American Presidential Elections 2016 : Lessons to learn for Shopsumer Marketing

American Presidential Elections 2016: Lessons to learn for Shopsumer Marketing

By Martin vom Stein, Managing Director The Shopsumer Institute and author of “WhatsApp Retail


Plenty of people around the world had taken Hillary Clinton for the new president of the United States of America … until yesterday! She was the obvious, reasonable, convenient choice in front of a candidate that caused major uproar wherever he opened his mouth and had lost all morality before he would even start his election campaign … or at least that is what it all seemed! The fact that the “obvious” did NOT happen is a great opportunity to clarify a few things we should have known about the Shopsumer by now, but haven’t understood apparently:

  1. Free means free – the Shopsumer no longer sticks to simple segmentation criteria:

Representative samples based on even the most sophisticated socio-demographic criteria are almost COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to predict the outcome of a public poll. The same has happened with the last UK elections, the Brexit referendum and in several other EU state elections. Why? For two major reasons:

  1. Because in a day and age where 15-year old bloggers may easily have hundreds of thousands of followers, opinions and attitudes are no longer formed only by the people you hang out with physically, but are increasingly governed by the people or institutions we trust in as individuals and frequently consult digitally. This is no longer a nation watching BBC or CNN News! Each and every one of us has a different “user profile” of information sources and it is literally impossible that you and I are sharing the exact same sources, as there are billions out there. Trump used all sorts of black-or-white statements to make it onto the front page of each and every medium and therefore reach everyone.
  2. Because in states or groups of states that lived in peace for more than 3 generations by now, there is no real danger of not obeying certain social conventions. A different opinion is fully protected by the constitution and social pressure is decreasing. On the contrary: controversy is what we all love! People shouting and insulting each other in all sorts of TV shows, the divorce of Brangelina, etc. Take whatever example you like and you will see that harmony and consensus suddenly start generating the after-taste of boredom and lack of decision. And don’t they always tell us that to be successful, you need to differentiate yourself? Well, that is what is happening with the new Shopsumer: he feels free, he decides freely! Trump says things out loud others may only vaguely think about, but that is what his supporters would like to do every day as well.
  3. Decisions are powered by spontaneous emotions until the very last moment:


The Shopsumer Journey is not a linear process, where he gradually discards alternatives and eventually ends up with one single choice after a rational process of weighing pros and cons. Every touch point along the Shopsumer Journey can make him change his mind, even a declared “loyal” Shopsumer. There is no such thing as a decision tree! Because the Shopsumer feels absolutely free to decide what he wants, he also is more volatile in choosing the right criteria for his decision-making. On top of that, Shopsumers are so flooded by information, that they just read a few lines to make up their mind as quickly as possible. They consume information faster, but they also forget information faster. Trump talked in headlines, Clinton still thought the intellectuals she knew were all over the place and would read her political programme from A to Z. They don’t, they trust hazardously…

  1. Like is not love – it is worth nothing:

In today’s digital media age, Likes seem to be the hard currency everybody needs to invest in, especially institutions, brands and famous people. But Shopsumers like the experience of Lufthansa, yet they fly with Ryanair because of the price, despite liking it a lot less. It is one of the principal fallacies of many Marketing campaigns today: to believe that the more people like it, the better it will be. Clinton did not polarise, while Trump made sure that his supporters loved him for one single thing and therefore felt the call-to-action was easy to fulfill. It is the call-to-action your Shopsumers must like, not your brand, not your shiny TV images etc.


As a conclusion, the one thing companies need to do more and more is to be as close as possible to their Shopsumers, to sense the motivations and attitudes they are developing. This cannot be done by using third-party research institutes or to check your Likes on Facebook. It requires a constant and consistent retrieval of impressions by your own staff, and to interpret these impressions in the right way to get to insights you can act upon.


Let’s see whether the opposition in the next presidential elections have learnt these lessons…