The 2012 presidential campaign is in full swing as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama battle for voters. Unfortunately, I don’t get to see much of it since Obama will almost certainly win Illinois. Romney is fighting elsewhere.
Political campaigns are marketing battles; the candidates are fighting for votes, not sales. The challenge is to win votes by promising benefits and attacking the opponent.
It all gets very nasty because elections are one-time events. There is no need to maintain cordial relations with a competitor. You don’t have to worry about your opponent coming back and attacking you in a few months; if you win, the battle is over. So candidates fight hard and things get ugly.
This year Obama clearly has the momentum. Incumbents start with many advantages, so it is up to the challenger to put forth a compelling case. So far Romney hasn’t managed to own a benefit or present a compelling reason to change.
But the campaign isn’t over and a powerful marketing effort could swing things.
My favorite political ad is “Ashley’s Story.” This spot, produced by the Progress for America Voter Fund, pushed George Bush over the top in 2004. It is a brilliant piece of marketing. The branding is strong and the benefit is both important and clear. Why elect Bush? The ad provides a simple answer: to feel safe.
This spot came out in October, 2004. With over $14 million media behind it, the commercial ran heavily in key swing states. Many people believe it was the reason Bush won.
Great marketing can swing elections. The next few weeks will be fun to watch.