With unconventional candidates, unusual platforms and dramatic turning points throughout the race, the 2016 US presidential election has certainly become one for the history books.

Bizarreness notwithstanding, it has also been the biggest digital battle in the history of elections- making it a valuable lesson for anyone interested in the online marketing world.

One thing that this year’s presidential candidates have had in common is the use of a concerted effort to leverage digital media as a powerful marketing platform to reach out to voters. In fact, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have assembled experienced digital marketing teams who have been helping them in using technology to transform fervor to votes.

What do the Numbers Say?

An estimated $11.4 billion is being spent on political ads in the 2016 election– a 20% upsurge over the amount spent in previous elections. The amount spent on social media alone is around half a billion, which marks a staggering increase of approximately 600% over what was spent in the 2012 elections.

Social marketing spent

(Data Source: http://www.technavio.com/blog/current-affairs-digital-marketings-role-us-presidential-election)

The Major Digital Trends this Election Season

As candidates take new strides in the world of digital, it makes sense to delve into the major trends that have shaped the 2016 election cycle.

  1. A social-heavy campaign

With duels being fought on Twitter feeds and Facebook “likes” dictating voter sentiment regarding an issue, social has taken center stage.

And campaigning on social media has never been so intense. Both candidates have a solid presence on a   plethora of social platforms and they are using social to their advantage to drive conversations, clarify facts and boost voter engagement.

They are creating unprecedented volumes of custom content to create a relatable story that is being transmitted to voters. Another interesting feature is the use of the parlance of social media including sleek graphics, funny photos, emoji’s and other formats to appeal to the younger voter demographic.

Clinton is on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. She is a LinkedIn Influencer. She has also taken to the latest mass-social platform-Periscope to live-stream her first campaign rally.  The presidential hopeful has particularly found a niche on Instagram, where the campaign often posts old photos of her.

Social campaign

(Source: www.hillaryclinton.com)

Trump, on the other hand, has amassed a huge number of followers on Twitter (12.8 million). He puts out content in the form of strongly opinionated Tweets that are sure to generate a massive buzz. Trump’s popularity on Twitter rivals the likes of Kardashians!

A well-maintained online presence helps to showcase their personalities and build an instant connection with the electorate-personalize and humanize the brand that these White House hopefuls represent.

  1. Influencing voters via the inbox

Email has been put to great use in this season’s campaign to meet the objectives of fundraising, persuasion and mobilization.

Instead of giving a single pitch to a diverse audience, candidates are reaching out with tailored messages to talk about what really matters to their audiences.

Both Clinton and Trump have used personal, friendly and smart email campaigns. While Trump’s campaign leverages database segmentation, especially related to location to engage voters, Clinton sends out a large number of emails with a personal touch. Her emails contain details about her policies, quizzes, contests and infographics to connect with her voters. Her team regularly conducts split test on the content and subject lines.


email marketing


email marketing

(Source: https://www.mainstreetroi.com/email-marketing-lessons-from-trump-clinton/)

Clinton’s email campaign has been particularly successful. In fact, in a survey conducted on 800 email users, 59 percent of the respondents admitted donating to Hillary’s campaign as a result of her email marketing. 46 percent of the respondents had subscribed to Clinton’s campaign.

       3Use of sophisticated data-tracking tools

Modern data-tracking tools help to identify real-time trends, discover issues that are important to voters and find out topics that are trending in the upcoming election. It throws light on who the voters are, what issues matter the most to them and where they are located.  This in turn drives personalization with the help of highly targeted messaging and content.

For example, Matt in Boston will be sent a message about how important being pro-abortion is to the candidate, whereas Howard in Texas will receive a message that underscores   the candidate’s strong commitment to creating jobs for the unemployed. Sophisticated forms of data targeting is what enables this sort of personalization.

During primary elections, for instance, real-time data revealed how many African-American voters did not know when the election would be held. On the basis of this data, Hillary Clinton’s team created an ad campaign on the fly to address the gap.

       4Website is the cornerstone of digital marketing strategy

A fast, responsive website that is optimized for visitors and search engines is the backbone of any digital campaign. Four things which the websites of both candidates do are:

  1. They clearly explain their stance on political issues.
  2. They have a prominent call to action- encourage visitors to share their email addresses and solicit donations.
  3. They are backed by sophisticated analytics tools to track visitors.
  4. They are not afraid to test new waters and innovatively reach out to voters to build loyalty

Trump does not have a mobile app. However, Clinton has one that encourages people to read about her policy proposals and make donations.

Lessons for Digital Brand Marketers

The campaign to be the world’s most powerful person involves some cutting edge marketing tactics that are also relevant in the non-political arena. From seizing vast swathes of online territory to using creative ways to engage with millennials, today’s political candidates offer important lessons on running a compelling campaign to digital brand marketers. Here are a few tips that are guaranteed to pack a multi-faceted marketing punch:

  1. Develop a consolidated platform that optimizes customer experiences by creating and managing all your assets (content, direct mail, landing pages) etc. in a single place. For instance, having a superior Web Content Management platform like Sitecore or Episerver would help build this connected experience.
  2. Gain a single view of the customer by gathering user data from various channels in one place. It allows marketers to plan and orchestrate campaigns based on real customer insights across multiple channels.
  3. Create engaging, highly personalized and consistent experiences with intelligently targeted content and messaging. This drives user engagement and also boosts conversion.
  4. Analyze and track customer behavior and campaign performance with real-time data.

Whether it is the political or business arena, winning or losing may well come down to the same thing- being savvier at the digital side of campaigning than your counterparts. Perhaps it was the digital edge in Obama’s campaign that helped him win the presidency for two consecutive terms. And it surely would not be an overstatement to say that the better marketer might end up being the real winner yet again.

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