Local agency Full Circle brings marketing savvy to politics

February 25, 2010
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Local firm Full Circle Marketing and Design has been working mostly with corporations and nonprofits for the past nine years, but in fall 2009, it launched a new arm: Full Circle Political Marketing.

“Things have been dramatically different in the last few years, specifically with Barack Obama’s campaign,” said Steve Harney, principal of both companies. “He leveraged marketing. He leveraged technology. He created a brand around himself that people in politics hadn’t seen before.

“I think corporate America had been focused on utilizing those types of technology for communications, but politics is a little bit behind.”

Harney said the way politicians traditionally have marketed themselves has been in place so long that it can be difficult for them to see another way to do it.

“I also think, in the political arena, time is a very big challenge. A candidate has a limited amount of time. As they’re running for office, they’re being pulled in 10 different directions. They need to do fundraising. They need to be out in the community connecting with leaders. They need to be knocking on doors and shaking hands. But at the same time, they have to create all of this marketing that isn’t necessarily their expertise.”

Harney said that technology offers one of the biggest learning curves.

“Technology is certainly one area candidates are not always knowledgeable about or comfortable with, so they’re looking for our expertise in terms of what are Web site best practices, how to leverage their Web site, how to utilize Facebook or Twitter,” said Harney.

“The other part is a little bit of education from a marketing and design standpoint. If everybody has the same Web site and is talking about the same issues … how are you going to be any different? People think they’re competing against two other candidates that are running for the same office, but they’re also competing against everything that hits the inbox of every person in the community. People are bombarded with messages: How do you make yours stand out?”

Full Circle Political Marketing was officially launched in October 2009, but the firm actually got involved with political marketing in 2008 when T.J. Carnegie, now president of Full Circle Political Marketing, was running for state representative.

From Carnegie’s perspective, politicians have had very little measurement of what works and what doesn’t in their campaigns.

“In the old days, you’d send out 10,000 mailers and you wouldn’t know what resonated. The game has changed; those days aren’t around anymore,” said Carnegie. “There’s a way to measure your marketing effort. Large organizations have been doing that for a long time, and we want to bring that to the political arena.”

Carnegie also said that candidates often run very scattered marketing campaigns.

“(Marketing) would go to four or five different sources: One person would do their Web site, one person would do their logo design, and they’d go to a third company to get their T-shirts made,” he said. “Everything was hard to manage and a little bit different. The colors didn’t always match. The logo had to be tweaked for different opportunities.”

By working with candidates from start to finish, Full Circle is able to synchronize all campaign materials and also create a stronger brand identity for the candidate.

“We try to create a brand, an identity for each client. When you see the swoosh, you know it’s Nike. When you see the red pop can, you know its Coca-Cola,” said Carnegie.

“We want to bring the same idea to a candidate. When you see their logo when you’re driving down the street in a yard sign, billboard or a letterhead, you already know who it’s from.”

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