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What Has Changed in Ten Years of Teaching Political Marketing
Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant Dr. Louis Perron - Political Consultant
Sunday, March 7, 2021


I have been teaching political marketing at the University of Zurich for the past ten years. That is a good opportunity to reflect on how political marketing has changed during that period of time.

There are the basics of political campaigns. Joseph Napolitan, probably the first person to call himself a political consultant, said decades ago that it takes three simple steps to winning any campaign: 1) decide what you are going to say, 2) decide how and to whom you are going to say it, 3) say it. This was true decades ago, it is true now, and will be true for a long time to come. Napolitan said that these steps are simple. I would argue that while they sound simple, it is actually rather difficult to carry them out in reality, a point which many people underestimate.

This being said, the context in which campaigns take place has changed rather dramatically during these ten years. The U.S. and many other countries have become increasingly polarized, which means that there are less and less persuadable voters even at the beginning of a campaign. As a result, targeting and mobilization strategies gain in importance. The cost of campaigns has increased dramatically with no end in sight. Whatever side is being outspent and loses the election is trying to increase its fundraising capability for the next cycle. Hence the inflation in campaign spending. Political players have more tools at their disposal to build themselves up as relevant actors in the political sphere. As a result, there are new and more relevant actors on the political stage. The way voters consume news has changed considerably as well. It is now extremely diversified as voters have a plethora of local, national and international media to chose from, online or offline, at every time of the day. A student said, and I think it is true, that we are moving from a pick & chose culture, where voters chose the news bites that they wanted to consume, to a setting where they are increasingly only being served the news bites that they want to consume. As a result, we no longer argue about opinions, but disagree vehemently about facts.

Dr. Louis Perron is a political scientist, consultant and TEDx speaker based in Switzerland. During the past years, he has helped two dozen candidates and parties win election and referendum campaigns.

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