Mar 04, 2016 / by Jeff Barrett

How we reach an audience has changed, and this election season is providing a perfect example. The differences between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush could not be more striking but take politics and personal opinion out of it for the next 500 words.

Jeb Bush wouldn’t have been president even if he stayed in the race. He spent $116 million and didnt win a single state. He never finished better than fourth.

To most that follow politics, thats a surprise. Not because his last name is Bush, but because he raised and spent the most money in the race. Financial support is and has always been fantastic at predicting a nominee. But 2016 is different.

I stand on a soapbox way too often saying that the marketing mix is shifting. But this election is proof. The Bush campaign used conventional advertising. The Trump campaign is using earned media and savvy new PR tactics.

The large TV commercial, the radio spot and the billboard have long been fundamental to political campaigns. Local TV and radio generate big revenue from those spots. But much like banner ads, people seem to be tuning out political commercials.


The Jeb Bush campaign shows in the modern marketing context that money is not the driver for attention,” says Eric Hultgren, marketing manager at MLive. “(Millions of dollars) and his team could not convert into double digits, it would be hard to find a win in that number, which is why content and context are the ways in which you connect to an audience.

“So when you look at a campaign like the Trump campaign that’s using earned and shared media unlike any of the other campaigns, it starts to change the narrative in the political landscape.”

Hultgren continues:

“There was a time when all of that money would pour into channels like TV and radio and if you spent enough you could buy the attention of the American people. Now, the attention is so fragmented it really becomes an issue of creating moments or content that those constituents or would-be voters can share or interact with.

Eight years ago, people looked at the Obama campaign as a revelation in how social and digital media could be used. The same could be said in the way that Trump and other candidates are using PR tactics instead of advertising to win over voters.

There are variables to consider with Bush. His last name, lack of energy in some debates and the appeal of other candidates also could have contributed to his poor finishes. But its more than reasonable to think that $116 million doesnt buy you what it once did with conventional media. And brands should take notice.

This may become a critical moment where major brands look away from advertising for mass distributed spends and look to PR for relationships with organic content creators to create earned media.

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Images via Pixabay: 1, 2

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About Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is 2015’s Best Business Blogger (Shorty Awards), one of the 50 most influential people on social media (Forbes), the #1 Ad Executive on Twitter (Business Insider) and dances like Drake. Find him on Twitter @BarrettAll.