Donald Trump’s political judgement is certainly questionable, but his marketing instincts are extremely sound. The Republican Presidential nominee is using a revolutionary digital marketing strategy; that has raised large amounts of money and greatly increased his online profile.

Trump was able to attract around two million donations; totaling $90 million (€80.29 million) by using targeted digital ads in August 2016, Ad Age reported. The banner and video ads contained messages; in which the billionaire real estate developer pledged to match donations.

More impressively 95% of Trump’s donations came from small donors; who contributed less than $200 (€178.42) apiece. This gives Trump more control over his fundraising and combines marketing and fundraising efforts.

Instead of taking time out from campaigning to beg for money from wealthy donors like his Democratic rival; Hillary Clinton, Trump can spend all of his time reaching out to voters. Hillary has more money; she raised $143 million (€127.57 million) in August, but Trump gets more good will from voters.

What Trump Learned about Digital Marketing and Fundraising from a Socialist?

Interestingly Trump did not invent the highly effective fundraising tactic; instead he borrowed it from self-proclaimed socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont). Sanders used targeted digital marketing to raise $73 million (€65.12 million) from small donors in 2015. He raked in $33 million (€29.44 million) during the last quarter of 2015 by making tailored appeals to small donors.

Most of Sanders’ donations were less than $30 (€26.76), but he collected hundreds of thousands of them. The effort made Sanders look like the champion of the common man, while he was challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

More importantly, it gave Sanders the resources to mount a serious presidential campaign and deeply influence the national political debate. Clinton had to move to the left on a number of issues; including health insurance and trade, to counter Sanders. It also gave Sanders the moral high ground from which he was able to attack Clinton effectively.

Sanders revolutionized American political marketing and fundraising, and Donald Trump certainly learned the lesson. Sanders and Trump are developing new digital fundraising and marketing methods; that will be used in political campaigns all over the world.

How the New Digital Political Marketing and Fundraising Works

Trump and Sanders have effectively adapted next generation digital-marketing techniques to political fundraising. More importantly they figured out how to turn fundraising itself into a marketing tool, a development that will reshape all future political campaigns.

Here is how they achieved this paradigm shift in political marketing.

  • Scorning traditional fundraising channels. Sanders famously promised not to take any money from rich donors. Trump went so far as to publicly insult some of the biggest Republican donors; including the Koch brothers. This gave them a moral edge over rivals who were willing to take the big money.

  • Bypassing traditional political strategists and marketers. Sanders assembled a network of volunteers with marketing and technology experience rather than ad men who specialized in politics. Trump turned to Giles-Parscale; a small digital-advertising agency based in San Antonio, Texas, which lots of social media expertise but little political campaign experience.

  • Harnessing the power of data-driven marketing. Both Trump and Sanders had experts carefully analyze the behavior of those who responded to the ads. The experts fine-tuned their marketing efforts to reach people with similar patterns of social media and online behavior

  • Using that data to create targeted advertising aimed at specific individuals. Most of Sanders’ ads contained messages about specific issues such as money in politics. Many of Trump’s ads use gimmicks a supporter might respond to; such as an offer of “dinner with Trump,” or a personalized video appeal from Donald’s daughter Ivanka. They also generated an incredible number of custom advertisements; Giles-Parscale created between 35,000 and 45,000 variations of Facebook ads for the Trump campaign alone as of September 26, Ad Agereported.

  • The data-driven approach ensures that the ads will be seen by the most likely to respond to them. A major problem with American political advertising is that the vast majority of it is tuned out. This especially true of negative television ads which viewers despise.

Donald Trump’s political message might be extremely simplistic, but his marketing efforts are certainly sophisticated. Political strategists and marketers from around the world will be studying Trump’s campaign for years to come because it is truly ground breaking.

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