CARSON 2016: Scoring the Digital Strategies of the Presidential Hopefuls

5 min read

What do a neurosurgeon, a businessman, and a hippie from Vermont all have in common? They all want to be our next president, evidently.

Enter Ben Carson. Who by some miracle is smart enough to perform life-saving surgery on your cranium but also silly enough to sign on for a presidential election. Because sometimes, it isn’t enough to separate conjoined twins, survive cancer, and own a Library of Congress Living Legend award.

So, fine, he’s made his mark. But we’re here to talk marketing. Let’s dig in.


benlogoThe first thing I will say is that I can’t even remember what Carson’s logo looks like. I had to Google it. So, we’re off to an iffy start.

According to Ali Elkin of Bloomberg, Carson actually changed his logo a few weeks ago. He went from a dreadful flag to straight up spelling his name out in red, white, and blue copy. Sagi Haviv, designer behind logos like Armani Exchange, says it’s for the better. “This new bold, purely typographic mark with a nice modern sans serif font comes across as strong and sophisticated. Much better!”

Amy McAdams, our associate creative director, was willing to offer a critique. Her take:

It’s super simple, but I like the addition of the light blue to the expected blue/red color palette (it looks super cool on a black background). Is it too generic? Maybe. I don’t know if it screams “You’re looking at your next president.”



Compared with some of the other GOP hopefuls, Carson has kept his name relatively clean in the press. Just this week, Carson “accidentally” fired what Trump deemed to be an insulting comment when he stated that the depth of Trump’s faith was “probably the biggest” difference between the two candidates. Naturally, Trump acted like a five year old and came back swinging with questions of Carson’s faith as it relates to his medical research on aborted fetuses. Carson answered Trump’s attacks with… an apology. He clarified that he had no intention of any personal attacks and merely intended to discuss his faith as his own motivation for running. No word yet on if Trump will forgive and forget. (Spoiler: probably not).


Carson rocks a beautiful footer, a wonderful subject line, and a prominent “donate today” button. Additionally, he actually refers to me by my name (something each of the other candidates I’ve reviewed have failed to do). I’m impressed.

Carson’s email newsletters are clean, easy to read, and proficient in demonstrating his position on the issues central to his campaign – the federal budget, public education, and our healthcare system. Within his introduction email, he asks you to donate no less than five times. To some, it might be a little much, but to me as a marketer, it’s strategic and demonstrates his understanding of email as a quick and skimmable channel. You might miss one or two calls to action, but you certainly won’t miss five.

Perhaps the strongest part of his email marketing is his subject lines. Upon signing up for the newsletter, I received an email reading “I Need Your Help Today.” He easily creates urgency and a sense of kinship with his subscribers. Unlike Trump, Carson knows he can’t do this alone. If he wants to become the GOP candidate in the 2016 election, he will need your help.



Carson’s Instagram showcases his supporters, his family, and his role as the “outsider” in a sea of “career politicians.” Carson regularly features those who attend his rallies and those who support him from afar but he fails to incorporate routine hashtags to show other how they can contribute via social media. He needs to clean up and execute a strategy for engaging people and having them identify as individuals who #standwithben.


The hashtag disconnect spills over onto his Twitter. Aside from that, Carson needs to post more regularly. As of this writing, his most recent post was two days ago. Compare that to Trump at 58 seconds ago (I couldn’t make this up if I tried) and Carly Fiorina at 16 hours ago. Frequency is crucial on Twitter because users rely on their self-curated homepages more than they visit individual pages. Without recent content, an account will fail to appear organically in the homepage of those who follow that account. Time to get posting, Ben!

Carson posts more often on his Facebook page and shares videos that demonstrate how excited his supporters are about his campaign. He has two regulars, his campaign manager Barry Bennett and his senior strategist Ed Brookover, who recap Carson’s events and appearances on the campaign trail. They do a good job of representing Carson and discussing his talking points, the support and engagement of the crowd, and how his campaign is stacking up against his competitors.




Aside from his lack of engagement strategies, Carson does a good job of mixing up the content he posts to his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. If he really wants to compete on his social channels, Carson needs to develop a strategy for hashtags and use them with each piece of content he posts.

His email campaigns are well thought out and include great calls to action. I’d like to see him break past asking people to donate by also giving subscribers a chance to volunteer, host an event, or otherwise support Carson’s campaign. Money is great, and ultimately very important for presidential campaigns, but it’s important not to overlook those who simply can’t afford to give.

Cover photo from Dr. Ben Carson Facebook page.