Podcast: RESEARCH, TECHNOLOGY AND EMOTIONS: HOW POLITICAL MARKETING PLAYS A CRITICAL ROLE IN GOVERNMENT AND PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Elections have evolved the last few decades. From simply polling voters to using big data to sway voters’ decisions, DePaul Driehaus School of Business professor, former White House advisor and author, Bruce Newman, outlines political marketing’s growing influence in elections and, simply, within government. He also shares his analysis of the 2020 Presidential election and what the 2020 winner will need to accomplish before January’s Inauguration.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Welcome to DePaul Download. I’m your host, Linda Blakley, vice president of University Marketing and Communications.
On our last episode, we talked about political debates. And while we all understand the important role debates play in informing the public of a candidate’s platform and policies, there is another critical component to election campaigns and government in general, political marketing. Political marketing can involve social media posts and television commercials, but it can also include a simple campaign phrase that unites people to rally around a candidate.
Here to talk with us today about political marketing and to share his observations on the 2020 presidential election is Bruce Newman. He is a Driehaus School of Business marketing professor at DePaul, Wicklander Fellow in Business Ethics and the author of nearly 20 books. Bruce is frequently interviewed about political marketing for a variety of news outlets, including NPR, the BBC, the Christian Science Monitor and the Chicago Tribune. Welcome to the DePaul Download podcast, Bruce.
BRUCE NEWMAN: Thank you, Linda. It’s my pleasure to be here.
LINDA BLAKLEY: I’d like to start with a fairly simple question. What is political marketing? And how has it changed over the last few decades?
BRUCE NEWMAN: That’s a very simple question, but it requires a very complex answer. In very simplistic terms, political marketing is the merging of two different disciplines, politics and marketing. It includes the tools, machinery, techniques that are used in marketing of products and services that are translated to the political marketplace.
We’re really talking about the application of very traditional marketing of strategic tools like market segmentation and product positioning, marketing research and polling, and advertising and distribution. The complexity of the field begins to take place when one tries to separate the two different disciplines from one another, which is very easy, but, again, it’s complex to do that.
Traditionally, a product or service that’s marketed seeks to generate revenue and to increase sales, and normally you try to do that with as big a margin as you can. Interesting change when it comes to the political marketplace is that sometimes it’s only a one percentage point that makes the difference between winning and losing. Winning and losing, and politics and the political marketplace is a very different challenge than selling a product or a service and it requires an understanding of a complex environment.
My particular position over the years has been to study presidential politics. The environment at the presidential level is exceedingly complicated because you’re not just competing, let’s say, in this campaign between Biden and Trump with one another, but you’re competing and having to contend with people all over the world with the actions of Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping or Kim Jong Un or some crisis that might take place tomorrow that we don’t know about.
You are definitely in political marketing in a constant state of crisis management. I would say that probably is the most important difference between politics and the business marketplace.
I can tell you that having done some work in the Clinton White House in ’95 and ’96, I was sitting at one meeting with some of the advisors to President Clinton and they said, you know, a typical CEO has one major challenge a month to deal with. They said the President has two to deal with daily. That’s the big difference between the two.
LINDA BLAKLEY: To help our understanding, what are some of your favorite examples of presidential political marketing?
BRUCE NEWMAN: I think some of the great historical examples if we were to go back to what many would say is the beginning of political marketing, it was the case of John Kennedy who, for the first time, used a pollster, Lou Harris, using numbers, statistics, polling in a way that had not been used previous to that.
You move on from John Kennedy to Jimmy Carter. He had a brilliant man, Pat Caddell, who went even a step further from polling and began to do excessive marketing research. That was a classic move in the field.
You then go on to someone like Ronald Reagan who had Michael Deaver as a strategist creating a brand, if you will, for Ronald Reagan.
If you go on to the more modern campaigns to certainly the Obama campaign, some of the classic cases that come into play in 2008 and 2012 is the use of microtargeting, big data, and social media.
When you asked me about some examples, I say that the most important part of political marketing, it’s not just the advertising. It’s not just the branding. Of course, we know with Donald Trump, branding is very important. But it’s the use of technology to communicate and connect with the voters and citizens.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Back in 2016, you saw something in President Trump’s presidential campaign that you’ve been researching for over 40 years. Can you talk about what he did that was different than other candidates? What made it so successful?
BRUCE NEWMAN: That’s a great question, Linda. What he did in 2016 is what Airbnb did in the hotel industry. It’s what Uber did in the transportation industry. It’s what Amazon did in the music industry.
He was able to make a direct link through his tweeting and other technology, direct link with the voters in a way that it hadn’t been done before. He was able to actually do an end run around the traditional political party structure.
Up to that point and for many decades, the way you became a nominee for a political party was to be vetted by the party. Donald Trump, for the first time, refused to go through that process because, first of all, he was not a politician to begin with, and he was able to create, if you will, his own brand of the Republic party, not have to rely on the party to get elected, but he was able to use his ability as a TV show person, as a master brander to connect directly with the voters and citizens and not have to rely on the traditional party infrastructure, which is not to say he didn’t use that when it came to the campaign.
That also, by the way, raises a very interesting extrapolation when you go from the election to actually running government. There has been a lot of research in the field of political marketing about the way in which the political marketing tools used during the campaign are now becoming part of the tools that are used to run government.
Certainly, it’s no surprise to anyone listening to this podcast that the President is using technology through his tweets on a daily basis to communicate with many, many millions, tens and tens of millions of people, which raises another very interesting issue that deals with psychology.
At the heart of all marketing is the ability to make an emotional connection with your customer. At the heart of political marketing is the ability to make an emotional connection with the voter and citizens. By making that emotional connection, in effect you are creating and reinforcing attitudes towards, in this case, a person.
Through constant reinforcement on a daily basis, Donald Trump has been able to create a brand for himself, reinforce it and strengthen the attitudes of the people listening to him on a regular basis. That’s a big difference between what happened previous to 2016 and what happened in 2016. You had someone coming from outside the political sphere and doing an end run and using his skills to win the nomination and the presidency.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Now let’s talk about after Election Day. Once a winner is declared, and before the man who will be sworn in on January 20th, what would that person need to accomplish from a political marketing standpoint? Is this timeframe important? If so, why?
BRUCE NEWMAN: It’s a critical timeframe because what this person has to do that wins, especially if it’s the challenger and not the incumbent, is to convince the American people that he will work for all Americans, not just the political party that he represents. In other words, if Joe Biden wins, it’s incumbent upon him to convince the American people that he’s going to bring all Americans together.
I would say the most important message for any leader, in particular a leader in the United States, is to convince the American people that there is hope because that really is the job of any political leader in any country regardless of the political system that they operate in. A political leader must convince the followers, the citizens of a country that there is hope for them.
In order to do that, a leader has to articulate the policies and programs that they’re going to initiate. In this case, the person who is going to be representing the country come Inauguration Day has to convince the American people that he has a program in place. He has to convince the American people he has the right people in place to run the program.
From a political marketing standpoint, it’s a question of doing more research because, after Election Day, people’s attitudes change. It’s amazing. If someone votes for a person who loses, suddenly they might kind of think twice about maybe the other one wasn’t so bad, and they’re beginning to change their mind and think about some other issues.
There is constantly research being done on a minute-to-minute, moment-to-moment, day-to-day basis, and there will continue to be research and data collected in that period. That has to be analyzed. It has to be understood. It has to be translated then into any changes that the particular candidate advocated during the campaign if it should reveal that people want something different than what they heard during the campaign.
All of the same marketing – political marketing tools come into play. We’re still talking about the distribution of ideas, the promotion of an image, the reinforcement of a brand, the definition of policies and issues, and I would say, again, the ability to frame a narrative that convinces the American people that there is hope for them, and that certainly, in this campaign, is a critical component to the stability of our country because up until this point, as many of us know, there has been a division that has built up in the country between the two political parties and it’s imperative that the sense of hope exists for all Americans.
That’s not an easy challenge, I would say that.
LINDA BLAKLEY: In addition to all of your efforts as a professor and author, you have another impressive item on your resume, and I think we alluded to it earlier. In 1995, you were invited to the White House to advise President Clinton’s senior aides. Can you tell us more about that role?
BRUCE NEWMAN: I’d love to do that, Linda. In March of 1995, I was concerned about where the country was at and I began to write a series of letters to President Clinton and to his Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta at the time, to his Deputy Chief of Staff, Harold Ickes and Erskine Bowles.
I once gave the speech at the 1996 Convention in Chicago to 2,000 high school leaders. The message behind the speech was never give up and always match what’s in your head with what’s in your heart. I’m a persistent person. Yeah, I got some kind of feedback. Yeah, the President appreciates what you’re saying. Blah, blah, blah. I got invited into the White House. They said to me if you’re ever traveling into D.C., let us know.
I do lecture around the world quite a bit and I had been going to Vienna and I contacted my colleague in Vienna and said, hey, why don’t you invite me for a lecture in Vienna. That way I could come and do a stopover in Washington D.C. and fly out to Europe from Washington. Sure enough, it all got set up.
It started on kind of a rough foot. At the time, there were not barricades by the West Wing. You could walk literally up to the fence. I was five minutes late when I got there because I was doing an interview with Hal Bruno who was head of ABC News at the time. I had just written the book The Marketing of the President. We did an interview, and he took me out to lunch. It took a little bit longer.
I get to the gate of the West Wing and I was five minutes late. My pass was eliminated. They had to redo it. I got into the White House and I sat down with George Stephanopoulos and Erskine Bowles and Don Baer, who was the Director of Communication at the time. In preparation for that meeting, I realized I had a one-page position statement I needed to give them, which I put together before I had the meeting.
I sat down with them. The whole meeting when it started, in my mind, was based on the book I wrote, The Marketing of the President. I thought they read the book, The Marketing of the President. I started off the meeting and I lectured for about 45 minutes to these three people about what I think Bill Clinton has to do to get re-elected.
I said, “of course, you know about my book.” They said, “what book?”
The invitation to the West Wing of the White House was based on one sentence that I put into one of my letters to all of them when I wrote to them. The one sentence was “the role of the leader of the free world is to drive public opinion.” Period.
That caught the eye of Harold Ickes and he said I want to hear what this guy has to say. Anyway, it led to another three meetings in the West Wing with various people from March into June and July of ’95 into ’96. I would do research. I would come back with my research results.
I gave them one basic message that they bought, and they used it to help Bill Clinton get re-elected. The message was the following and it was based on research I had done which determined that the American Dream was dying back in ’95 in this country. My research revealed to me that the American Dream was important but not as important as it was to people’s children. They wanted to ensure that the President, if he would get re-elected, would make that dream a possibility for their children. That was my message to them. They bought it. They went with it and Bill Clinton got re-elected.
LINDA BLAKLEY: As they say, the rest is history.
BRUCE NEWMAN: The rest is history. That’s correct.
LINDA BLAKLEY: I have one final question. What type of career should students who are interested in this field consider after graduation?
BRUCE NEWMAN: Well, as I tell my students all the time at DePaul, the field of political marketing is a multi-billion-dollar field. There are academic programs. There are consulting companies.
There is a need for young people trained in various areas, communication and business and rhetoric, all kinds of fields. Of course, I teach in the marketing department in the Business School. I think that there are wonderful openings for our graduates at DePaul to take their knowledge base and use it not just in political campaigns, but there are tremendous lobbying efforts going on all over the world, corporations, non-profit organizations seeking to influence government decision-making.
I think that’s really the key point here is that there is an opportunity for young people to take a chance on having an impact on the government and having an influence on what happens. I say that with a very important point in mind. I think we’re at a very important bridge between the young people and their maturation today. I’m concerned. I’m concerned that we’ve had a few decades where young people, in part because of Watergate, in part because of impeachment of Bill Clinton, impeachment of Donald Trump, my concern is that there is a sense that maybe there is a trust that’s been lost in government, in Washington D.C. And especially now with the current administration that we have, I think we’re at a critical juncture. And if we don’t get our young people involved in politics and get them to care about what the future is going to be for them and for their children and for their grandchildren, I think we won’t have a positive future ahead of us.
LINDA BLAKLEY: That’s an incredible note to end on. Would you encourage students to consider political marketing?
BRUCE NEWMAN: Absolutely. There are so many different ways they can get involved. There are marketing research firms that are devoted to collecting data, doing research on political campaigns. There are consulting companies that need the expertise of people who understand how to use big data and social media. There are television firms that are creating commercials all the time that need young people to get involved and work in that capacity. There is the opportunity for students who graduate not just to work at the federal level but to work at a state or a city or local level.
I would say furthermore, I think it’s even more important for our students to think about running for political office because that really is the only way that you change what’s going on in the system. I think it’s easier to become part of the system than it is to work from outside the system. I think we’re at a point in time and a juncture in history where if we don’t start getting more people involved in becoming part of the system, the system is going to be destroyed by what’s happening today.
LINDA BLAKLEY: Thank you, Bruce, for joining me today and for sharing your insights on this year’s dynamic presidential election campaign and discussing the role political marketing plays in our government.
BRUCE NEWMAN: Thank you, Linda, for having me as a guest on your program. I think you’re doing a wonderful job disseminating important news from DePaul, and I am honored to be one small part of that process.
LINDA BLAKLEY: To learn more about Bruce’s research, published works, and about his time advising the Clinton Administration, please visit the DePaul Download website.
I’m Linda Blakley. Thank you for listening to another episode of DePaul Download presented by DePaul’s Division of University Marketing and Communications.
by Erik Sherman
Oct 29, 2020: If money were votes, the election would be long over. The Biden campaign continued its financial domination over Trump’s during the first two weeks of October. Biden pulled in another $130 million dollars—triple Trump’s $43.6 million.
The Democratic standard-bearer spent 2.3 times as much as the Republican and used $15.2 million of his cash reserves. Trump had to tap another $19.5 million of a campaign bankroll that is quickly dwindling.
“The trick in politics today is to get the right person with the right message that gels with people in a way that’s believable,” said Bruce Newman, professor of marketing at DePaul University and author of The Marketing Revolution in Politics: What Recent U.S. Presidential Campaigns Can Teach Us About Effective Marketing. “If I have a pool of money and I use it incorrectly, the end use of the money won’t be as effective.”
But as in many parts of life and business, cash is king. Even in 2016, when Trump bested Hillary Clinton in Electoral College math, “[her] money advantage helped her to win the popular vote,” Newman added.
This year a bigger haul helped Joe Biden gain a lead not only nationally in polls, but across battleground states that are critical for Trump’s re-election hopes. “[That] allowed Biden to crystalize and heighten the issue of Covid-19,” said Newman.
Biden’s extra money is also forcing Trump to deploy dollars in states he easily won four years ago. Trump has said he might dip into his own pockets, but as of October 14 his wallet has stayed closed.
Dark money, funneled through outside groups, has become increasingly important and isn’t part of these tallies.
“Conventional wisdom today is the political parties do not have the political power they once did because the money does not flow to the political parties,” said Jamie Miller, former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida and currently Florida director of the political marketing firm People Who Think.
“The political parties, I believe, have become an insignificant factor because the money flows to entities really not controlled by anyone other than the person or handful of people making the majority of donations,” Miller said.
And then there is the value of so-called earned media—news coverage—where the president has been dominant since early 2015.
On Tuesday the country will see whether it’s enough to sustain him past a quiet former vice president who’s running out the clock.
Publication – Ria Novosti (English Translation)
WASHINGTON, 8 October – RIA Novosti. Products with the political symbols of US President Donald Trump are commercially more successful than products offered by the campaign headquarters of his rival Joe Biden, but the latter has a more personal approach to the buyer, says Bruce Newman, professor at Chicago’s University of DePaul and editor-in-chief of the Political Marketing Journal.
The set of goods on the online storefront is hardly determined by the headquarters itself, he believes.”These are suppliers who make money, not just headquarters, but suppliers who want their products to be displayed on the official website. This is a business function, and what you see on the site may not be determined by the headquarters at all, but suppliers, “Newman told RIA Novosti. According to him, suppliers themselves go to the headquarters of candidates with an offer of their goods. Variety is also determined by the degree of promotion of the candidate.”If I understand that I will make more money selling Trump goods than Biden’s goods, then there will be a larger selection of products sold on Trump’s website than on Biden’s website,” the agency’s source explained, pointing out that Trump’s online store has been around for five to six years, and Biden’s site is at the very beginning.
Newman said that the extent to which supporters of a particular candidate are willing to buy it also plays a role in shaping a set of political products.“I think Trump supporters are much more enthusiastic about their candidate. Of course, that changed after the debate we saw. I think the level of enthusiasm for Biden has grown quite significantly after his speech. But a Trump supporter is a person who is more willing to spend $ 25 to put a sign on his lawn, is more willing to stick a bumper sticker, “the expert said.According to him, suppliers of such goods hired students who sold goods for 10-20 thousand dollars a week, simply by placing a tray next to the venue of the event with Trump’s participation.As Newman noted, the other day in the vicinity of Chicago, he observed a column of Trump supporters in 15-20 dozen cars in his support with large banners and flags.”This is happening only in the Chicago area? I don’t think so. I think this is not a regional, but a national strategy,” he said.The idea of forming such bright and loud columns, most likely, comes from Trump’s headquarters, since they, for some reason, consider this method effective.
Biden’s is simpler but more personal
“What products are sold on Trump’s website, I think, more reflects the strategy he uses to sell himself and his brand. I think he is counting more on promoting the message that“ there are people just like you who support me ” Newman said.Therefore, he believes, Trump’s product line contains items for placement in a conspicuous place, more noticeable.”Biden sells a lot of clothes. This is a much more simplified approach. I can’t say why he chose this approach,” the source said.However, he said, this suggests that Biden is trying to establish a more personal connection with voters and buyers of his goods, because clothing is still a more personal item than just an accessory with political symbols.But from a commercial point of view, Trump is certainly much more successful than his competitor, the expert said.
Purchase as a guarantee
Sales of goods by headquarters also play the role of a way to tie voters to a candidate and attract them to polling stations, Newman said.”If I can get a citizen or voter to help my campaign, then there will be a connection between this person and the candidate. And then you are more likely to vote for this candidate, because you gave this candidate money. Many do not want to just give money, but are ready to buy anything, “he said.Even an inexpensive accessory is able to create such a connection, it still generates a kind of obligation of the buyer to the candidate. “And that, too, is turning into a very effective tool,” Newman added.The goods on the site also play the role of delivering positive messages about the candidate, because the current election campaign is distinguished by an abundance of negative messages about each of them, he said.