Political marketing researcher eyes branding in lead-up to 2020 presidential election

Bruce Newman
Bruce Newman, an author and marketing professor in the Driehaus College of Business, is a leading expert on political marketing. His latest book, “Brand,” provides a comprehensive analysis of the different roles brand plays across a wide range of entities, including politics. (DePaul University/Kathy Hillegonds)
With President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign underway and a number of candidates vying to be the Democratic standard bearer, how the sides market themselves is more important than ever in a politically-fractured country, says Bruce Newman, a marketing professor in the Driehaus College of Business.

“The market for voters has become fragmented in this country," Newman says. "This is the result of the two-party system breaking down and being replaced by issue-oriented groups that care about particular policies as well by organizations that have vested interests in legislation. To get a common message across, politicians must make promotional campaigns that appeal to the various needs, wants and values of all these different fragmented groups. Marketing continues to be the most important medium because of the direct channel of distribution and communication between the candidate and receiver of that information."

Newman is a leading expert on political marketing and the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Political Marketing. His latest book, “Brand” -- co-authored by his son, Todd, an assistant professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- provides a comprehensive analysis of the different roles brand plays across a wide range of entities, including politics.

In this Q&A, Newman discusses the importance of marketing and branding for presidents and presidential candidates, how presidential marketing has changed over the years, and what to look for during the Democratic primary season.

What marketing trends should we expect in the next presidential election in 2020?

I think we'll see negative advertising in a way we haven't seen it before. We are going to see a lot more money being spent and more new faces come into the political sphere because they have the money needed to run the marketing campaign. We'll see more creative ways candidates can get their message across and a quicker response to an accusation from the opponent. We'll probably be surprised by what technology candidates will use. Lastly, we should plan to see the unexpected. I can't tell you what that is going to be, but expect the unexpected.

With a crowded Democratic presidential field, how can a brand stand out from the competition?

That's the million-dollar question. It's going to take more than a personality, a platform of issues, a list of promises or a set of policies. It's going to take a refreshing, outside-of-the-box approach that allows a Democrat to maintain connection with their base. The candidate will not be able to deviate from what the public wants and will have to talk about hot-key issues. They must be creative and unique, the way Trump was in 2016. It also won't just be a candidate saying they want to be president; they've got to announce their vice president selection. This will immediately define their brand to let people know what sets them apart.

For the complete Q&A with Newman head to DePaul Newsroom.

Newman is among the hundreds of DePaul faculty who offer their expertise to members of the news media through the DePaul Experts Guide. Are you a faculty member interested in speaking with the media? Learn more about the guide in Newsline.