What Campaign Gaffes Tell Us About Marketing Discipline
POSTED : September 28, 2016
BY : Sarah Okey

As the 2016 Presidential campaign heads into the final months, incidents from both campaigns stress the importance of message consistency. In early September, the GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump, indicated that he would not be releasing his tax returns due to an ongoing audit by the Internal Revenue Service. On the contrary, the nominee’s son, Donald Trump Jr., argued that his father should not release his tax returns, as it would detract from the campaign’s main message.

On the other side of the aisle, the Clinton campaign most recently struggled with the disclosure of her health status. After being ushered out of a 9/11 ceremony early, Clinton’s public relations team went into overdrive, indicating that she was overheated. However, on the way to her car she appeared to faint and her staff quickly aided her into the car. Afterwards, the campaign team released a statement indicating she had been diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Despite cancelling several planned trips, Clinton quickly indicated that she was feeling “great,” and tried to push the illness off the table.

Although these incidents are minor contradictions over the length of the candidates’ campaigns, they highlight the importance of keeping consistent in your messaging. Research shows that transparency has a substantial impact on voters and can increase voter turnout or shift votes.

Here are some keys to having a consistent voice:

Develop an architecture

A strategic messaging architecture allows a brand to effectively create, manage and build upon a number of messaging channels (social media platforms, TV, radio). An effective architecture aligns with the overall marketing strategy of a brand or campaign to ensure that all levels and channels of communication reinforce the same promise promoted by the overall campaign.

By setting a foundation for communication, consistent content can be created faster as key messages have been laid out prior. The faster content is created, the more opportunity campaigns have to reinforce messages and communicate aspects of the overall campaign purpose. In political campaigning, a framework should align campaign members and stakeholders around the main message and the supporting positions that all support the main message.

Drive consistency

Consistency in the content from an organization helps strengthen the perception of competency. When a message contradicts other messages that have come from within the organization, trust in the organization erodes. By developing messages that fit within the campaign’s messaging framework, the perceived competency of the candidate improves and voter trust increases. Driving discipline in the alignment of messages that come from within the brand itself strengthens the overall message.

Despite the complexity of communication channels, by managing content to the framework, the method of dissemination should not alter the effectiveness of the message. Remaining consistent across channels as well as across spokespeople provides a stronger brand image to voters and consumers of the information.

Accept the lack of editorial control

In a world saturated with social chatter, it is important to recognize that not all messaging is controlled by the campaign. In fact, often the social network voices drown out the voice from the campaign itself. By aligning and controlling messages that come from within, at a minimum, a unified voice helps counter the impact of the social network conversations. When there are breakdowns in communication consistencies, lacking transparency or uncertainty in messaging, the social conversation fills in the gaps.

In both campaigns, speculation and ‘conspiracy theories’ drove the social conversation for several days after both events. While neither campaign can control the conversation, the inconsistent messaging enhanced the ability of social participants to manipulate the storylines.


The 2016 Presidential campaigns show the impact of campaign messaging and the influence of social conversation when conflicting messages come from the same source. Aligning voices from the same campaign is imperative to the perception of transparency and competency. This concept applies across industries and brands. As the number of social media channels continues to increase, maintaining a consistent voice and adhering to a framework will become more critical for brands in establishing credibility with their customers.

Learn more about how to use marketing technology as a strategic asset in your organization.

About the Author
A picture of Sarah Okey

Sarah Okey is a Business Analyst specializing in helping companies attract, grow and retain customers. Sarah previously worked for a Fortune 100 company based in Seattle and used data analysis to inform real estate strategy.

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