Campaign season in Iowa lasts about a year and a half. Iowa is the starting line for primary season, which means candidates started descending on the state in spring 2015.

So much marketing activity surrounding the campaigns during this election got me thinking about how sharing the political space can impact brands over time. Here are three ways the 2016 presidential election is affecting marketers.

Negative political advertising can hurt brands
Can you imagine if product and service advertising relied solely on scare tactics about the dangers of not buying the product? Marketers and creative minds have long understood that planting a “seed of doubt” in a consumer’s mind can be a strong, emotional nudge to buy a product or invest in a certain brand over another in a head-to-head comparison.

However, it likely would not be a successful long-term strategy if every brand was all in on scare tactic marketing. Imagine a world where instead of “our vehicle exceeds safety standards,” the message was “you’re taking a huge risk taking the wheel of car ABC.” Or if instead of “milk provides a healthy body,” the message was “by age 25 your bones may snap one by one if you don’t drink milk.”

While the political season hasn’t increased scare tactic marketing for brands, it appears that these negative political campaign ads actually do contaminate brands that run ads near them on media schedules. A recent study spearheaded by J. Walter Thompson shows that brand advertising that airs immediately following a political ad is deemed significantly less appealing (27%), less relevant (32%) and less entertaining (29%).

It seems brands are deemed guilty by association. Not good for brands that find themselves squeezed in between the campaign messages of Armageddon.

Political ads jack up prices for brand
There is only so much advertising inventory available, and it’s a supply-and-demand pricing model. Similar to hotel rooms or airline tickets, as inventory gets purchased, the price of available inventory gets more expensive.

The FCC requires media outlets to provide candidates the lowest rates available when the inventory is purchased directly from the campaigns. However, when ads are placed by a political action committee (PAC), the media can charge their highest-rate-card price per ad unit.

The amount of campaign and PAC advertising has far exceeded estimates that were made for the 2016 campaign. A white paper published by InterMedia states there are 146% more ads that have been purchased this campaign season over the election of 2012. These things combined with huge advertising budgets have made the cost of advertising for brands extremely expensive. The cost of media becomes overvalued, and many brands pull back on ad spend and wait for the dust to settle after Election Day.

Validated power of social media
This campaign year has seen an unprecedented amount of marketing, communications and media taking place over social channels. Currently, Donald Trump has 12.9 million Twitter followers and Hillary Clinton stands at 10.1 million. The campaigns have leveraged social media both organically as well as with aggressive paid advertising efforts across multiple social channels. Social media has also been leveraged aggressively by state and local campaigns and special interest groups.

Media outlets have also used social media as a primary means of election coverage. The frenzy took off starting with over 5 million tweets coming out of the Republican National Convention and never turned back.

Social media marketing is an area that brands can potentially learn some things from the political efforts. The “grass-roots” aspects of election year marketing seem to have social strategies that brands could explore for their own social media success.

But enough of the marketing speak — get out and vote!

About Two Rivers Marketing

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