Reconciling Marketing with Political Science: Theories of Political Marketing. Journal of Marketing Management, 1997, Vol 13, pp.651-663
This paper has two broad aims: to trace the theoretical development of political marketing and then demonstrate how these concepts can be used in the analysis of election campaigns. Electioneering is not the sole manifestation of marketing in politics but it is the most obvious, a point underlined by recent work addressing the prominent role now played by political marketing in a parliamentary democracy like Britain (Franklin 1994; Kavanagh 1995; Scammell 1995). Whilst much of this material understandably concentrates on the once neglected work of campaign practitioners, the more theoretical explorations of the intersection between marketing and politics have tended to appear in management journals (Shama 1976; Smith and Saunders 1990; Butler and Collins 1994). This paper intends to explore the relationship from a political science perspective.
Defining Political Marketing.
In their seminal article, Kotler and Levy (1969) argued that elections should be one of the new arenas of marketing interest: “Political contests remind us that candidates are marketed as well as soap.” However the earliest recorded use of the term “political marketing” did not appear in a formal management study but in the pioneering work of political scientist Stanley Kelley which charted the emergence of the professional campaign industry in the United States. Commenting on the activities of the first election consultancies, Kelley wrote:
“The team relies heavily but not entirely upon their own intuitive feel
for providing political marketing conditions. They pride themselves on
having “good average minds” that help them to see things as the
average man sees them.” (Kelley 1956: 53)
In spite of the opposition from marketing purists those in sympathy with the 'broadening' thesis began to attempt to clarify, refine and establish the sub-field of political marketing. By the mid-1970s American scholars such as Avraham Shama (1974; 1976) and the prolific Philip Kotler (1975) were to the fore in developing theoretical foundations for the subject. Similarly experts in Europe began to consider the political dimension to marketing, positing the view that an exchange relationship existed between democratic elites and their voters (O'Leary and Iredale 1976). By the mid-1980s a steady stream of research discussing the emergence of the phenomenon helped confirm its importance (Mauser 1983; Newman and Sheth 1985). Writing in 1988 David Reid concluded that:
“In western terms, although seldom recognised by politicians, the
problem of getting elected is essentially a marketing one. Political
parties must determine the scope and the most effective way of
communicating its benefits to a target audience.” (Reid 1988)
Marketing and Political Marketing.
Seymour Fine identifies the 1985 decision of the American Marketing Association (AMA) to redefine its central concern as a milestone in the integration of social (and political) issues into mainstream marketing thinking. New phraseology added the crucial word “ideas” to the list of legitimate product concerns: “Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives” (cited in Fine 1992: 1).
Since its revision the American definition has continued to enjoy wide currency in the literature in spite of various complex arguments over what the precise nature of the subject is, is not and ought to be (Hunt 1976; Whyte 1988; Hooley et al. 1990). The British equivalent of the AMA statement, as agreed by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), places similar emphasis on the notion that organisational success is an integral part of strategic concerns: firms do not seek to satisfy...
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