4 Marketing Lessons from Hillary, Bernie and the Donald

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The White House

Perhaps the simplest definition of sales and marketing is this: marketing is what you do to attract attention with the goal of getting people interested in your product, and sales is what you do to get them to buy it. Sales and marketing—two separate but equally fundamental processes, right?

Except in politics—and particularly this interminable but terminal (good news, it won’t last forever) 2016 presidential election. The campaigns are incredibly compelling from a marketing standpoint, AND they combine sales and marketing concurrently. The candidates—Hillary, Bernie, and the Donald (all still in it as of this writing)—are themselves the products AND the chief salespersons trying to get us to buy. From now until November, at least two of them will be giving us real-time, live, actionable lessons in marketing that you can instantly apply to your business.

Here are the best of their marketing lessons so far:

  1. Break the rules

Nate Silver is a statistician and editor-in-chief of ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight blog who correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Yet even he (along with much of the U.S.) called it wrong on Donald Trump who, despite rock-bottom approval numbers among Hispanic, African-American and women voters, is now the presumptive Republican nominee.

We’ve all heard why Trump is where he is—he breaks the rules, tells it “like it is” and lives by the motto “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

But from a marketing perspective, Bernie Sanders is king. CNBC recently called him an “entrepreneurial genius” who’s tapping into a market that’s traditionally been overlooked by politics. Lyneir Richardson, who is executive director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers Business school, said this about Sanders: “Bernie Sanders is speaking to a segment that not only other politicians but most big corporations want to figure out how to sell to: millennials,” Richardson said. “Everyone’s going after that demographic right now, and millennials are responding to Sanders in a way that the rest of the country and business world is watching and learning from.”

Extra credit: Should you break the rules when it comes to your marketing? Hack away, say experts, as long as you’re willing to take the risk.

  1. Be authentic

No matter how you might feel about Trump’s brashness and braggadocio, his supporters believe in him. Same with Sanders. In fact, while their campaigns and platforms and target voters are vastly different, the two candidates create passionate followers because they’ve positioned themselves as Washington beltway outsiders who say what they mean and do what they say. In this case, authenticity builds trust, and trust can win elections (and business).

Extra credit: Evaluate your brand’s sincerity. Does it make the grade?

  1. Optimize earned media

Donald Trump’s ad spending is far less than either Bernie or Hillary’s. Why? His antics get media attention, and he’s earning media by taking full advantage of the adage, “all press is good press.” Even as he bashes the media, Trump has thus far earned more than $2 billion in free press coverage.

Earned media—third party content across platforms, i.e. newspapers, magazines, broadcast and cable news, blogs and social networks—drives consumer behavior. All of the candidates use it to their advantage. According to MediaQuant, an analytics firm that tracks media coverage and calculates a dollar value based on advertising rates, Bernie and Hillary’s numbers TOGETHER equal just slight more than Trump’s.

Extra credit: Learn to earn media for your brand. And know the differences between owned, earned and paid media. Think about those players in your local market who are constantly in the news. What are they doing? How can you take advantage of your differentiators and get the in the press?

  1. Just hang on

Hillary lost to Obama in 2008 (but won Secretary of State status later) and perseveres despite tons of bad press (still earned media) and endless attempts to knock her out of the race. Perhaps the greatest dichotomy in this race so far is that America loves/hates both Hillary Clinton (and Trump) with passion on both sides, yet she’s currently favored to win the presidency in November. No matter what, she’s determined to earn the oval office. That’s some tenacious perseverance.

Whether or not Hillary’s doggedness will win out has yet to be seen, but perseverance, that ability to just hang on no matter what, is something many entrepreneurs have in common. How’s your determination doing?

Extra credit: Toughen your stick-to-it attitude. Learn the art of perseverance.

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