November 8, 2016

4 key marketing tools used in the US presidential campaign


World map showing US

After 575 days of political campaigning, the United States is finally at the polls. It seemed like a never-ending schedule of debating and strategy, but can also be seen as a highly orchestrated exercise in strategy, marketing and communication.

We conducted a simple audit of both the presidential nominees’ websites to see what kinds of things they did to market their campaigns – like how they communicated key messages and how they appealed to their audiences. For reference, you should check out Hillary Clinton’s website and compare it with Donald Trump’s website.

Here are 4 key marketing tools used in the US presidential campaign.

1. Key messaging

Clinton’s key message was to unite American communities, and her landing page’s elements clearly suggest this. An obvious button in the navigation bar allowed a user to translate the information into Spanish. By catering for accessible information such as this, the Clinton campaign showed it thought carefully about its target audience and how to to appeal to that audience.

A comparison of the default donation amounts indicates Clinton was more concerned with making people from all demographics feel involved in the process; her donation amounts were $1, $5, $10 and $25. Clinton wanted to bring people together by understanding the strains her target audience face and thus reflected this in her donation appeal accordingly.

Compare this to Trump’s: $10, $25, $50 and $100. It appeals to a higher-earning audience, and rather than bringing people together, Trump’s key campaign message was to ‘Make America Great Again’. He also used this as a social media hashtag; it allowed voters who like having their opinion heard to be heard. The message was reinterpreted on the website in headings like, ‘America is back: I am your voice’.

2. Pages & subpages

One section in the footer on Clinton’s site was called ‘Vote Together’, which had several subpages. This mightn’t seem ground-breaking, but on closer inspection, the general theme of the subpages was about unity and community:

  • ‘African Americans for Hillary’
  • ‘Latinos for Hillary’
  • ‘Asian Americans for Hillary’
  • ‘Women for Hillary’
  • ‘Millennials for Hillary’

Such use of pages and subpages enables Clinton to provide information to each of the groups on how her presidency would benefit them. Targeting key demographics not only showed she cared about who made up her America, but also reinforced her key message of unity and community.

Clinton’s policy page used tiles with headings and a short sentence underneath that explained the policy. This was useful for scanning and learning more information quickly, without having to click through to each policy.

Trump’s policy page consisted of only headings, and to learn about any policy information required a third click – one click too many can stop users from reading.

3. Headings & blog topics

Effectively using headings engages a reader and entices them to read further. In a way, they act as a call to action, like this example from Clinton’s landing page: ‘Join the official campaign – and help stop Donald Trump’.

These, and more, strong headings reinforced her campaign message. For example, the title of this Clinton blog post, ‘153 things Donald Trump has said and done that, in a normal election, would disqualify a nominee’. While we didn’t have access to blog analytics, we can see blog titles were phrased as click bait. This kind of phrasing on Clinton’s site showed how important a blog title is in getting a reader’s attention and for saying concisely what she wanted to.

Trump’s site kept its copy America-centric: the article headings mostly related to locations and were written like headlines in a newspaper, such as ‘In Minnesota, Trump offers voters chance to take government back from corrupt political class’, and ‘Mayor Rudy Giuliani stumps for Trump in Colorado’.

The formal titles in Trump’s navigation bar indicate a conservative news structure – ‘Positions’, ‘States’, ‘Get Involved’, ‘Media’, ‘Contribute’ – and seem more like a business transaction, which appeals to voters looking for straightforward proficiency and conservative stability.

4. Web accessibility

A noticeable advantage of Trump’s home page is that when run through a web accessibility checker, there are no known errors. This means that people who live with disabilities, and may have trouble navigating websites, were able to use assistive technologies to use his site.

Clinton’s landing page, on the other hand, had several input and element errors, such as unlabelled fields. Though this was a grievous error for Clinton, Trump’s landing page wasn’t coded with a language, which in some ways negates the site’s accessibility rating – because an assistive technology may not be able to effectively read what is written.

How the marketing tools worked in the end

While we don’t know who has won the election at the time of writing this post, it will be interesting to see how the nominees’ use of marketing tools on their websites will play out in the real world.

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