Tracing the development of political marketing requires an examination of the "game changing" qualities of the aforementioned elections in respect to changing technologies of those times. In particular, it is recognizable that the winning candidates utilized certain technologies to help improve their popularity as well as to speak more directly and personally to the citizens of the country. The three technologies that were vital to these presidents were the radio, the television, and the internet. In 1936, 1960, and 2008 respectively, the presidential campaigns thrived largely because of the consumer availability of new technology innovations. In turn, the candidates themselves embraced these products, which served as a direct connection to the people.
Franklin Roosevelt gained power in the early 1930s eventually embracing an agenda pushing interventionist fiscal and monetary policies. With these ideas came fears of communist and socialist governments. Roosevelt had to find an effective form of communication that spoke directly to the people, the consumers, of the country. He did this by capitalizing on the rise of the radio in popular culture. Roosevelt used fireside chats to communicate directly with the people. His embrace of the technology allowed him to speak freely to the people, to overcome their qualms, and allay their fears about the position that America was in during the Great Depression. He eloquently presented ideals of social democracy through the Second Bill of Rights, which was presented in a fireside chat. While the ideas have never fully taken with the American people, moments like these distinguish his presidency's use of technology and embrace of political consumerism
John F. Kennedy turned the act of voting into an overt consumer act. He did this by profiting from the rise of a consumer culture that supported television. Television becomes a connection between the people, the candidate, and political marketers or consultants. Between 1950 and 1960, the number of households with televisions skyrockets from 9.0% to 87.1%.
The voter, who wanted to choose the best candidate, now had visual stimuli to picture the candidate. The 1960 presidential debates between Kennedy and Richard Nixon is the introduction of television and politics. Kennedy became president, in part because his campaign was able to utilize the opinion polling information it acquired to exploit the quality of Kennedy as a photogenic candidate. The television debates were "game changing" events because radio listeners often identified Richard Nixon as the winner while television viewers assigned the win to Kennedy. These moments changed how candidates approach future elections and continued to develop candidates who molded themselves based on voter/consumer desires.
Barack Obama used the internet and social media networks to organize the electorate and specifically to engage very particular demographics of the population as never before. The internet began in earnest in the 1970s as ARPANET, a government driven organization deriving ways to communicate through computer systems. Simultaneously, the developments of personal computers by Apple, International Business Machines (IBM), and Microsoft was influential creating a consumer culture that would have the desire to use internet the way it is used today. However, it took the development of stronger computers and internet support for the internet to move from a government entity to public consumer product. The dawn of a new millennium was the turning point for the internet as social media networking exploded. America Instant Messenger (AIM), an extension of America Online (AOL), afforded individuals the opportunity to communicate in private chat rooms. As this technology was accepted by younger generations, other social networking sites flourished. Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are three that distinguished themselves by 2008. This is vital to consider because Obama turned social media into the newest frontier to organize and enthuse the electorate. He communicated in very specific ways to very specific groups. His advisors embraced and created a frenzy about Obama with voters and youth as a man who could lead America towards a second Progressive Era of change. His campaigns ability to communicate directly with the younger generations did not necessarily influence more young voters to vote, but it moved them to participate in politics. The use of this technology enhanced voters abilities to interact with candidates directly.
Consumerism in politics enmeshed itself with the development of consumer culture technologies in the 20
and early 21
centuries. As the growth of industry changed the technologies, opportunities emerged for candid moments to be transmitted to eager consumers quickly. Presidential elections serve as primary historical markers towards establishing an understanding of the consumerization of politics in the country. However, this emergent consumer culture in politics has not created the types of engagement in the political process that people have desired. The kinds of social and civic obligations articulated by all three presidents remain something of an abstraction for most Americans in the four years separating presidential election. When these connections are made for young people, future generations voting rights will have a heightened importance; elections will have higher participation and be more representative of the desires of the people.