Political Marketing and Shaping of Presidential Candidates

Table of Content


Throughout this study, I researched various online libraries and databases to find information regarding different components of political marketing and presidential campaigns. I looked back over the last sixty years on the evolution of the process of political marketing. Political marketing, in a sense, is about how political parties, candidates, and government plan to promote themselves in order to achieve specific goals. This requires consideration of different marketing factors such as resources, positioning strategies, sales and market orientation, and measuring and implementing strategies.

Political Marketing Shaping US Presidential CandidatesI was 11 years old, when I saw the image of Barak Obama on a poster with the word “HOPE.” His face encircled in a retro-neon color, it gave me, even at the age of 11, a sense of faith for the future of our country. Not about politics per say but that I could feel the excitement all around me. I prayed that other people would like him too and that what he was saying would happen. I was curious to see if he could be successful, if he could get his message across.

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It made me realize too that the world was changing. He was the first African American man running for president. And when he won, I remember watching in middle school as he got sworn in under oath. I was so aware that I was witnessing history: the first African American President. It was very empowering. It was the first political ceremony that I remembered watching, plus the fact that it was a real change.

Eight years later, I was a student at Pace University when I experienced the political advertisements and marketing of a different candidate: Donald J. Trump. His political campaigns were much different than of the former presidents’. I felt that his methods could be more beneficial to unite our country. His campaign of “Make America Great Again” depicted all of us working together, for each other, to slowly but surely fix our economy and work together to resolve certain world issues. I thought this was far more effective than Obama’s campaign because his revolved around only him worrying about fixing our country and asking the American people to have hope.

As a global marketing major, I became very interested in understanding how political ads influence the public. With the election of Donald Trump, I witnessed two extremes in messaging and politics. I am curious to see the impact on the public of advertisement for presidential campaigns. It led me to my research question, which is: How does political marketing shape presidential candidates? To do this, I will investigate three potential subtopics that support causes of presidential campaigns, which are: Image, Rhetoric, and Platform. These three topics are essential because image explains how a campaign should look or be viewed correctly, rhetoric discusses how a campaign should sound or what messages are trying to be delivered, and platform informs which marketing mediums are most effective in reaching that specific audience.

There are three focus points in my research: image, rhetoric, and platform. Dating back more than sixty years, to the 1950’s ‘I like Ike’ slogan of then candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower, to the present day of Donald Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again.’ The research showed the evolution of unique marketing mediums from the past to the electronic social media platforms in today’s digital era.

Perhaps one of the most influential presidential candidate debates that influenced future campaigns was the 1960 debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon (History.com). Two vastly different candidates vied for the presidency: John F. Kennedy, a young, dynamic Massachusetts senator from a powerful New England family, and Richard Nixon, a seasoned lawmaker who was currently serving as Vice President. Each candidate was skillful in presenting remarkably similar agendas. Both emphasized national security, the threat of communism, the need to strengthen the U.S. military and the importance of building a brighter future for America (History.com).

After Kennedy’s opening statement, Nixon said, “I subscribe completely to the spirit that Senator Kennedy has expressed tonight.” (Library of Congress; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum) And yet, while most radio listeners called the first debate a draw or pronounced Nixon the victor (History.com ), the senator from Massachusetts won over 70 million television viewers by a broad margin (History.com). At that time, image played a major role in helping Kennedy win this election because he was considered very elegant, handsome, and well-dressed, while Nixon wasn’t as attractive or appealing.

Kennedy won the popular vote 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent (Library of Congress) According to History.com, polls revealed that more than half of all voters had been influenced by the Great Debates, while 6 percent claimed that the debates alone had decided their choice. Whether or not the debates cost Nixon the presidency, they were a major turning point in the 1960 race—and in the history of television. Televised debates have become a permanent feature of the American political landscape, helping to shape the outcomes of both primary and general elections campaign marketing.

In the 1950’s, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “I Like Ike” slogan was center stage (Parry-Giles, T; Encyclopedia Britannica). President Dwight Eisenhower’s nickname was Ike. In an era where the Korean War was losing support, the Cold War seemed to be heating up again, and President Harry Truman had a disapproval rating of 66 percent, people responded to the concept of liking their candidate (Parry-Giles, T).

Although it was simple, it was catchy, and it corresponded well with his other slogan “Korea, Communism and Corruption.” People seemed to like him because he was a hero of WWII and later went on to lead the new NATO forces in Europe right before his run for president. (Parry-Giles, T).

This piece of rhetoric exemplifies the 1952 election. According to (Matt put in the name of the publication since the paragraph is from this one source) Eisenhower was, in one sense, a common man, but he was so revered for his service that people idolized him. He appealed to the American sensibility and backed up his ideas with experience and credentials. In addition to an unsurpassed personal popularity, his simple eloquence in articulating his views was enough to catapult him to the White House. The reason rhetoric helped Eisenhower win the 1952 election was because of the simplicity and catchiness of his slogan, which in those days, was very appealing to younger voters, which his opponent failed in creating. (Parry-Giles, T).

Another important presidential campaign marketing moment was candidate Bill Clinton on the Arsenio Hall show on June 3, 1992 (still need source). It used to be that serious presidential candidates appeared only on equally serious news programs (still need source). But in the spring of 1992, Democratic contender Bill Clinton needed something special to set him apart from his opponents, sitting president George H.W. Bush and independent candidate Ross Perot. So, the 45-year-old Arkansas governor booked a groundbreaking appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, to chat with the host and wail on his sax for soulful renditions of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and ‘God Bless the Child.’ (still need source).

Clinton’s senior marketing strategist, Paul Begala, stated that “When we got there, Arsenio looked at Clinton’s very boring striped tie and said ‘Man, you cannot wear that on my show.’ (add source) Arsenio disappeared, came back, and gave Clinton a loud yellow tie. Arsenio continued, “I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Ray-Ban Wayfarers and said, ‘Governor, you’ve got to wear my glasses.’ He looked at [senior strategist James] Carville who said, ‘Governor, anything pre-Beatles, I decide. Anything post-Beatles, Paul decides. This is a post-Beatles call.’ When Clinton quit laughing, he said, ‘All right. We’ll wear the glasses.’ These small decisions were so crucial for having Clinton look and act appealing to the younger generations at the time. Matt: find an article that shows Clinton won the youth vote and that it changed marketing:


The participants were all 50 years or older and all have been working as a professor in business marketing at Pace for over ten years. Participant 1 teaches international marketing. Participant 2 teaches the fundamentals of advertising and promotion class.


The participants were made aware that the answers would only be used for the research paper and they would remain confidential. I was able to interview Participant 1 in-person. The 15-minute interview was recorded and later transcribed. For Participant 2, I send an email requesting an interview. The participant accepted and provided information to the questions sent to her electronically.

Design and Procedure

Fortunately, Participant 1, a professor at Pace University was available to meet in-person. This allowed me to listen to his responses, not only for his professional opinion but his emotional response as well. It gave me the opportunity to analyze my opinion of what the person thought based on the intention in his voice. Peer workshops, although different topics, gave me in insight into how students my age were writing. In addition, it helped with organization of material and overall structure.


Looks good – be sure it is all in past tense (ie said not says) be sure to check throughout the section

Marketing a Campaign Promise

“Marketing is everything to a political campaign,” said Participant 1. “Without one, how can that candidate succeed in reaching their target audience?” Participant 2 agrees, noting “Because [marketing] connects the voters with the candidates, and vice versa; it communicates a political offer to the constituency.” Participant points out that marketing is also a promise. “If properly carried out,” he says, “Since marketing does not end with the sale (the vote), it maintains that connection, aligning processes to satisfy those needs and to exceed those expectations throughout the administration.”

Participant 2 also noted the importance of marketing mediums to reach a particular demographic or voter. “Yes, in as much as it aligns the political offer to the voters needs and expectations, and if the appropriate media is used to reach them, and the proper processes support the effort, it can motivate voters and swing them toward a particular candidate.”


Participant 1 asserted that “Obviously not everyone shares the same opinions on different political views, so depending on the demographic region, they would have to make themselves presentable, or marketable, to that audience and be convincing enough.”

The Participants had differing ideas. Participant 1 believed messaging was one of the most important elements of political marketing. He emphasizes that if a campaign or candidate does not market themselves correctly it could deter potential voters. For Participant 1, he noted that an effective campaign is one that can influence voters emotionally. “When there are elements of emotion included, that stick out to the viewer, and let them take a moment to relate with the message of the campaign.”

According to Participant 2, “Political intel should identify the issues and shape the message. Granted, the candidate’s personality will sometimes override the strategy, but he or she should be guided by what the voters want, and what they want to hear. But then, sometimes, an intuitive candidate will have the pulse of the public. That’s when things roll out naturally.”


According to Participant 1, the goal of a campaign is an attempt to win the opinions of a large group of people based on a unifying principle or set of ideas. To do this, Participant 1 notes the essential elements include targeting demographics, exploring the political environment, planning the budget, and structuring staff members. “A crucial purpose for trying out different marketing strategies is simply to conduct ‘trial and error.’”

Participant 2 mentioned “Good marketing is not enough. Surely, good marketing can turn a mediocre candidate into a good candidate, and a good candidate into a winner. Now, ‘good marketing’ means not only doing the right things, but doing the right things right, and that means good political intel, a sound strategy, and a detailed plan with proper process-support to get the voters to vote, and to vote for your candidate, and that requires organization.”

Participant 2 notes an important strategy is to cut through partisan barriers. “The US political environment is by nature polarized between two parties, but key issues cut through partisan barriers.” He adds, “Ultimately, the ideal would be to shape public opinion across demographic differences, but when issues polarize, the idea is then to capture the majority opinion.” Participant 2 concluded, “You need to have the right product, the candidate has to be the real thing, otherwise it is all make-believe!”


Initially, I was investigating how presidential candidates are affected, as well as effective, based on their political marketing mediums. From the research, all these marketing concepts work together to influence the way a successful political marketing campaign is created. With image being the first step, creating the right stature for a political campaign with help narrow down target audiences. With rhetoric being second, the right message or slogan is the next step with helping the image of the campaign gain higher status. Finally, with platform, delivering the political messages and concepts of order to the right people at the right place at the right time, this will increase both image and rhetoric status to even higher levels. From this study, I believe that as time progressed, marketing has become far more creative and moved from the individual to the collective. The general public has gained more knowledge because access to certain information is easier to acquire.

Political marketing has shifted from a specific candidate to a platform of “us,” uniting people together based on the same goal. Perhaps leading and attracting a much broader audience. Marketing components such as image, rhetoric, and platform have changed drastically as the research shows. From the interviews I conducted, it shows that factors of good political marketing include having the ‘right product’ for the right audience, planning an assigned budget for campaigns, having great marketing experts working on the marketing team, and having a ‘sound strategy.’ The reason that these findings are significant is because they create a specific outline of what a sample political marketing concept would have to have in order to be successful. I believe with continued research and time to conduct interviews with other marketing or political experts, it would have been able to further analyze more potential subtopics that could further conclude ‘how political marketing shapes presidential candidates.’


  1. History.com Editors (2010, September 21). The Kennedy-Nixon Debates. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/kennedy-nixon-debates
  2. Parry-Giles, T. (2011, May 21). 1952–’I Like Ike’ Cartoon Ad. Retrieved from https://campaignrhetoric.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/1952-i-like-ike-cartoon-ad/https://www.jfklibrary.orghttps://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C33&q=polls+%2B+debate+%2B+nixon+%2B+kennedy+%2B+television&btnG=
  3. Library of Congress— https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/statistics/elections/1960).https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-573.pdf (youth vote turnout)

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Political Marketing and Shaping of Presidential Candidates. (2022, Mar 12). Retrieved from


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