Three-Ring Political Circus: Marketed Candidacies for America

Stream GOP debate coverage via smartphone live and in nail-biting HD. Catch all the action, shouts, ridicules, taunts, and occasionally relevant conversation in our highlight reel as you lethargically scroll through your newsfeed. Follow both candidates on Facebook and twitter as they shamelessly attempt to denounce their opponent.

Ponder the deeper mysteries of the presidential race, such as why does the FBI refuse to investigate Hillary’s clearly illegal email scandal, or how has T.V. personality and part time orange Donald Trump been taken seriously enough that he actually stands a chance of becoming the next president. Most importantly, don’t forget to share your brilliant insights with your friends on social media platforms as you force your slanted opinions down their throats. Marketability is the most essential characteristic of individuals campaigning for authority in what Billie Joe Armstrong called “Idiot America” back in 2004. Over a decade later, his socially minded insights convey the harrowing reality of a nation constantly manipulated by it’s own media. The advent and widespread popularity of social media platforms has created a cultural “information age of hysteria” as the 2016 Presidential race blows up our newsfeeds.

How did a businessperson with no political experience propel himself to be in a position to perhaps upset the world’s most-experienced politician? Presidential candidate Donald Trump has successfully utilized what is essentially an elaborate marketing scheme via American media to secure his current position of power. The most important ingredient in marketing is to stake out a unique claim that differentiates your brand from everybody else’s brand. Love him or hate him, that’s exactly what Donald Trump has done. As a seasoned businessman, Trump understands that controversy creates news and news build brands. The media unwittingly helped cultivate the “Trump” brand by not only reporting his controversial statements, but also by taking issue with many of them.This had the effect of strengthening the viewpoints among people who agreed with Trump’s agenda. It’s the old marketing maxim: Ignore your competition and don’t debate with them. The minute you debate with your opponent, you create the impression that they have a legitimate argument. In this regard, the New Media serves as a viable asset for Trump’s political campaign.

There’s no doubt that Trump’s slogan, “Make America great again,” is controversial because it appeals to people who don’t think America is on the right track. It creates controversy by instigating arguments among people who do think America is doing well. Many of the speakers at the Democratic convention unintentionally played into Trump’s hands. President Barack Obama, reacting to Trump’s slogan, insisted, “America is already great. America is already strong. “And, he added, ” I promise you, our strength, our greatness does not depend on Donald Trump.” However, according to the latest Rasmussen Report, only 24% of likely voters think the country is heading in the right direction. So President Obama’s words only reinforce Trump’s point.The media forces candidates to express their ideas about a host of issues. That’s why it’s extremely important for any political candidate to forcefully establish a single position on Day One. A position that can weather the media storm in the months to come. Whether Trump wins or loses, marketers should emulate his playbook by using more controversy in their ads. These days, advertising campaigns have been pretty bland. And maybe that’s why many established brands have been losing market share to upstart products.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has benefitted tremendously from a well-orchestrated social media presence. In June, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign scored one of the sickest election season burns. Share Quote Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump had just gone after President Barack Obama for backing Clinton in the race. “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama — but nobody else does!” Trump tweeted.  Five minutes later, the campaign fired off a classic, clever retort: “Delete your account.” Twitter went wild. Within an hour it became the campaign’s most retweeted post. Some users commented on the barb using fire emoji and that famous gif of Angela Basset walking defiantly from a burning car in the film Waiting to Exhale. In just six weeks, the tweet has gained 636,000 likes and 482,000 retweets. Jenna Lowenstein, digital director for the Clinton campaign, says the tweet reflects the efforts of a talented staff of writers who love the art of riffing — and know how to cultivate a voice on the internet. Lowenstein manages the campaign’s daily digital operations and a team of more than 100, which includes staffers who develop content and strategy for social media, video, email outreach, audience development, digital organizing, advertising and The Briefing blog. Lowenstein was previously the vice president of digital at Emily’s List, a nonprofit organization that works to elect Democratic women running for congress and governor.

Her team has what may seem like an impossible task: alternately playing offense and defense while channeling Clinton’s message, competing for users’ fickle attention online and translating that into donations, volunteers and voter turnout. To achieve those goals, says Lowenstein, she knew it wouldn’t be enough to make viral Internet jokes. Indeed, behind that breakout tweet is a nimble operation that churns content by the hour. Last week the campaign launched a Spanish-language website and Twitter account, a Facebook Live of staffers reading the case names of more than 5,500 lawsuits associated with Trump, a Snapchat filter trolling the Republican National Convention and a social media tool called TrumpYourself that allows users to overlay Trump’s most controversial statements on their Facebook profile photo.

Daniel Kreiss, associate professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says the speed and volume of content production is a notable shift from the 2012 election. “While social media platforms were important then, in the years since even more people have moved away from consuming news through the home pages of traditional news outlets and toward discovering information and commentary through online networks. What we’re seeing is a shift toward political attention being driven by social sharing processes,” Kreiss says. “I think the Clinton campaign is very clearly aware of these new dynamics and has worked very hard to be on many different platforms.”

Shrewd politicians racing to control “One nation controlled by New Media” know that he who controls the media controls the nation. The better product doesn’t necessarily win in the marketplace. And the better person doesn’t necessarily win in the political arena. But what does win, more often than not, is the better marketing strategy.

Mitch Cumstein for President 2016!