Bernie’s Brand – How outsider Bernie Sanders is using smart targeting and positioning to capture voters

By Benjamin James. ID:800420886


A Snapchat ad for Bernie Sanders PHOTO: SNAPCHAT

From the outside the circus that is race for this year’s Presidential election provides a very interesting look at how the nominees position themselves and use segmentation and targeting to capture voters.

American politics is closer to a marketing battle and financial arbitrage than democracy with candidates spending millions on marketing, research, data science to deliver the perfect package to people in each area they want to win votes from. It is estimated that in this year’s election campaigns will spend $4.4 Billion (npr, 2016) on just TV ads alone add to that other media and money spent on research and targeting and this is potentially one of the largest marketing case studies out there right now.

The democrats Bernie Sanders started as a rank outsider and while he still remains at very long odds to win the nomination he has shown that a focused campaign in a market that is highly fragmented with many demographic, behavioural, lifestyle, economic and psychological factors serving to influence a person’s vote that there are many votes that can be won with a clever campaign.



What makes it more interesting is that 45% of people eligible don’t vote (New Yorker, 2016) and although it is assumed that roughly half of these are Democratic and half are Republican leaning voters if we take a look at the voters versus non voters we get a different view. A 2014 study (Pew, 2014) The non-voters are younger, less educated, have lower incomes, more Catholics and fewer whites (in non-voters).

This gives a highly segmented area of the population that don’t typically vote and will have different needs and wants than the traditional older democratic voter who would traditionally vote for the ‘establishment’ candidate in Hilary Clinton. Sanders has used both this fact as well as a larger general disillusionment with traditional American Politics and increasing issues with equality to capture a very large and powerful voter base.

Sanders position is that he is a champion of “economic fairness” and social good with policies aimed reducing the power of big business and wall street, economic fairness, college affordability and climate change among many. He has crafted a campaign on this young disillusioned  and economically challenged segment and targeted the things that both the voters and, we assume, he cares about.

He has used social media as a primary tool for capturing voters and this has been very effective because of his target demographic being younger and spending a lot (all) of their time on social media. Prior to the Iowa caucuses he even started a Snapchat marketing campaign where people at his events can add custom geofilters to their “snaps”.  This is another example of very explicit targeting and positioning from the Bernie Sanders brand and has been causing rival Hilary Clinton to “feel the Bern”.


A Snapchat geofilter ad for Bernie Sanders PHOTO: SNAPCHAT

References 2016. $4.4 Billion on ad spend. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 April 2016].

New Yorker. 2016. Rise of the non-voters. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 April 2016].

The Atlanic. 2016. what marketing trends say about Bernie Sanders success. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 April 2016].

Wall Street Journal. 2016. Bernie Sanders Iowa Snapchat campaign. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 11 April 2016].





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