2016 Presidential Candidates: A Lesson in Marketing?

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In early 2015, a myriad of former governors, senators, and businessmen/women officially launched their campaigns for the office of President of the United States. Now, months later, we’ve seen the results of Super Tuesday—a day that essentially determines the candidate for each respective party.

Throughout the campaign process, it’s been interesting to note that no matter how different each candidate has been, they all have one thing in common—they all share comparisons to B2B marketers.

From Jeb Bush (may his candidacy rest in peace) to Bernie Sanders, each candidate has marketed themselves by creating a unique brand and delivering content related to that brand.

Bernie Sanders has characterized himself as a voice (albeit a much older voice) of the youth of America, fighting to change how big business dominates the United States. Sanders claims he is a man of the people—he represents the ever-powerful middle class as someone who is fed up with the status quo of the government. By appealing to what the people want, Sanders is taking ideas from B2B marketing 101 as he attempts to offer the ultimate solution to the problems facing the world today. Although he was scoffed at by many political pundits when he first threw his hat into the race, Sanders has become an idealistic candidate who represents the change that America wants and deserves.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the assumed frontrunners for the Republican and Democratic nominations, have worked to gain support from voters, too. A successful businessman who claims he will “help make America great again” by creating jobs, Trump has portrayed himself as a candidate who rose from being a young man who “received a small loan” to begin his business ventures.

Clinton’s narrative revolves around her years of experience in the political sphere that make her the most qualified candidate for not just the nomination, but for the presidency itself. In particular, she’s achieved this notoriety by portraying herself as a champion of women’s rights with the goal of closing the pay gap between men and women.

Surprisingly, the most effective branding strategy executed by a candidate may have been Jeb Bush. He effectively used social media, and his much publicized personal email responses to supporters and detractors alike helped to depict him as a true man of the people. He’s also one of the few Republican candidates who utilized LinkedIn—a move that obviously didn’t pay off for him in the long run. However, tapping into every available medium was a smart move for the one-time GOP leader.

Successful B2B marketers would have made the same moves Bush did: create a branded campaign through social media (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram) and try to build themselves up as reliable authorities who can share their wealth of expertise.

After Bush’s failure, another candidate looked to make a major move and climb the political leaderboards: Marco Rubio. Rubio, a favored GOP establishment candidate, has taken some ideas from Trump’s political playbook. Last week, he mocked Trump’s debate performance; this strategy has been Trump’s most effective game plan.

However, this plan seems to have backfired, as he essentially has put himself out of the running with poor polling on Super Tuesday. Ultimately, Rubio’s failed “marketing” campaign will likely create a dilemma for those who hoped to avoid a Trump GOP nomination.

With the results of Super Tuesday showing Trump and Clinton projected to receive nominations from their respective parties, we’ll soon find out who has been the best “B2B marketer” during this 2016 election cycle. Now, it’s up to the citizens of America to decide which candidate to invest in.