How Politics & Marketing Are Similar

My campaign role lately has been to work out a schedule for Folklorama, which is an annual two-week festival that celebrates over 43 different cultures and countries, and attend the nightly pavilions with my candidate. Politicians of all stripes and levels go out to these pavilions to enjoy the hospitality and meet Winnipeggers. Tonight we were scheduled to visit some pavilions but there was a schedule change and boom! I ended up with a night off.

Confession time: I didn’t go door knocking. I didn’t make calls. I didn’t put up signs. And yes, I feel like a bad Liberal. Campaigns need to remember that the bulk of people are volunteers – they are doing this not for any pay or rewards, but because they genuinely believe in the candidate and support the party they’re working for. And sometimes, they need a break. I’m no different.

back soon

I have 3 days left of school and two major assignments left to do. So what did I do? I did the only rational thing; I procrastinated, went for a run, caught up on social media, then finally sat down to work on these projects. Nothing like being productive, right? Unfortunately, blogging doesn’t count as campaign activity, but nevertheless, here’s tonight’s post.

In tonight’s blog, I thought that I’d go over the similarities I’ve discovered between politics and marketing. So in the spirit of David Letterman, here are the top five ways politics and marketing are the same!

  1. Marketing is always evolving – whether it’s politics or traditional marketing, what worked in one campaign may not work in another. Professionals need to not only stay current, they need to get ahead of the game and spot the next big opportunity.
  2. It’s all about building relationships – you can view political choices as a high-ticket purchase item that people spend a great deal of time investigating before they make a decision.  You need to build that relationship and gain the trust if you’re ultimately going to be successful in marketing or politics.
  3. You’re selling a product – whether it’s traditional marketing or political marketing, you’re ultimately selling a product that you hope people will want to buy.  When it’s a politician running to represent a group of people, you have to make sure you
  4. Advertising can make a difference – there have been countless examples of political ads that have changed the outcome of an election (see Kim Campbell’s ad attacking Jean Chretien here); you have to carefully know your audience and be able to anticipate the outcome.
  5. Marketing has lasting ramifications – if you bombard your public with your ad enough times, it will start to sink in. How many kids under 5 know what a big yellow ‘M’ means? It’s just like in politics where one statement – like “He’s Just Not Ready” can become ingrained in your audience’s subconscious.

How is political marketing different from traditional marketing?

  1. The pace – political campaigns are shorter in length than traditional marketing campaigns; you have to constantly stay up to date on the latest news and gaffes, and make decisions on a shorter time-frame.
  2. Risk – you have to take a little more risks when it comes to political campaigns because you don’t have the ability to test-market ideas or concepts or key messages all the time.  You have to be able to read the situation and act, even if it might be a wrong decision.
  3. Social media – social media plays a role in political campaigns for sure, but because the real goal of political campaigns is to get people out to vote, it’s hard to measure the  direct return on investment.  A marketing campaign can see measurable results from their social media efforts – we got this person to like our Facebook page, they downloaded the coupon and redeemed it.   It doesn’t quite work that way politically; at least not yet.

What did you think of this list? Is there anything you would add or change? Let me know in the comments below. If this interested you, check out Susan Delacourt’s award-winning book Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose ThemIt’s a necessary read for anyone interested in politics.



About Dani K

Passionate young professional with a commitment to positive change. Partisan politico. Sometimes runner.
This entry was posted in Diary Of A Campaign Volunteer and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How Politics & Marketing Are Similar

  1. Great insights Danielle. And guess what? Your insights also apply to the course you are madly trying to finish. Especially the piece about relationships and the intangibility of the “product” you are marketing. Hope this is helpful. You are in the home stretch.


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