What the Marketing-World can learn from the US Elections

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Vincenzo Köstler

Marketing Consultant

Member of External Affairs Department

“Political marketing…plays to people’s emotions, not their thoughts. It operates on the belief that repeating a catchy phrase, even if it’s untrue, will seal an idea in the mind of the unknowing or uncaring public. It assumes that citizens will always choose on the basis of their individual wants and not society’s needs. It divides the country into “niche” markets and abandons the hard political work of knitting together broad consensus or national vision”

Susan Delacourt


Candidates, like companies, build a brand for themselves. However, they don’t sell products or services, they sell their personality. With their targeting and tactics, they manage to change demographics and influence public opinions.
Marketing is one of the most important tools in US election campaigns, but what can marketers learn from campaign managers’ tactics?

Know your target audience and focus on them

Unlike in many other countries in the world, the American election campaign is characterized by the strong presence of two parties.
Candidates, therefore, spend most of their time in the states where they have the greatest influence and the greatest profits. There is little point in investing time in a state that has always elected the other parliamentary group with a clear majority.
You must know exactly who your target audience is so you can focus on them. Because if you speak to your target audience, you will attract many more customers with the same input than if you try to target everyone.

Simplicity is key

“Yes we can”

Barack Obama Campaign 2008

“Not me, us”

Bernie Sanders Campaign 2020

“Make America Great Again”

Donald Trump Campaign 2016

“Build back better

Joe Biden Campaign 2020

All of these presidential campaign slogans have one thing in common – they are simple. They are easy to understand and memorable. Simply always works well, especially when you want to address the mass market. You will not win with complex and difficult to understand statements. Some people may understand and think it’s great, but most people don’t want to go through the hassle of dealing with it.
Brands need simple messages that are easy to understand and easy to anchor in people’s minds.

Social media is a double-edged sword

As many advantages social media has in terms of reaching people quickly and easily, there are also dangers and risks. This was particularly evident in this year’s election campaign. Careless social media postings can quickly damage the trust and credibility of a campaign.
Social media should therefore always be used carefully and in a targeted manner, otherwise, a shit storm can quickly develop that overshadows a lot. For companies, this means consistency, not too many people with the option to post and quality/fact checks. Otherwise, you run the risk of harming your marketing.

Paint a picture

The customer understands you better when you provide a tangible picture. Politicians use this tactic very often in their campaigns to make citizens feel like they are back. In 2016, for example, Trump used the image of the “forgotten man” – the people who have been abandoned by the system and for whom a glorious future is now blossoming through their vote for Trump. Such personas make it easier for people, they have to worry less.

Controversy sells

If there’s one thing that has emerged in recent election campaigns, it’s that controversy sells extremely well. One of the best examples of this is Trump, with xenophobic, homophobic and racist comments he has drawn a lot of criticism. At the same time, it has also gained a lot of visibility and attracted attention.
Other candidates have also used this effect for themselves, e.g. Bernie Sanders. While “socialism” was a taboo word for many Americans for a long time, Sanders has managed to give the word a positive connotation through his campaigns and the attention it has gained.
There are also many examples from the corporate world such as the German smoothie brand “trueFruits”, which regularly draws attention to itself with controversial statements – but remains in constant conversation. trueFruits has expanded its market share from 20% to over 50% since it was founded and sales fortyfold.


“Welcome the future President of the United States of America” is usually the phrase that candidates are introduced by their campaign managers during their speeches. Politicians are usually bursting with confidence because they know that it is essential to convince citizens of yourself. Who likes to vote for someone who doesn’t know whether he could even make it.
Companies should therefore always present themselves to the outside world with strong self-confidence.

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