election

Even as someone who has been in the professional world of politics and elections for more than a decade and been heavily involved in three successful election campaigns, I generally follow the old axiom: never talk about politics with your friends and family; nothing good can come of it.

So without analyzing what happened, what got us here and what the November elections will mean in the future, a safer take would be this: how can this election cycle inform us about marketing?

Digital and Social Channels Are Huge

Among the most obvious findings is that digital/social communications continue to play an increasingly large role in the communications and marketing mix for candidates. And that should be comforting news to marketers in general, as what political campaigns are doing to target, nurture and convert voters has direct applicability to B2B and B2C marketers as well.

While both campaigns spent a lot of money on advertising and devoted a lot of resource and energy to digital and social channels, it could be reasonably argued that it was the controversial Twitter activity of now President-elect Trump that played the most vital role in communicating his winning message. Putting aside the more controversial elements of his use of the medium, a more arms-length assessment of his use of Twitter finds an unusually high level of personal engagement with the 15.8 million followers he has on Twitter. To put that in perspective, Trump has more than 3 million more followers than the man who has occupied the White House for the last eight years, and whose campaign can be fairly credited with taking digital/social to new heights in their 2008 campaign.

By any reasonable metric, digital/social played an enormously influential role in this election, and has the power to be just as powerful for business and industry too.

Traditional Advertising is still King … or is it?

While digital and social channels are increasingly critical in micro-targeting likely consumers (and voters) and nurturing them toward a desired behavior, the tried-and-true mass marketing channels are still as powerful as ever. According to CNBC, the campaigns spent a lot of ad money on the race.

Based on campaign spend data through October 20th (which excluded the final election push that has not yet been reported on) the Clinton campaign spent $141.7 million on advertising – the lion’s share of that on TV spots. Trump’s campaign spent a paltry (by recent historical standards) $58.8 million on advertising. To put in perspective just how little that is, President Obama spent an astounding $630.8 million through October 20, 2012 on advertising. Mitt Romney spent $360.7 million on ads in defeat in the same period.

What all that tells me is that while traditional mass media is still a vitally important component of the marketing mix, it’s not the end-all and be-all it once was. More and more sophisticated marketers are investing in digital and social channels to do the hard work of identifying targets, nurturing them to the desired outcome, and then converting them when – and where – they are ready to convert.