Political party market orientation in a global perspective

Authored by: Jesper Strömbäck , Jennifer Lees-Marshment , Chris Rudd

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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Political party market orientation is about how parties behave in response to the electorate; it is a way of thinking. Whilst all parties might use different marketing techniques such as polling and focus groups, voter segmentation, direct mail, telemarketing, sophisticated voter databases and opposition research, what is important is the way they use these, and the influence this has on the way they create their political product and communicate. Parties may fall into one of three orientations and be product-oriented, sales-oriented or market-oriented (Lees-Marshment 2001; see also Newman 1994; Ormrod 2009 for further discussion of a market orientation). These concepts suggest that some parties use marketing techniques to sell themselves and their policies, and that some also use marketing to decide what to offer the public in the first place – what policies to adopt, which leaders to select to best present those policies, and how to best communicate policy delivery. It is distinct from other campaign or media management because of the potential influence of marketing tools on the communication and the political ‘product’. The defining characteristics of these orientations are summarized in Table 7.1 (see Lees-Marshment 2001; Lees-Marshment 2010a; Strömbäck 2007a; Strömbäck 2010a). Table 7.1 Defining characteristics of product-, sales- and market-oriented parties

Product-oriented party

Sales-oriented party

Market-oriented party

Defining characteristic

Argues for its own ideas and policies; assumes that voters will realize that its ideas are the best and therefore vote for it.

Believes in its own ideas and policies, but realizes that they must be ‘sold’ to the public; does not change its behavior or policies to give people what they want, but tries to make people want what the party offers.

Uses market intelligence to identify voter needs and demands, and design its policies, candidates and behavior to provide voter satisfaction; does not try to change what people want, but give people what they want.

If the party does not succeed in elections

Believes that the voters just do not realize that the party’s policies are the best ones; refuses to change policies.

Tries to make better use of market intelligence and persuasion techniques, i.e., become more professionalized in its campaigning.

Uses market intelligence to re-design the product so that it becomes better suited to the wants and needs of targeted people.

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