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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.

New Trends in Political Campaigns: Digitalization is Changing Politics

As some readers of this blog know, I have long been skeptical about the influence of social media on election campaigns - especially outside of the USA. I noticed that somehow those who are so adamant about its effectiveness are the ones who make their living off social media. This being said, I have recently conducted an entire series of focus groups with millennials and confirmed that yes, digitalization is and will be changing campaigns. Nowadays, basically everybody is online, and an increasing number of people are more or less permanently online. This has important consequences on the speed of our communication and the diversity of channels and tools we use. Social media allows citizens to call their leaders out immediately, and to share quotes and footage. This can rapidly create a thunderstorm, that will spill over into the mainstream media. Social media is also a great tool to mobilize and activate the base, but we also have to realize that very few people change their opinion on social media (related to this is another trend I recently worte about: increasing polarization).

Inoculation Strategy against Rumors and Allegations

If voters believe rumors and allegations, it means that as a campaign or organization, you haven’t spread enough good news. This is why new candidates, who are not well-defined in the public eye, are oftentimes most vulnerable to scandals. The best inoculation strategy against a possible crisis therefore is to spread more good news. If you don't blow your own horn, there's no music.

New Trends in Political Campaigns: Experience Losing Importance

Experience – as a criterion for voters – is losing importance. Nowadays, the world is changing so fast that a younger and less experienced leader might be more able to understand current challenges. Indeed, there are several leaders who fit that category of the so-called slim fit politicians: French President Emmanuel Macron (40), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (46), Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz (31), and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (43). This doesn’t mean that experience has become entirely immaterial to voters, but rather that we are no longer in a situation where more experience is always better. I look at it like a threshold, meaning that a candidate needs to convince voters that he is able to do the job. Once a candidate can make that case, and can pass that threshold, other criteria become more important, and a comparatively young age can even be an advantage. One might ask if and how Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz passed such a threshold at the age of 31? The defining issue of last year’s campaign in Austria was the refugee crisis, and on that particular issue, he very much had both, a signature accomplishment and a political offer that was appealing to many voters.