Selling Sarah Palin

Political marketing and the ‘Walmart Mom’

Authored by: Robert Busby

Routledge Handbook of Political Marketing

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415579933
eBook ISBN: 9780203349908
Adobe ISBN: 9781136597442


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The emergence of Sarah Palin as an iconic figure for the Republican party in the 2008 election was testament to the interplay of several issues central to an understanding of the contemporary nature of political marketing. Her personal brand utilised elements of her personal values and her lifestyle choices, the emotive use of the history of the Republican party to symbolise her as the inheritor of a distinctive Republican mandate, and the expression of populism through the exploitation of her autobiographical past and regional location. On its own the Palin brand was sufficient to create an identifiable and marketable political product which attracted attention on both a state and a national stage. However, other factors were significant. Palin’s ‘mediagenic’ presence granted her a disproportionate amount of coverage in the 2008 election race in comparison with her opponents and indeed her running mate. Her brand of marketing, while targeting a perceived swing voting group in the form of the ‘Walmart Mom’, appeared to marginalise rather than expand the base from which she aspired to gain votes. While her marketing strategy in the first instance appeared to aspire towards a sales approach in an attempt to attract swing voters, it became clear as the 2008 campaign progressed, and indeed beyond its conclusion, that she became increasingly embroiled in a product-oriented approach, shoring up the right wing of the Republican party and advancing forcefully her personal brand.

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