing ah-ha's that have hit me in watching the election over the last few weeks and months:

  • Make rules, don't follow them -- I was watching some of the advertisements from Obama and Hillary. Early on, Obama defined the "rules of the game" and the decision criteria to be "change." Hillary's new advertisements now talk about how she is the real "change" candidate. She sounds particularly defensive in these ads and is now playing right into Obama's hand. Hillary may end up pulling this election off, but I think she's making a huge miscalculation from a marketing strategy perspective. If the rules you tried to set (i.e. that you are the "inevitable" candidate) are not working, you are better off trying to create a new set of rules than playing by your opponent's rules.
  • Internet Flattens The Marketplace creating opportunity for new, "remark"able entrants -- The fact that Mike Huckabee is still in the race is pretty interesting. The guy has been all but shunned by the Republican establishment and has a very small fraction of the funds of the other leading candidates, yet he won in Iowa and is still a "player" to be dealt with. We have done some analysis of the candidates and we were surprised to see how closely correlated the number of inbound links into the candidates' sites were to predicting results. The interesting thing about Huckabee is that he was a relative unknown until a month ago, but his "remark"able (def: worthy of remarks, unique) message has attracted more inbound links to his website than Romney or McCain. If your company has a unique/remarkable message, others will comment on it (link to it) which drives you qualified visitors and which informs the search engines that you are interesting.
  • Authenticity counts -- I'm a big fan of Tim Russert and his show "Meet The Press." This morning after his usual grilling one of the candidates, he had on two political consultants -- one from each party. The consultants might be proven wrong, but they both predicted that Obama and McCain would win their respective party's nomination and one of them credited that each of them were going to win because voters felt that they spoke from the heart, with conviction, and not based solely on polling data. I could not help but think how this correlated with businesses and their presence on the internet/blogosphere and how when companies have a singular vision and are able to lead their market, they are often richly rewarded.
  • Fill Your Brand With Meaning -- At first, Obama was just a candidate trying to get heard in a noisy marketplace, but now he has become an idea and a brand that is full of meaning to potential voters. This is a difficult thing to do, but companies must fill their own brand with meaning the way Obama has done so. Here at HubSpot, we have gone through some exercises that talk about what type of brand we want to be and what adjectives we want people to think of when they think of us. I suspect we will write about this in detail at some point.


This blog does not endorse either party or any candidates.


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