Marketing Beer, Marketing Candidates

Last Updated Jan 27, 2008 8:40 AM EST

Marketing Beer, Marketing CandidatesIf the US electoral process was a consumer product, it would be a dreary failure. It results in a citizenry that is cynical about politics, distrustful of candidates, and apathetic on voting day. No wonder we form stronger ties to the brands we love than the candidates we vote for.

So what do consumer marketers know that political strategists don't? Harvard Business School professor John Quelch answers this question in a recent post, How Political Marketing Can Learn From Consumer Marketing.

Quelch notes that successful consumer branding campaigns require easy access to the product (we make it difficult to vote), a variety of product to choose from (most elections present only 2 options) and consistency of message ( flip-flopper is now part of the political lexicon).

The good news, says Quelch, is that this year's presidential run seems different.

Citizen interest in this year's primaries is high because there is no obvious winner and genuinely different candidates are competing on both sides. The Internet has greatly increased the opportunity for non-establishment, underfunded candidates to develop viable grass-roots campaigns. Voter questions and candidate answers in town meetings are now the standard. In other words, this year's election process so far seems more open and democratic than ever.
What else can political candidates learn from the consumer marketing world? And what can consumer companies take away from this year's presidential campaigns?

See also: Clinton vs. Obama: Who Better Engages 'Customers'?
(Campaign sign image by Paul Keleher, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.