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Election Day: How Much Does Marketing Matter?

Tom Perriello, the Democratic incumbent candidate of the Virginia 5th District, has been the poster child of marketing best practices. His campaign had every single marketing tactic I could think of, and a lot I wouldn’t have thought of. So will his marketing pay off?

For starters, Perriello had more than twice as much funding as Republican Robert Hurt in July, and he has been spending it wisely. Of course, he has TV ads, which, according to Ad Age, are where most congressional candidates spend their money. He also has radio and newspaper ads, hundreds of signs which seem to be everywhere, a lot of volunteers canvassing local neighborhoods, as well as hosting debates on local news stations.

His team has been exceptionally creative in targeting the student vote. Banner and video ads are popping up on Facebook, which comes as no surprise. But Perriello has also been targeting other sites that young professionals and student users often visit, like YouTube and Hulu. Neither of these sites require sign-in, so Perriello is marketing specifically based on the location of the internet connection.

The biggest moment in Perriello’s campaign came last Friday, when President Obama visited Charlottesville to speak at a rally in support of Perriello. Students and residents waited in line for over four hours to attend.

The scope of Perriello’s campaign is enormous. For the past few weeks, I have been completely flooded with all things Perriello. I have never seen as much creativity and attention to every possible outlet as I have with this campaign.

From my perspective, I was sure that Perriello would win. I had hardly seen any support at all for Hurt; maybe a sign and TV ad or two, but nothing like what Perriello was doing. So once I checked the polls, I was surprised to see that Perriello was eight points behind Hurt before Obama’s visit and only one point ahead after the rally. And that takes into account an independent candidate taking conservative votes from Hurt!

While Perriello’s advertising was creative, thorough, and well –targeted, it still might not be enough. In politics, as in business, you can’t sell what people don’t want. Just because Tom Perriello wins when it comes to marketing doesn’t mean he will be re-elected in his district.

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