Sizzle beats steak – a round-up of election campaign commentary from the marketing world

The most anticipated event in the world calendar is over. After two years of propaganda, pledges and campaigning, we have a new POTUS-Elect, Donald Trump. Analysis of the winning campaign – from slogans and branding, to social media wins (and epic fails) and content in all its forms – is being published thick and fast.

We’ve pulled together a round-up of the industry’s commentary to understand how Mr Trump’s campaign team won over those US battleground states, seemingly against the odds.


Then – a candidate’s content crusade

‘It’s not a case of right time, right place’ said the Huff Post in February 2016, ‘The Donald has always covered his content marketing fundamentals beautifully’. From co-authoring books about business success (and placing himself as an authority on it), to playing it out in real life as The Apprentice’s celebrity boss – ‘He crafted an image that never stopped inhabiting. That art – when companies do it, is called branding.’

MediaShower pondered in October, Trump 2016: Was It All Just Content Marketing? This election was no normal election. Insults, gaffes, and a laissez-faire attitude to facts dominated the messaging in debates and rallies. “What if ‘Making America Great Again’ was just an elaborate content marketing campaign with ‘Trump insults’ serving as the primary keywords?’ said MediaShower’s Sam Jordan, ‘Stranger things have happened. Like Donald Trump running for President.”


Election eve

The world predictably went into speculation overdrive on election eve. Overwhelmed with what-ifs, many turned to data for some factual relief. NetImperative’s piece: Trump and Clinton: who wins Google search presented some fascinating insight, conducted by Searchmetrics, into the two campaigns. The study showed that ‘Clinton’s content is more focused on herself and her own policies with 3x more backlinks, while Trump campaign pages…are less cluttered and a better user experience’. As we now know, the data wonks were wrong – none of them predicted the Trump win we saw play out last night.



Source: netimperative


The results are in

The result of PRWeek’s industry expert analysis is clear: people wanted change, and Donald Trump was the only person offering it. Dan Scandling of APCO Worldwide is quoted: “In the end it was a clear-cut message: If you’re happy with the status quo, vote her; if you want change, vote for me. That was what resonated.”

He may have promised change, said The Drum, but his marketing approach was traditional, all the way; ‘effective campaigns are built on emotion, not reason – a validation of what great advertisers have always known’.

Pollsters lost out to social media, for the first time, said We Are Social’s Andre van Loon in Campaign. “Trump led Clinton on every topline social media metric: quantity of posting, social interactions, positive interactions and sharing.” Notching up a whopping 16.3m likes and loves of his content in election week, he outstripped Clinton by more than 3m (Clinton’s tally was just 13.1m).


Challenging the status quo

Not only was the Trump campaign nailing social media, it challenged the status quo, it was disruptive marketing in its truest form. Brash, unapologetic, opinionated and transparent – the antithesis of 21st century politicians. But, said MarketWatch, ‘while his campaign has many missteps, he never veered from his central, repetitive sales pitch at his rallies to ‘Make America Great Again’. Which, by the way, is now an official government website (via The Verge).

In a current poll by PRWeek, communications professionals are being asked why they thought Donald trumped Hillary. At the time of publication, 48% think it’s because Trump’s message resounded with people who weren’t accurately polled.

Harvard Business Review offered some lessons to marketers, from the Trump campaign. From giving consumers a job and building enthusiasm to pursuing forgotten consumers and closing the deal – the Trump campaign ticked each box. ‘Clinton was always going to beat Trump on the steak of experience and policy knowledge,’ they say, ‘hence, Trump’s campaign persona and his contract with the American voter offered more sizzle.’

Soon it will be time for Donald to deliver on that steak.


Jenny Morris heads up Formative Content’s PR team and specialises in campaign strategy, issues management corporate communications.

You can follow Jenny on Twitter at @JennyContent

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.


Want more? Sign up to our newsletter Content Insight, for content news and advice every month.