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Compete in Non-Traditional Markets

1. Evaluate the campaign team’s decision to compete in non-traditional markets.

This decision was one of the two key constituents of the campaign’s success. Preliminary analysis of the expected campaigns of competitors and of general trends in political campaign-making allowed Axelrod and Plouffe to determine weak points and ineffective places in these campaigns. Indeed, the focus on the “Super Tuesday” and the formality of subsequent primaries was a common deficiency for all competing campaigns, and it was a brave decision to use this niche. The idea to exploit unused competitive area and to shift the focus of the political struggle to the niche where the competitors did not have experience was a valuable strategic step in the design of Obama’s campaign. Furthermore, traditional focus on states, and not on delegates allowed Axelrod and Plouffe to implement another revolutionary idea. The competition shifted from global arena to particular states, and winning delegates allowed Obama to make strong progress in the states which were traditionally considered Republican (and which were thus weakly targeted by Hillary Clinton). In this case, again, the unused market niche was identified and occupied, instead of trying to compete with opponents in her traditionally strong areas. Finally, Axelrod and Plouffe managed to find the balance between targeting primary and caucuses; this decision has further empowered the strategy. Overall, three major strategic findings in non-traditional markets dramatically changed the course of the elections.

2. Evaluate the campaign team’s decision to lower its target donation from $2,300 to $200.

Innovative approach to fundraising was the second key component of the ground-breaking strategy developed by Axelrod and Plouffe. The decision to lower the target donation from $2,300 to $200 created several significant competitive advantages for Obama compared to Clinton. First of all, the number of potential donors increased, and this helped both to generate funds and to allow Obama’s supporters to feel more connected to their leader. Secondly, this idea also targeted the supporters of Democrats which had not been swept by the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Finally, this strategy allowed to seek additional funds from previous donors in the further course of the campaign, which was an advantage over the strategy of Clinton, who exhausted her sources of funding at the start of the campaign.

3. Discuss the marketing advantages created by the campaign team’s use of technology.

The use of technology was not a revolutionary decision, as the same approach was used by Dean in 2004, but a variety of communication technologies have emerged in 2008 (compared to 2004), and Obama’s campaign was in fact the first political project able to embrace the major advantages of technology. Axelrod and Plouffe found out that leading brands used crowdsourcing and campaigns with user-generated content to increase brand awareness. These methods were thus successfully adopted for the campaign. Users could easily access the closest campaign offices and get real-time information; iPhone app for tracking and sorting contact lists was launched, and the overall system allowed to keep ongoing two-way exchange of information between Obama’s ground team and the electorate. As a result, the ground team was able to react in real time to the dynamics of the elections, and could reach an optimal allocation of resources due to the extensive use of technology.

4. Political candidates are most likely to use which one of the six methods of determining advertising expenditures? Why?

The six methods of determining advertising expenditures are percentage of sales, unit of sales, increase over past year, competitive parity, objective-task method and return on investment method (Mathur, 2005). From all these methods political candidates are likely to use the task method, because this method relates the advertising costs to the associated objective (and not to a some particular metric of measuring sales or investment, as these are inapplicable in politics). The objective-task method is related not to the sales effect, but to the communications effect of advertising. This method allows to take into account market environment, competition and the objectives of particular advertising campaign.

5. What are your top three picks for the best advertising media for a presidential campaign? (List the 3 and explain/justify each choice.)

In my opinion, optimal set of advertising media for a presidential campaign includes television, newspapers and internet (electronic means of advertising). Each of these media is aimed to cover a particular audience, and the combination of these three types constitutes an efficient portfolio. Using broadcast television networks, it is possible to reach a broad audience and to appeal visually to the audience. Television is very effective with regard to making an impression on the audience; taking into account its expensiveness, television advertising should not be used every day. Rather, it should be used to present the candidate to the public, and to make an influence at the turning points of the campaign. Newspapers have a limited life, and thus they should be used to deliver a sequence of message to the public (Boone & Kuntz, 2011). Taking into account that newspapers generally address specific communities (Boone & Kuntz, 2011), this advertising media can be used when it’s necessary to reach a certain audience or to keep the public informed. Finally, internet now offers a broad choice of advertising techniques such as social networking, twitter, apps for smartphones and tablet PCs, contextual advertising, articles and, certainly, using a personal website. This media can be used to present the candidate to the public, to establish two-way connection with electorate, to keep the public informed and to create a sense of personal commitment among the followers (Boone & Kuntz, 2011). Overall, the combination of television, newspaper and internet advertising can be used to implement a successful presidential campaign even without the use of other advertising media.

6. Compare the role of a sales force for a company marketing a tangible product with a political organization using volunteers to persuade others to vote for their candidate.

There are both similarities and differences in the role of the sales force marketing a tangible product and in the role of volunteers in promoting their candidate in politics. Both groups are interested to promote their “product” and to increase the number of followers, and both groups tend to reach out to the audience in a variety of ways. They might even use similar methods of advertising, but the differences are more significant in this case. The followers of the candidate can play their role unintentionally, while the actions of the sales force are commonly well-planned beforehand. While the sales force is motivated financially and might not truly believe in the superiority of their product, volunteers use first of all their passion and belief to persuade other to follow their candidate. Thus, their promotion is accepted more kindly by the public than marketing of a particular product.

7. Discuss the role of public relations and publicity in presidential campaigns. Cite specific instances of PR efforts and publicity events related to any presidential election.

Presidential campaigns and their success strongly depend on the effective use of publicity and public relations. In Obama’s presidential campaign, for example, public relations were established using social networks and other technological means, as well as using television. Both Obama and McCain campaigns, for example, used RSS feeds to deliver information and opinions to all interested individuals (Maisel & Brewer, 2009). In fact, public relations and the use of media are highly interrelated, because media serve as the means of establishing public relations and gaining publicity. For a successful presidential campaign, public relations should fit the whole design of the campaign. Ineffective or inconsistent statements of the candidate or his failure to achieve publicity can work against the candidate and ruin the whole campaign, as it happened, for example, for candidate Gore in 2000, when he was never able to define his positions clearly to the public and to state what he stood for (Maisel & Brewer, 2009). It is necessary to remember that public relations should not stand aside the campaign, and should be aligned with other strategic solutions of the campaign.

Boone, L.E. & Kuntz, D.L. (2011). Contemporary Marketing. Cengage Learning.
Maisel, L.S. & Brewer, M.D. (2009). Parties and Elections in America: The Electoral Process. Rowman & Littlefield.
Mathur, U.C. (2005). Advertising Management Text And Cases. New Age International.