Republicans Should Use Targeted Marketing Strategies

A political election campaign is essentially a marketing campaign, except that you are selling a person (and his or her ideas) rather than a product or service. During the recent presidential election, the Democrats effectively used the same marketing techniques that businesses use -- market segmentation, targeted messaging, and emotion-based selling. The Republicans should consider adopting a similar model to win future elections.

Businesses understand that no matter how good their product or service, some people will never buy. For this reason they target their marketing and advertising toward people who would likely be persuaded by their messages to buy their product or service. In addition, the messages need to create visual images that appeal to the emotions. The same is true in politics.

The Democrats followed this strategy and won. Thus, contrary to the rhetoric, it is the Democrats and not the Republicans who were not inclusive. Like any successful marketer, the Democrats divided potential "buyers" into demographic groups -- African-American, Hispanic, women, young people -- and tailored their advertising messages to each of these groups.

They ignored some market segments, such as white males. They knew a given percentage of them would vote for Obama, that their marketing efforts would not change this number substantially, and that it would be enough as long as their targeted marketing strategies are successful.

The Democrats then developed a single message for each group, incorporated the theme into an advertisement, and ran the ad in an area with a high concentration of people from that particular voting bloc. Each message addressed the single issue that many members in that group care about deeply -- amnesty for Hispanics, marriage for gays, abortion for women, union support and company bailouts for autoworkers. These issues are based on emotion and group-interest, not the general welfare of the country.

In contrast, Mitt Romney's campaign was the epitome of inclusiveness -- it was based on creating a strong economy and jobs to benefit all Americans.But the one-size fits all approach did not work, because for some voting blocs it's not about jobs and the economy. Some of the 47 percent (though not all) who are supported by the government are satisfied with their economic predicament; others are primarily interested in the staple issues mentioned earlier that are germane to their group. "It's the economy, stupid" doesn't seem to apply anymore.

In addition, the Democrats developed advertising and rhetoric that created vivid images and tapped into strong emotions and fear --- "war on women," "back to the stone age," "they're gonna put ya'll back in chains." A while back, they even ran an ad showing a man who resembles Rep. Paul Ryan pushing wheelchair-bound grandma over a cliff. Compare that to the dry, abstract and impersonal Republican messages -- tax loopholes, trillions of dollars of debt, 8 percent unemployment. Which approach creates a picture? Which one induces emotion and fear?

The contrast in marketing and advertising may have been the difference. To almost everyone's surprise, Mitt Romney received 2 million fewer votes than John McCain did in 2008. Had those 2 million people come out to vote, Mr. Romney may have won. Clearly, the party's potential "buyers" did not buy. They were not persuaded by the general, emotionless messages.

Republicans should adopt a targeted-marketing model for future campaigns. For example, one voting bloc they could target is Catholics. This is especially true if the HHS mandate stirs up additional controversy.
They could also include more emotion and fear-based advertising that portrays what economic collapse would look like, such as the country's valueless currency lying in the streets during the Great Depression, or children begging for bread. How about an ad depicting the United States paying its debt to China and losing its sovereignty in the process?

Another powerful image would be one that paints a bleak picture of our future as a socialist country, such as Soviet-style gulags or sick people dying from rationing under government-run health care. None of these is more far-fetched than throwing grandma off a cliff. In fact, most of them have already happened in the world, and some are still happening.

The Republicans ran what seemed to be a good campaign. It was logical to think that the single greatest issue to all Americans was the economy and that general messages about this issue would suffice. But that was not the case. Voters needed more. In 2014 and 2016, the Republicans need to do a better job of segmenting their market, targeting their potential buyers, and appealing to their emotions.

Zach Krajacic is a vice president of marketing and a freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous national publications. He has an MBA in marketing from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y.

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