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“What You Can Learn from the Most Ruthless Marketing Campaign in the World” by Phillip Stutts

Politics — love it or hate it, there is no more ruthless or cutthroat industry in the world.

In a marketplace where you only need 50% +1 to win and you have the unavoidable deadline of success or failure — called Election Day — you will do whatever it takes, as fast as humanly possible, to achieve victory.

You think we hold a lot of internal meetings to discuss marketing strategy?

No. 

We meet once, study the voter data, agree on a strategy and budget, and begin executing.

You think there is a ton of C-Suite types with divergent opinions and internal bureaucracy to hold up the marketing campaign? Hahahaha … uhhh no.

When I ran Bobby Jindal’s governor race in Louisiana, there were a total of four of us (this included the candidate) making all the decisions on an 8-figure ad budget.

That’s it.

Speed and a killer instinct rule. It’s a marketer’s dream.

Which brings me to the Democratic presidential primaries. It’s getting tight, and the race is about to break wide open. I thought I’d share one HUGE secret insight to watch out for as the primary progresses.

Better yet, I’ll show you how to apply this tactic to your marketing. Let me be clear, this isn’t hype or click bait. I have found one trend in political marketing, that if you apply it to your business, it will give you MASSIVE growth.

Have you noticed a lot of negative political ads in the last few months? If everyone hates them so much, have you ever asked yourself why we run them every single election season?

The answer is simple — because they work.

100% of the time? Of course not.

But enough to be lethal and successful? Absolutely.

Let’s dig in.

The 2020 Democratic primary has followed a traditional line of utilizing negative political tactics. You’ll notice that whenever one of the top-tier candidates rises to the top of the polls, the remaining candidates go negative on him (or “her” since Warren was leading at one point last fall). You see, in a traditional political campaign, you only “go negative” when you are desperate. And this presidential primary is no different.

Here is one specific example of what I mean:

“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg surprisingly won the Iowa Caucuses on February 3. While 2nd place finisher Bernie Sanders got more votes, Mayor Pete won more delegates. And Joe Biden (the presumptive national front runner) finished a dismal 4th.

What happened next? Heading into the primary in New Hampshire, Buttigieg was hit with a barrage of negative ads and attacks. Check this out:

  1. Bernie slams Buttigieg because he has a lot of support from billionaires.
  2. Biden dropped this negative ad on Pete a few days later attacking his lack of experience:

The result? Mayor Pete’s polling surge in the New Hampshire primary race stalled. Bernie held on to win New Hampshire.

Two takeaways:

  1. The negative attacks on Mayor Pete helped Bernie hold his lead and win New Hampshire and propelled him as the front runner for the Democratic nomination heading into the Nevada caucuses, South Carolina primary, and Super Tuesday.
  2. The negative attacks by Biden hurt Buttigieg, but it didn’t help Biden, who finished a lowly 5th place — hanging in the race by a thin thread.

There is an art and science behind negative ads. 90% of the time you see a negative ad, it’s because the candidate doing the attacking is falling behind. The other 10% of the time, negative ads are implemented proactively to sink the momentum of an opponent rising.

It’s worth remembering, when the ship is sinking and a losing candidate is grasping at anything, running a negative ad will almost always pull their opponent down. The candidate running the negative ad is hoping it will also lift him/her up in the polls. But sometimes, the candidate attacking faces a backlash with voters that sinks their candidacy.

It’s a delicate dance with the devil. But if implemented effectively, it will work.

Where might you specifically see this in the next few weeks?

Look no further than Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He has spent $350 million on mostly positive biographical ads (interspersed with negative swipes at President Trump) heading into Super Tuesday elections. (*Bloomberg chose to skip the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. He’s throwing all his chips into Super Tuesday states and beyond.)

And thus far, it has worked … to a point.

But now all of the candidates, sans Bernie, are dropping in the polls and will turn their negative heat on Bloomberg (case in point — the debate in Las Vegas this week).

Bloomberg has a foothold into the race as a top-tier candidate, and my prediction is that he will soon transition to “going negative” on his Democratic primary opponents.

It will happen. Watch for it.

Bloomberg will spend unlimited resources to drop unholy hell on Bernie, Biden, and Buttigieg. It will be bloody and unrelenting.

Will it work?

My expectation is that it will crush Biden and Buttigieg — whose support feels soft up to this point. But Bernie’s supporters are loyal to their core, plus, Bernie has a clear advantage to win the nomination to this point. If Bloomberg’s future negative assault pushes Biden, Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, and some Bernie voters over to him, he’ll have more wins (delegates) than Bernie to take the whole damn nomination.

But, it could also backfire and sink Bloomberg’s candidacy (i.e. Bloomberg’s opponents will attack him as a bully billionaire trying to buy the nomination).

It’s going to be a crazy ride …

And this leads me to you — and your marketing.

I recently read an article in Forbes that stated we are being served up to 10,000 ads per day on digital and traditional media platforms.

Your ad vs. 9,999 other ads?nNow it might make sense to you why your ads aren’t working.

You must be an outlier; your message and marketing must stand out from the crowd. 99.9% of companies are marketing robotically out of fear of being different.

And herein lies your opportunity!

A few years ago, I challenged myself to answer this question — How can I create an outlier marketing campaign utilizing the principle of negative political ads?

By answering this question, I realized some of the most successful companies in the world were already doing it, including Apple, Bud Light, Burger King, and Pepsi.

If it’s good enough for them, why can’t you do it?

What if I told you that there is a way to use the principles of negative political advertising in a way that doesn’t offend your customers … yet endears them even more to your product/service? And in turn, you could gain a massive advantage in the marketplace. It exists and is a concept I call “comparatising”.

Here’s how I know it works — I’ve implemented it for our clients with success.

The data is irrefutable. It works.

We just published two case studies on how we do it. You can read them here and here.

Just like politics, there is a science behind how companies utilize negative/comparatising ads. Implement the formula correctly, and I’m 100% certain you will grow your bottom line.

In my book Fire Them Now, I write an entire chapter on “Going Negative” — with specific CRAZY examples of how Pepsi and Apple (driven by Steve Jobs) used “comparatising” to take their businesses to the next level.

Curious how to do it? You can read my “Going Negative” chapter here for free

My advice? Follow the principles from the most ruthless marketers in the world, and you will grow your bottom line.

Phillip

P.S. —  Andros Sturgeon, Justin Womack and the Marketing Geeks Podcast are just a couple of guys getting together to talk about the latest trends and strategies. We had a blast getting geeky over data, and I loved sharing my thoughts on the next-level innovations coming to our field. Listen here.

P.P.S. —   In the model of the great Seth Godin, I only write these posts to share ideas and help fellow business owners. It’s a place to learn and grow without fear of being spammed or putting you in a sales funnel. I’m not doing that. If you’re a like-minded individual who might be interested in having these articles sent to you every two weeks, please email me (ps@phillipstutts.com) or sign up below:

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1 Comment

  • AffiliateLabz
    Posted February 22, 2020 8:58 am 0Likes

    Great content! Super high-quality! Keep it up! 🙂

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