Political marketing is a subdiscipline of both marketing and political science but possesses unique characteristics that sets it apart from its parent disciplines; paradigmatically grounded in marketing theory, political marketing research contributes to (or impinges on) the traditional research field of political science. However, it is our opinion that the theoretical and conceptual foundations of political marketing have yet to be explored and mapped in sufficient depth. Motivated by this deficiency and building on the work in Ormrod, Henneberg and O’Shaughnessy (2013), this paper aims to highlight three issues that we argue need further development. These issues concern the scope of political marketing as an academic discipline, the paradigmatic foundations of political marketing and the link between political marketing and democracy. The origins of political marketing are arguably grounded in the rhetoric that characterised political discourse in ancient Greece and Rome; however, the modern use of political marketing began with the widespread adoption of the mass media as a vehicle for political communication to voters, first using election posters and radio, and then, in the 1950’s, television. This can be described as a narrow interpretation of the scope of political marketing – voter-focused activities using tools and concepts transferred from commercial marketing practice. An alternative to this is a wide intepretation of political marketing, an approach that emphasises building and managing relationships with a wide range of stakeholders using tools and concepts that exhibit a context-specific development to suit the assumed unique political context. The key difference between these approaches is whether political marketing manifests itself as a dedicated organisational function or as a wider organisational philosophy. The narrow and wide interpretations of political marketing are grounded in alternative paradigms, the managerial/instrumental and relationship paradigms, respectively. Many authors use the managerial/instrumental paradigm as the implicit foundation for their research, whilst more recent work has argued that the relationship marketing paradigm shows the most promise as a framework for understanding political behaviour. This divergence reflects discussions that have occurred in the marketing literature about the most appropriate research lens in the commercial context; unfortunately, these discussions have yet to occur in sufficient depth in the political marketing literature. Finally, paradigmatic considerations also have an impact on how political marketing relates to alternative forms of democracy. Setting aside normative considerations regarding the appropriateness of applying a marketing mindset to the art of the possible, the managerial/instrumental approach, despite its widespread use in empirical research, arguably sits uneasily with democratic ideals as it emphasises poll-driven policies and polished candidates. On the other hand, the relationship approach demonstrates an affinity with deliberative democracy; this is especially visible in current experiments in online citizen participation that have the aim of increasing transparency in the parliamentary interaction of the political marketing exchange.
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7th International Political Marketing Conference, 2013