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8 Marketing Lessons from Sarah Palin

March 10, 2014

Sarah palinI can’t stand Sarah Palin. To me, she epitomizes “white trash wins lotto” — you can dress her up and move her to a nice neighborhood, but there’s no doubt she doesn’t belong.

Still, you can’t deny she’s made the most of her 15 minutes… Like herpes, just when you think she’s gone for good, she pops up again.

I respect that.

How does she do it? Let’s take a look.

8 Marketing Lessons from Sarah Palin

1. Align Yourself With Key People – Obviously, Palin knocked this one out of the park. The only reason anybody outside of Alaska knows about her is because John McCain was desperate to get some attention for his sinking ship of a Presidential campaign.

In addition to her McCain connection, Sarah Palin has done a great job of getting with key media outlets, such as FOX News and top conservative host Sean Hannity, both of which continue to blast her message and keep her relevant.

Endorsements like this will absolutely put you (or your product) on the map. However, if you want to stay there, you’ll need to have substance. Good marketing will only make a bad product fail faster.

2. Look Good – There is no denying that Sarah Palin is a good-looking woman — especially when it comes to politicians.

Would she be where she is if she looked like the typical American woman? You and I both know that answer, don’t we?

Looks matter. And when it comes to politics, a recent study in Finland found good-looking candidates get an increase of 20% more votes, possibly because voters enjoy watching them more than average or below-average looking candidates.

Good-looking people are also considered more trustworthy, likable, and persuasive.

At the very least, look the part of whatever you’re doing.

3. Give People Hope – It was Barack Obama who ran on a platform of “hope” but it’s Sarah Palin who is the master of delivering it…

Sarah Palin will never run for public office as long as high-dollar speaking gigs and media contracts are coming her way. Still, she lets fans hold on to that dream by never explicitly saying this.

Ask her if she’s going to run and you’ll get something like…

“I’ll do what’s best for all the hard-workin’ Americans!”

And her fans keep dreaming…

4. Tell People What They Want to Hear – The majority of politicians, not just Sarah Palin, are masters of this.

If you want to see this concept in all its glory, write your a letter to your Congressman about a divisive issue, such as gay marriage, health care, or marijuana legalization. When you do, you’ll get something back that is very similar to Sarah Palin’s response when she’s asked whether she’ll run for public office again — “I’ll do what’s best for all the hard-workin’ Americans!”

Next, have a friend write the same Congressman a letter taking the opposite stand on the same issue.

The response? “I’ll do what’s best for all the hard-workin’ Americans!”

It is bullshit? Yes. But telling people what they want to hear absolutely works for politicians.

5. “What You Want Will Cost You Nothing” – This is another strategy the majority of politicians, not just Sarah Palin, are masters of.

Dan Quale promised the best educated people in the world.

Michele Bachmann promised $2/gallon gasoline.

Herbert Hoover promised a car in every garage.

How many times have we heard things like this?

Nothing happens without cost.

A better, more ethical marketing approach is to make the benefits of your product or service outweigh the cost. For example, delivering the product now with a zero-interest financing option that lets payments be made over a period of several years.

6. Simplify Your Message – Like the reading level of the average American newspaper, Sarah Palin breaks everything down to make what she’s talking about easy to understand.

“Drill, baby, drill” is a perfect example. And like “no new taxes,” nothing is ever mentioned about what the cost will be.

Having a simple phrase like this works great as an “elevator pitch” or when giving an interview, but the concept is perhaps most powerful when used within a slogan or tagline. The Tea Party does this with “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Some great examples…

“What Happens Here, Stays Here.” – Las Vegas

“Be All That You Can Be.” – US Army

“When It Absolutely, Positively, Has To Be There Overnight.” – FedEx

7. Repeat Your Message – Hard-workin’ Americans, drill baby drill, Obama death panels, Bill Ayers, blah, blah, blah…

Repeating your message is actually a pretty good strategy. People are busy and your message is going to get lost. If you want people to receive it on a mass scale, you must repeat it.

Where Sarah Palin fails on this is she hasn’t had a major overhaul of her message since she came on the scene. It’s fine to stick to your guns and you can continue to share your basic belief system for years, but if you don’t change up your wording and message surrounding your key message, it’s easy for people to write you off as the boy who cried wolf.

8. Don’t Like the Question? Hijack It! – But not like this…


If somebody asks you a question you don’t have an answer for, don’t be an idiot about it!! For example, if you got asked watch newspapers you read, but you don’t read any, answer the question by saying you get your news from other sources — Google, a panel of advisors, whatever… “All of them” is not a good answer.

Final Thoughts

She’s not polished and, arguably, not that intelligent, but Sarah Palin has done a lot with what she’s been given. She’s also proof that if you reach enough people while staying true to who you are, some of those people are really going to like you and help you to maintain a career long after your time in the spotlight has faded.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.

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