Have You Ever Wondered How Political Marketing Works?


Lest you think that politics is all about principled debate and right against wrong, think again.  Did you know that political parties market their candidates just like toothpaste?

I never thought much about how political parties and campaigns were like beverage salesmen or auto manufacturers unlike I met an amazing young man (at least from the perspective of my age) courtesy of my daughter.  Let me introduce you to Neil Bendle:


Neil is an assistant professor of marketing at the Richard Ivey School of Business, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada. He has a PhD from  the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, an MBA at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia and ancient history studies in England at Liverpool and Nottingham universities. He is also a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. His academic areas of interest are decision making, competitors,  and the dynamics of competition.

He brings a unique perspective to political marketing having served as the finance director of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom during part of Tony Blair’s administration.

I first took note of how Neil weaves decision making and marketing into the political process during the run up to the 2008 presidential election.  During the primaries, we would discuss the various candidates and their strengths and weaknesses.   Neil suggested that I should pay particular attention to how certain candidates behaved as their candidacy ebbed and flowed.

For example, if a candidate is perceived to be the front runner, his/her campaign strategy will be to attack the other party rather than opposing candidates in the primary.  Candidates who are not in front will attack the perceived front runner or other candidates whom they think are ahead of them in the polls rather than the other party.  Their postures flip as the polls indicated their relative status.  I am, however, simplifying a far more nuanced analysis.

As I watched that campaign season and subsequent ones unfold, Neil’s theories proved to be dead-on.  What Neil was doing was applying his theories of decision making and competitor analysis to the political process.  The candidate as dog food.

Earlier this year, Neil approached me with an idea.  He wanted to put together a fun booklet that discussed serious marketing concepts.  He envisioned a short book that looked at marketing economics and decision making from the perspective of toddlers.  He asked me to illustrate the book and the product is:


Neil also regularly writes about other aspects of marketing on his blog: Marketing Thought.  You should check it out.

His latest blog post is about “Surviving Paranoia.

Final note, Neil is also the father of two of the greatest granddaughters that any cartoonist could ever want.