Last week, I taught my seminar in political marketing at the University of Zurich. It has been ten years that I have been teaching this class, which is a good opportunity to reflect on how political marketing has changed during that period of time.
There are the basics of winning elections, which will probably never change. Joseph Napolitan, probably the first person to call himself a political consultant, said decades ago that it takes three simple steps to winning any campaign: 1) decide what you are going to say, 2) decide how and to whom you are going to say it, 3) say it. This was true decades ago, it is true now, and will be true for a long time to come. Many people assume that just because this sounds simple, it is simple to carry out in reality. Big mistake!
This being said, the context in which campaigns take place has changed rather dramatically during these ten years. The U.S. and many other countries have become increasingly polarized, which means that there are less and less persuadable voters even at the beginning of a campaign. As a result, targeting and mobilization strategies gain in importance. The cost of campaigns has increased dramatically with no end in sight. Whatever side is being outspent and loses the election is trying to increase its fundraising capability for the next cycle. Hence the inflation in campaign spending. Political players have more tools at their disposal to build themselves up as relevant actors in the political sphere. As a result, there are new and an increasing number of relevant actors on the political stage. The way voters consume news has changed considerably as well. It is now extremely diversified as voters have a plethora of local, national and international media to chose from, online or offline, at every time of the day. A student said, and I think it is true, that we are moving from a pick & chose culture, where voters chose the news bites that they wanted to consume, to a setting where they are increasingly only being served the news bites that they want to consume. As a result, we no longer argue about opinions, but disagree vehemently about what the facts are. If you think that this trend is limited to the U.S, I suggest you make a step back and look at how the coronavirus is being discussed in your country.
For those of you who speak French, I would like to attract your attention to an article of mine that was published in the French newspaper l’Opinion last week. You can find it here.