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How Traditional Marketing Beat Digital Marketing

Lessons Learned from a campaign loss

Stu Coston

Stu Coston


Goby Creative recently finished managing all marketing activities for a local political candidate running for Mayor. Our candidate ended up losing the race, but we learned several things through the process and wanted to share our lessons learned on our blog.

Clear Pricing Strategy

Lesson 1: clearly articulate the pricing strategy early, ensure that it makes sense for both the client and the agency, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

This candidate is a long-time family friend of mine, and we let this relationship influence our pricing strategy rather than letting our expertise set the value of our service. This was without a doubt, the biggest lesson learned from this campaign. It played a role in all the other lessons learned, and was the focal point of most of the issues we experienced as an agency.

With most ongoing businesses, you have a good idea of how much money there is available to budget for marketing from month to month. When it comes to running a political campaign, you often start with $0 in the bank and the majority of your effort in the beginning is spent raising funds to spend on advertising later on. This is somewhat of a catch 22 from a marketing agency’s perspective. It’s hard to pay for advertising to raise funds when there are no funds to spend on advertising.

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Pricing Approach 1

Our first approach, which is our standard pricing strategy, was establishing a baseline monthly price to manage the campaign, and then add on any additional prices as they arose. For example, if he needed yard signs, then we would design them under the monthly baseline price and then purchase the signs at cost in excess of whatever the monthly price was. So if the signs cost $2,500 then we would charge him the monthly baseline price plus $2,500 for the signs. The candidate didn’t feel comfortable with this strategy because he didn’t know how much money he would have each month, and he didn’t know how often he would need to order excess items. Understandably, he didn’t want to push himself into a corner financially just trying to make sure he could pay the monthly baseline price.

Pricing Approach 2

Our next approach was to set an estimated campaign total, which would be billed at the end of the campaign based on how much work was actually performed. We created a detailed schedule with anticipated dates for content delivery, Facebook advertising, printed materials, merch, and everything else we could think of. When we presented the number to the client, it was more than 2x what he expected he would be able to raise, and the candidate didn’t feel comfortable pushing forward in this direction. Furthermore, we didn’t feel comfortable fronting all the funds and not getting paid until the end.

Pricing Approach 3

Finally, Goby Creative thought of a few creative incentives that were intended to get people to want to donate to the campaign. We connected our print-on-demand services to his website so that visitors could purchase t-shirts, mugs, hats, etc. We also created donation forms that allowed users to donate in increments and receive different awards based on how much they donated (like a kickstarter). The pricing strategy here was that we would get paid a portion of the proceeds from these donors to cover the management activities of these platforms, and then anything the candidate wanted to purchase in addition (i.e. yard signs, billboards, etc) would be purchased at a 10% design fee plus the cost of the items.

This was a high risk approach for Goby Creative because it meant that we might not get paid anything, but it was also a potentially very rewarding approach because if everyone decided to donate through the website then we would get paid a lot. From the candidate’s perspective, it offered him more donation avenues and a lower risk of owing more than he raised, however if everyone decided to donate through the website then he would not get as much into the campaign fund.

Ultimately, this was the pricing strategy that the candidate chose.

Why this wasn’t the best pricing strategy

It wasn’t a bad idea, but it wasn’t as productive as we hoped. There were times that it became confusing, not helpful, and disincentivizing. The donation avenues did not perform as well as we hoped. Most people in this small town still wanted to write a check and mail it directly to the campaign rather than donating through the website and getting a free reward. Since Goby Creative included the pricing of a lot of our services in funds generated through these avenues, we didn’t get paid as much as we normally would have. This undervalued the work that we were performing, causing some issues later on. These issues weren’t anyone’s fault, it’s natural to expect more free services when you’re already getting some “free” services, but it did force some hard conversations and an unnaturally strict adherence to the contract.

The primary lesson learned from this is to understand the value of what the creator will be providing by setting a monthly baseline price that includes a specific set of deliverables each month.

Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Lesson 2: Clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities of the campaign team, the volunteers, and the candidate.

There were times that the campaign team would have expectations of the candidate but the candidate expected the campaign team to take care of those things and the volunteers didn’t even know anything was happening. After 9 years in the Air Force, I now truly understand why they say “communication is the key to air power”. The inability for any party to be able to explicitly say what the other parties were doing at any given time in the campaign was a major factor in delayed deliverables. It eventually led to contract disputes, unnecessary confrontation, and arguments.

The main area this affected was with social media content. Any marketing campaign needs to have an established hierarchy of social media content evaluation with dedicated persons who have exclusive authority to approve and publish content. There needs to be people who generate content ideas, a posting board for the managers to choose content from, and a predetermined expected number of posts to be published each week. We did not have any workflow for the social media content of the campaign pages. This was partly due to the pricing strategy. Goby Creative wasn’t directly getting paid for social media management, but we were perceived as the digital marketers for the campaign.

This was a problem.

Goby Creative established a visual identity for the campaign and created a style guide for social media posts, but some of the volunteers would post things without the campaign team knowing about it. These posts did not always fit with the tone, identity, and message of the campaign. Had there been a content workflow with clear roles and responsibilities, many of these issues could’ve been avoided, and the campaign could have benefited.

The Value of Traditional Marketing

Lesson 3: Even though digital marketing has more bang for the buck, there is still value in traditional marketing activities.

We were hired primarily because of our experience with digital advertising. Our candidate understood that a lot of the citizens of our city spent a lot of time online and he felt like this would be a strategic advantage for him over his competition because he knew that the other candidates were not going to be as heavy on the digital side.

He was partially right, the other candidates did not spend as much money on digital advertising as they spent on physical advertising. However, there was still a lot of value in traditional marketing. In political campaigns (especially local ones) people vote for 1) who they know, 2) who they see more often, 3) who looks like they are taking it more seriously, and 4) who they think will do the best job. If your face is on 8 billboards throughout the city for 4 months, everyone will see you, everyone will know that you are spending a lot of money on those billboards, and everyone will think you are taking this very seriously.

Quantitatively, digital marketing has more bang for the buck than traditional marketing. You can reach more people per dollar with a Facebook ad than you can with a billboard. However, for any local marketing campaign (for a politician or a business), people are driving by those billboards every day. They see your face every day. Each time they see you, we call that a  “brand touch point”. Some studies have shown that it takes at least 8 brand touch points before a consumer is willing to purchase from the brand for the first time.

Now, acquiring a vote on election day is similar to getting someone to buy a product, but there are key differences. Each “customer”, if you will, only gets 1 purchase. A.k.a. 1 vote. There are no returns, there is no money-back-guarantee, there is only 1 vote. This means it’s going to take a lot more than 8 touch points if someone’s going to vote for you. They’re going to need to feel like they know you, they’re going to need to believe in you, they’re going to need to trust that you know what you’re talking about.

Whether it’s right or wrong, as humans, we often associate money with intentions. When you see someone on 8 billboards for 4 months, day in and day out with the same message, you begin to feel like you know them. You subconsciously believe that they are willing to invest as much into the community as they are into the campaign.

As a marketing agency, we should have understood and articulated the value of traditional marketing in our initial consultations with the client. And we should’ve capitalized on traditional marketing methods from the beginning.

The Value of Digital Marketing

 Lesson 4: Digital marketing definitely has more bang for the buck and allows us to visibly track ROI.

All that being said about traditional marketing, there is undoubtedly more value (higher ROI) in targeted digital advertising than there is in traditional marketing. With just $400, we were able to reach the entire voting population of our city, more than 23,000 people. 2,164 people were positively engaged with these ads, and more than a dozen direct conversations were started with the candidate because they saw these ads. 1 billboard in this city easily costs more than $500 per week, and who knows how many people see it, how they feel about it, how many of them went to the website, how many of them started conversations about it, how to get in touch with them again, etc.

Using Facebook ads we were able to retarget the same people for similar ads, competitions, and announcements, and intentionally target people who had never seen our ads before to ensure that we reached as many people as possible with the budget we had. We were even able to use 1 contest to generate enough exposure to double our email list.


Campaign Stats

We were able to reach 23,052 registered voters (100%) in our city with only $435 in Facebook ads, build a dedicated email list from scratch with a 60% open rate and 25% click rate, and sell $595.36 worth of merchandise through his online store.


Email Open Rate


Email Click Rate

Reached with Facebook Ads

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