What you can learn from the primaries

This year, the presidential candidates in the US are going to spend a fortune (or perhaps two or three fortunes) marketing themselves in the primaries. Any product or service that is being launched has to deal with its own ‘primary.’ Here are a few universal lessons any marketer can take away:

  • Primary voters pay attention. They need far less yelling than the typical consumer, and many of them will go out of their way to poke around. Go where they are, and they’ll listen.
  • Primary voters are not everyone. They have different needs and beliefs than the mass market.
  • Primary voters want a candidate that will offend other primary voters.
  • Primary voters want authentic, direct communication.
  • Primary voters are still people. They are often fooled by great haircuts, well presented speeches or the paint job on the tour bus. (Not for long, though–it wears off).
  • Primary voters don’t care a bit about how your candidate is doing in another state.
  • Primary voters establish the stories that last long after the primaries are over. When Hillary Clinton has to deal with accusations of triangulation, she knows that they will stick with her for a while.
  • Primary voters are far more likely to talk to each other about candidates than other people are.
  • Primary voters are far less likely to need to know who is going to win before they ‘waste’ a vote. Witness Ron Paul’s legions.
  • Primary voters, like all human beings, have a limit. They are not insatiable. They can be spammed to excess.
  • Primary voters want to be heard, not just led.
  • Primary voters make unreasonable demands.
  • Primary voters want to be treated with respect.