chapter  7
14 Pages

Political party market orientation in a global perspective

ByJesper Strömbäck, Jennifer Lees-Marshment, Chris Rudd

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). Such behavior has developed in response to changes in voting behavior and communication

whereby in many, albeit not all, countries party identification has declined; voters switch parties more often than they used to and decide later what party to vote for; political distrust has increased; political parties have lost members (Dalton and Wattenberg 2000); and media environments have become more competitive and commercial (Hamilton 2004). Political communication and campaign studies show how political parties worldwide have increased their efforts to professionalize their campaign strategies and tactics. This chapter seeks to explore the extent to which political party market orientation has also gone global, by presenting a summary of results from new research in Global Political Marketing (Lees-Marshment et al. 2010) which conducted a comparative analysis of party behavior, and examining the extent to which variation in party behavior is due to a wide range of systemic differences (such as the electoral and party system).