by Ben Allen, Guest Contributor
Everybody is talking about who is going to become the next President of the United States. It’s everywhere in the media, from blogs to cable news, with the focus being on Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton. One benefit to watching the election closely is to watch the different marketing tactics employed by each candidate.
While typical marketing plans are very subtle and are designed to run for a long period of time, election season is so short that candidates can’t waste any time. Very quickly, they have to plan, execute, analyze and adjust their approaches, which allows us to watch what works and what doesn’t.
Each of the main candidates has a main tactic they're employing, and this gives us three interesting case studies to analyze. While we won’t know which plan will work best until November, each tactic is obviously working to some extent because of these candidates' popularity, and we’re able to implement these ideas in our own content marketing now. Here are some of the tactics the presidential hopefuls are employing.
The Controversy of Donald Trump
Many of the memorable moments from Trump’s campaign so far have been riddled with controversy. He’s gotten national attention for his opinions on immigrants, Muslims, career politicians, and more.
And it’s working for him. Time and time again, political experts, reporters, TV hosts, and other politicians have all discounted Trump and the power of the controversy. Everytime he says something that incites a riot, they say “That’s it. He’s done. His bid for president is over.” But it doesn't end. He continues on, regardless of what happens.
Controversy gets attention from everybody. Do you agree with the controversy? Then you’ll enjoy what is being said, and maybe even share it if you’re feeling courageous. Do you disagree with the controversy? You’ll probably still read about it, talk about it, and get angry about it. Either way, the originator of the controversy is getting attention.
For content marketing, being controversial means saying something that goes against the norm or stating an unpopular opinion. But simply saying it isn’t enough. You have to back up your claim with sound reasoning and data. This is the difference between being a trusted authority and a crazy person screaming on the street. Great controversial pieces have the opportunity to drastically change an industry and how people think about a specific subject. This idea isn’t new in the world of marketing, but it is still highly effective in the digital space.
That being said, not everybody can, or should be, controversial. If you are afraid of offending potential customers or don’t have the necessary courage and thick skin to deal with the backlash, it might not be worth the attention. Being controversial can easily spiral out of control if you don’t actively monitor it.
Trump’s constant stream of controversial statements might transform his campaign into a case study of the dangers of controversy. His extreme opinions and statements, coupled with his lack of political experience, could become the fuel that democrats use to win the White House, according to Dr. Lara Brown, the program director for The George Washington University Political Management program.
“Trump, for all the reasons … discussed during the last two debates can easily be picked up by the Democrats and turned into an ‘unfit for office’ argument,” Brown wrote in her article on what the GOP needs to do to defeat Hillary Clinton.
The Passion of Bernie Sanders
Passion is contagious. It’s why social movements (like that Ice bucket challenge everybody was doing a few years ago) go viral so quickly, and it’s why Bernie Sanders has gotten so much attention. When people are frustrated and somebody addresses that frustration and gives it a passionate voice, it gets attention. When that person gives those people a solution, it goes viral.
You can tell that Sanders' passion is catching on. His grassroots campaign is working incredibly well, getting attention from all sorts of different demographics, raising over 94.8 million dollars, and placing him as a top contender for the democratic vote. He is so attractive to the “common man” because his passion relates to their pain. It’s why his campaign’s unofficial catchphrase “Feel the Bern” has become so popular. Congressman Alan Grayson best sums up the passion Sanders' followers display by saying, “America needs a revolution. And only Bernie Sanders, as President of the United States, can make one.”
It’s incredibly difficult to fabricate passion in content marketing, regardless of its format. You can tell when somebody is pretending to be passionate, and when somebody believes in something with all their heart. To create passionate content, everybody involved has to believe in it. That includes writers, producers, editors, everybody who has a hand in the production process needs to be on board. This is what transforms simply laboring on something into a labor of love. Workers who are invested in an idea or product will work more effectively than otherwise. Before you try to sell something to the public, you have to sell it to your workers.
Once everybody is excited, let that passion shine through your work. Be bold in your content and let your personality become part of the content. Being meek or sounding like a corporation turns off readers and makes it impossible to get people excited. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and let your voice project your passion for your topic.
If you are truly passionate and your content shows it, you’ll start attracting people. Make sure to include a call to action and give people a way to show their excitement. If people are excited about something, but don’t know what to do, their enthusiasm is wasted. Having a clear call to action, whether it’s sharing the content on social media, making a purchase, or just getting more involved, might be all the encouragement they need to act on their passion.
The Brand Recognition of Hillary Clinton
Everybody, whatever their opinion of her, knows who Hillary Clinton is. Some may know her as Bill Clinton’s wife and former First lady, from her multiple years serving in public office, or from her previous bid to become the President of the United States.
Hillary Clinton has built a brand over the long term, and has been part of a lot of tremendous things. People know who she is, even if they don’t exactly understand (or agree with) what she stands for.
The end goal of building brand awareness is to become a trusted source of your specialty, be it information, a specific type of product, or a particular service. If you are easily recognizable, people will believe you are the foremost expert. Excellent branding is essential for a business to flourish on a global scale.
Building a brand isn’t something that is done overnight, and requires a thoughtful approach. The most important part of building brand awareness is getting in front of people, but how? This answer to this question determines both the type of content you’ll create and how you’ll promote the content. Focusing on one or two items to resonate in your brand awareness makes it much easier to control what people think of you.
Branding, though, is a double edged sword. Businesses and politicians have limited control of their branding and what people think of them. For example, Hillary’s campaigns have always been plagued by her husband’s indiscretions and failings as President, and more recently, the incident involving Benghazi. Hillary, of course, doesn’t want voters to associate these negative thoughts with her campaign, but it’s been so prevalent in the news that voters associate these problems with her. A lot of her current campaign is to control this negative press and restore her brand.
The Power of Social Media
If this presidential race has taught us anything, social media is a bigger deal than ever. Back in 2011’s elections, only 35% of Americans owned smartphones. Now, that number is up to 64%, with most using social media daily. In previous elections, social media was a lower priority for candidates, who focused on more traditional methods. Candidates now, though, cannot ignore it as people rely less on traditional news sources like television or newspapers, and get their information from social news feeds.
Each candidate has brought their unique election strategy to social media, especially Twitter. Trump continues to talk about controversial topics and lash out at naysayers and his competition. Bernie Sanders' Twitter is filled with retweets from supporters, talking about issues of the common man, and corruption in the government. Hillary’s feed is more PR heavy, focusing on how to help the people of Flint in their water crisis, tweets designed to reach out to different minorities, and occasionally throwing in a meme or joke for entertainment to make her more relatable to the younger voters.
As the candidates are focusing so much on social media, so should you. Your profiles and pages should align perfectly with your content marketing plans, not simply be a place to post your articles. Social media is a way to transform content into conversations and engage with your target audiences.
As the election continues to heat up, keep looking at how each candidate is handling their personal content strategies and how they evolve over time. Will Sanders' passion be enough, or will he adopt other tactics? Are Trump’s many controversial statements going to ruin him?
Have you applied strategies used in the election for your own content marketing? What are your thoughts on building brand awareness or developing passionate writers? Let me know in the comments below.
Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and marketer who focuses on staying on the cutting edge of technology and marketing. He also writes about small businesses, leadership, and occasionally geeks out. You can read more of his writing by following him on Twitter: @allen24ben.