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This blog offers an international look at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Indeed, campaigners worldwide are fascinated with American election campaigns. We observe relentless paid television advertising, straight-forward attack spots, sophisticated targeting and record-breaking fundraising. One cannot – and should not – simply copy paste American campaign techniques. However, campaigners out there in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia can get a lot of inspiration and specific takeaways from the most professional campaign in the world. This is the purpose of this blog.

Great Campaigns Are Never a Rerun of Previous Great Campaigns

How will your next campaign be different from your last one? I remember how I once asked a prospective client who wanted to run for higher office how his upcoming campaign will be different from the previous ones. I could see in his face that he has never thought about it that way. I always tell my clients who run for re-election and particularly those who run for higher office that their next campaign has to be different than their last one. Great campaigns may well contain elements of previous great campaigns, but they should never be a simple rerun.

Time Is the Most Important Ressource in a Campaign

Many people think that money is the most important ressource in a campaign. While campaign funds are definitely of essence, I have come to realize that time is even more important. One of the biggest mistakes campaign teams make is not to start planning early. Some politicians are hesitant to start early because they don’t want to spend early. As a result, they waste time. When there is no more time to be wasted, they then start to waste money. I have turned down business worth several tens of thousands of dollars from clients who have approached me when it was too late, a couple of weeks before the election. There’s no point for me to start an operation when the patient is dead. This being said, one of the most important things for campaign teams to do early on is to neutralize weaknesses. A so-called inoculation strategy takes time to be implemented. Your candidate might be seen as too old or too young, for example. Or your party may be perceived as elitist. All these things can be dealt with from a marketing perspective. They may never turn into strengths, but they can be neutralized over time. What is the inoculation plan for your campaign?

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl: An Outstanding Campaigner

Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl died last Friday. His historic accomplishments with respect to the European Union and the German reunification have rightfully been praised in many media outlets. I would like to add that from a campaign perspective, Kohl was an extraordinary talent. To begin with, he ruled Germany for sixteen years. He led the German Christian Democratic Party CDU through five nationwide elections – coming close to the absolute majority twice. If you add to this the countless European and statewide elections, Kohl was truly a campaign machine. His biggest achievement in that respect was probably the 1994 elections. A few months before Germany went to the polls, Kohl was far behind in the surveys, but he was able to – single handedly - pull off a stunning comeback. A key moment in this comeback was Kohl’s speech at the CDU party convention, which I highly recommend reading to anyone interested in campaigns.