Over the last 30 years of participating in the intersection of politics with advertising and marketing, one thing is clear to me:
Candidates and causes that implement the most advanced direct response advertising and marketing strategies and tactics are the winners.
It’s not about money.
Trump proved that. $1.4 billion (Hillary) vs. $957.6 million (Trump).
It’s about more powerful messaging, advertising and marketing.
Better marketing creates winning candidates.
When I first started off in the advertising world, it was in political fundraising and candidate marketing.
What I’ve learned now, versus best practices then, is a completely different landscape of tactics and strategies.
Dramatic new changes. Surprising new results.
While the tactics have changed, the basic principles are the same, because human nature – and the direct response marketing rules – don’t change.
The greatest game changing principle today: go and engage people where they are now.
Today’s political market has created new opportunities and choices.
The most advanced political direct response machine ever created was President Obama’s 2012 campaign. It transformed the way people will market a candidate or cause in 2018 and beyond.
But things change fast—very fast.
Clinton tried to improve on Obama’s radically excellent campaign—but was caught in the past—and with poor messaging.
Trump took what Obama did and used great messaging combined with super targeted marketing.
Staying one step ahead is critical to winning.
For 2018, there are 22 important trends – surprising to many – that impact the political world today. Here they are:
Trend #1: Multichannel, Integrated Marketing
Just as the integration of direct marketing data has had a huge impact on the success of marketing for commercial products and services, so it is with political advocacy and fundraising. That means that for the same select group that you’re marketing to, you use a combination of direct mail, email, Facebook, Google, Amazon, pre-roll commercials and retargeting to the same names – all with a dedicated landing page. Right now, I’m doing multiple campaigns using this strategy.
Everything is targeted. Accountable. Scientific.
#2 Database Building
Building your database and coding it properly is one of the primary and starting functions of a strategic campaign. Any consultant who does not understand these basic fundamentals of winning an election is marketing as if they were in 1990.
Building a database means more than using the voter file. In fact, it’s more than simply overlaying demographic, even psychographic, data.
At the basic level, it is identifying the demographics. It includes income, ethnicity and other data that will enhance the voter file, knowing the high propensity voters from the low propensity voters and their voting history. It includes adding additional polling information from the field. It means keeping it constantly updated. It means searching for the new move-ins. It means tracking people who have moved within the district. It means growing an email list of people who are persuadable and another email list of those who are supporters. It should be broken down between contributors, volunteers and lawnsigns.
For fundraisers, it identifies high donors and low donors and what their issues are. It should be rich with data; their belief systems on abortion, marriage, economics, minimum wage, social security, what their highest response buttons are.
This data collection can be done through the field, going door-to-door, recording the messages and translating the data. These can be done through a survey or a poll, they can be done through petitions, they can be done through a variety of different sources to be able to build a rich dynamic database.
To be able to integrate that database with multimedia campaigns of direct mail, email and phone become very profitable and dynamic tools.
I also use a tool called advanced data modeling, which can help you build a powerful, strategic database using transactional data – including how much people have given to political causes and campaigns.
#3 Strategy Branding and Positioning
Your brand and positioning does not appeal to everyone, only to targeted audiences. Trump positioned himself as a “Washington Outsider” and won the support of millions of Americans who wanted a candidate that would “tell it like it is” to Make America Great Again.
#4 Microtargeting Markets
Direct mail, email, satellite radio, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and pre-rolls can help target special niche markets. So can direct mail ads and other media.
During the 2016 election, Trump reached out to the Evangelical vote in America…and received 81% of their votes. Clinton, however, ignored this powerful voting base and got only 16% of their votes.
#5 Direct Response Copy
Use only direct response copy in all of your marketing efforts. Direct response copy directly addresses prospects with “you-oriented” copy that highlights the benefits of your political campaign.
Direct response copy will also highlight your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)—whatever sets you apart from other candidates. As described above, Trump’s USP was his positioning as a “Washington Outsider.”
#6 Direct Response Landing Page
A special landing page will be the foundation of your multichannel, integrated campaign. Drive all traffic back to your landing page, with clear messaging and a powerful call-to-action.
One of the biggest mistakes any candidate can make is drawing people to just the general candidate site. What’s needed are a landing page for each segment you are marketing to that matches up to their marketing media messages.
#7 The Email Evolution
Email has changed. Less hard sell, more relationship building. As mentioned in Trend #1, our integrated approach will boost return by showing the mailing piece ready to be received.
The email to the left is a piece I created for one client, that shows recipients the magalog they can expect to receive in the mail.
But email is more than just mailing in an integrated way as mentioned in Trend #1. It should also be used where your goals and objectives are to build as large of an email list with as much data in it as possible to raise funds or move people to your candidate.
In 2016, Trump sent 10 million emails with a 23% open rate and Clinton sent only 2.1 million…with a 19% open rate.
Trump’s most successful email was sent the day before election day…Clinton’s emails mostly included poll monitoring, asked for money and promoted GOTV (Get Out the Vote) to increase voter turnout.
In business and consumer marketing, segmentation is critical to success. It’s even more so in politics. For candidates, you need at least to be able to know who your supporters are, who the persuadables are and who is a waste of time, money and effort.
Auto responders make it easy to create a conversion series – a 4 to 12 part series to develop relationships, overcome objections and achieve your objectives.
#8 Banner ads
Banner ads are digital ads that are an important part of any integrated, multichannel campaign. The same prospects who receive your emails, see your ads on social media and receive your direct mail will see digital ads all over the internet. Banner ads are especially powerful when combined with retargeting, which will retarget prospects who have already visited your landing page.
Here is a banner ad I created below, for a political conference.
#9 Facebook Basic
Engage. Motivate. Activate. Carry on a deeper conversation. And, with objectives well defined, fill your townhall, raise your money and create an army of volunteers. Facebook will help you identify the right prospects with a variety of easy-to-use tools. It was Trump’s #1 source.
In 2016, Trump had 20+ million followers, while Clinton only had 10 million followers.
Today, Trump has over 24 million followers, and Clinton has lost followers, at 9.8 million followers.
#10 Facebook Custom List Marketing
Facebook also has multiple ways of being able to leverage a campaign for specific targeting. For example, the political left uses Facebook custom lists to overwhelm elected officials, change policy by mobilizing support, and achieve success beyond its numbers because of the perception of overwhelming support or opposition.
With the custom list, you feed select, microtargeted emails into Facebook. They identify the target group members’ Facebook pages so you can have separate messages for: donors, volunteers, media, persuadables, prospects, etc.
#11 Look-a-Like Audiences
Building a look-a-like audience is a powerful tool to expanding your prospect base. Look-a-like audiences identify prospects who “look” and behave like your best prospects. They can be built on a variety of platforms, including:
- Direct mail
- AdRoll Prospecting
- Private Companies
Look-a-like audiences are best created using transactional data—this will produce the most targeted, responsive audience.
#12 Social Media with an Objective
It’s great to use Tumbler, Instagram and other social media. But only spend the ad money if you have an objective.
Twitter can be used to build a loyal following. I use it for multiple purposes – fundraising, recruiting, meetings and more.
Take a look at how Trump and Clinton measured up on Twitter during the 2016 presidential election—and now.
Trump: 51% positive mentions on Twitter during 2016 election; 24.8 million followers in 2016
Clinton: 51% negative mentions on Twitter during 2016 election; 13.2 million followers in 2016
Trump also had 2:1 more mentions than Clinton.
Trump: 49.9 million followers
Clinton: 22.3 million followers
Incidentally, I have two Twitter accounts for politics, Craig Huey (@CraigHuey) and Election Forum (@RealityAlert).
#14 Envelope Direct Mail
This election, the candidates are using direct mail. Some are using it poorly. Some are using it well.
Envelopes today can be highly personalized so no one knows they were mass produced.
And tease envelopes still work very well. Use a letter, PS, value-added piece and pre-canceled stamps.
Here’s an example of an envelope I sent, with high-quality personalization of the address.
A bookalog looks like a book and feels like a book. But it’s really a sales piece. It can be used for persuasion, to undercut an opponent, to persuade the persuadables and help rally the supporters. It can be used to raise funds. It can be used to generate volunteers. A bookalog has 14 point type and at least 110 pages broken into chapters. It appears to be a regular book, but it’s written with direct response copy, and it has powerful results.
It only takes me 6 weeks to write a powerful bookalog. All of a sudden, the candidate is now an author, all of a sudden, he has a persuasive, powerful tool that distinguishes him from the competition. Many candidates understand the principle, but books they write are pretty unreadable, without much purpose.
A magalog is an infomercial in print. It looks like a magazine, feels like a magazine. It too can be created for different audiences and different purposes. With the magalog, you’ll have 16-24 pages of copy, pictures, cartoons, graphs and charts to be able to make your case and stand out from the opposition. It can be used for fundraising and persuasion, either to the voters or to the supporters.
Here’s a magalog cover we created for an investment newsletter.
A videolog combines the power of video with the power of direct mail. You open up an envelope and within it is a 4-page, thin letter. You open up the letter and the video will play; it can be 30 minutes, it can be 3 minutes, and it can be to any audience you want. Here is a link to full details of the videolog.
For high donor outreach, tools like the videolog are extremely powerful in treating high-end donors and supporters differently than anyone else.
Video keeps changing and the opportunities to place videos in a variety of places keep changing.
Use video on your landing page, Facebook ads, and banner ads to increase your credibility and boost response.
Use direct response principles in your video. Video created in a PowerPoint format typically gets a high response.
One of the best ways we use video are in pre-roll ads, the commercials before videos you may watch on YouTube for example. Pre-rolls get great response, and can be used to retarget people who have visited your landing page.
#20 TV Commercials
Most TV commercials by the candidates today are video. They can have a great viral impact. However, TV commercials cannot be relied on alone to generate response.
When running TV commercials, make sure to target specific audiences, by:
- Cable TV
In the 2016 election, Clinton ran 383,000 TV ads and Trump ran 125,000 ads. Clinton’s TV campaign was ultimately unsuccessful—proving that commercials may help your campaign, but they can’t win your campaign.
#21 Telephone Outreach
The telephone is still a powerful tool. That’s why today, landlines versus cellphone data is essential. In the past, candidates and sometimes causes relied upon robo-calls. Robo-calls have a limited amount of benefit to the candidate or fund-raising campaign and certainly should be a tool to be tested.
Probably more dynamic today is the telephone townhall. A telephone townhall for raising funds, motivating volunteers, talking to the persuadables or talking to your support base is powerful. It’s easier to do and has more listeners than a webinar. Many in Congress under-utilize it today and very few campaigns utilize it. What happens is that every household that provides a telephone number gets a phone call. Those who answer are immediately placed into a live conference. Those who don’t answer receive a well-prepared, recorded message.
Texting can be a powerful direct response marketing tool to reach out to your audience and get amazing response. Trump’s text messages received an amazing 99% open rate, 87% within 3 minutes during the 2016 election.
Here is one I sent for a speaking event:
It’s Craig Huey. Don’t forget my talk. Make California Great Again/El Segundo Public Library, Mon. 7 PM. See details. http:hjk.com/cxtn
Trump’s texting campaign was superior to Clinton’s campaign in that it was fast (Text Trump to a shortcode vs. Text to a phone number), immediate (Immediate text upon sign-up vs. emails – text to phone #’s), and aggressive (Texted 3 times a week vs. once a week or every other week).
The 2016 campaign proved that a candidate doesn’t have to match dollars or outspend their opponent…doesn’t have to rely on TV commercials…doesn’t have to water down their position. It also proved that the Evangelical vote is powerful.
To win an election:
- Integrated marketing works
- Digital ads with a ground game is critical
- Principles and conviction win over political positioning
Where are billboards? A waste. AM/FM radio? A waste. Each of these might be justified with significant niche marketing (like Christian radio) in a broad market.
But the key is:
- Build the data base and market to it aggressively.
- Use only targeted, accountable marketing—don’t waste finite research.
- Combine the data with an aggressive, integrated campaign, like The GOTV (Get Out the Vote) campaign.
These are some of the latest and greatest media trends impacting the political world.
Combine these with a powerful field operation and you have a powerful, almost unfair, advantage over others. If I can help you implement any of these, let me know. Call me at (310) 212-5727 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the rest of this week’s articles: