New Path Plan for the Libertarian Party: ‘Marketing: A Tale of Two Libertarians’

Via email from George Phillies. New Path for the LP is a slate of candidates for the Libertarian National Committee, and George Phillies is their candidate for Chair. This is Step 5 of Part Three of the 63-page New Path plan for the LP. IPR is not endorsing any LNC candidates, and is interested in articles from all the different campaigns.

The Basis for Scientific Membership Acquisition

Recently a supporter of a certain LNC chair candidate challenged opponents by asking exactly which demographic groups would we propose targeting. The chair candidate in question has been (to his credit) very upfront about who he thinks is our most promising target market. In his view, it is the Fox News, Newsmax and Palinesque “Tea Party” crowd.

To date, we don’t believe anyone has answered the challenge, so let us propose our thinking on the matter.

Various surveys over the last five years have noted anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of Americans identify as “libertarian” in some sense. That’s 25 to 50 million voting age people. Libertarian candidates rarely get more than a few percent of the vote, and actual party membership is but a tiny fraction of even that depressed percentage.
Our first position is: rather than go after people who are on the opposite end of the Nolan Chart from where libertarians live (that’s the Fox News/Newsmax crowd), why not go after people who are actual libertarians to begin with?

Fortunately, Pew Research provides us with a good snapshot of two “typical” libertarians, based on their research and polling. Our membership profile gives us another starting place. When you develop profiles of potential target “buyers” (members), you can gear your advertising, marketing, public relations and outreach efforts toward these people. When those targeted people come and look at your website, read your publications, and hear your representatives, they realize they have found a home.

The LP has been seriously negligent on this score. Those who argue for improved marketing and branding are right – we currently do nothing of the kind. The key questions are: What are we marketing? And to whom?

Let us then consider the characteristics of a typical “libertarian” voter. Mind you, this person may not call himself (and it is a he; let’s call him “Mike”) a “libertarian”; he may have never heard of the LP. Mike is an important person to talk to and for. What do we know about him? Quite a bit, it turns out!

White male
College educated
Young (maybe under 35; certainly under 50)
High income (household income $75k+)
Lives in a metro area in the south, mountain states or west
Not religious (agnostic/atheist or Easter/Christmas/High Holy Days-only type)

How does he identify politically? There’s about a 50 percent chance he is (or leans) Republican, a 40 percent chance he is (or leans) Democrat, and a 10 percent chance he is unaffiliated.

What are his political opinions?

Social issues – He doesn’t understand the energy devoted to denying LGBT people’s rights; he has gay and lesbian friends, family members and co-workers, and thinks society should treat them equally. He is against any further abortion restrictions. He is in favor of stem cell research. He favors decriminalization of marijuana and supports medical marijuana efforts.

Foreign policy – He is deeply skeptical or opposed to aggressive foreign policy initiatives.

Economic policy – He is generally free market, favors low taxes and limited regulation. However, he thinks the health care system is out of whack and needs changes. Generally he is unsure about or even opposed to recent Federal legislation.

Where does Mike get his news? On the Internet. He reads blogs. He’s on Facebook. He tweets and re-tweets. He looks at clips on You Tube. He listens to podcasts in his car on his iPod.
He’s definitely *not* watching Fox News or reading Newsmax.

Before chucking everything the party has historically advocated, in order to curry favor with the Fox News crowd, why not make an effort to “Get Mike”?

That’s one place where we should start. That’s not the only place.

There’s a second libertarian persona. She’s out there (and yes we have met her). We met many like her at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum – a great event the entire LNC should plan to attend next year.

But now, for Libertarian Persona #2, who we will call “Sarah”.

First some basic demographics:

White female
Under 35
College educated
Urban (or close suburb suburban)
Middle income
Not religious at all

Political affiliation? Definitely nowhere near the Republican Party! Possibly a weak-identifying Democrat, more likely unaffiliated or even a nonvoter at present. She’s been there for a long time: twelve years ago, Massachusetts Libertarians looked at their voter registration. In Central Massachusetts, where Democrats are social conservatives, 60% of registered Libertarians were women.

Issue positions:

Social Issues: Way Left. Maximum personal autonomy and freedom, and no government interference at all. Very pro marriage equality, pro choice on abortion, for stem cell research, for drug legalization.

Foreign Policy: Very bright line antiwar/anti-intervention position, across the board.

Economic Policy: Best described as “institutional suspicion and hostility”. Extremely anti-authoritarian. Acts locally. Distrusts bigness, whether manifested as Big Government, Big Business, or any similar institution. Very environmentally conscious. Ultra-individualistic. Sympathetic to the Ron Paul campaign on matters like “End the Fed” but not at all sympathetic on social issues.

Now, what are Sarah’s principal information sources? Do you suspect she is watching Bill O’Reilly, reading Newsmax, or listening to Rush or Savage?

Definitely not!
She’s either on the Internet, texting, or involved in direct activity with her friends and associates. She’s reading or perhaps FreedomsPhoenix. Like Mike, she’s on Facebook and Twitter, reading about and discussing similar things, but with different people and in slightly different language.

So what’s our basic marketing plan?

Mike, meet Sarah.
Sarah, this is Mike.
There’s more uniting us than dividing us.
Let’s figure out what to do, together, to create a freer America.

Redesigning our website, and crafting our messages and outreach to meet these two libertarian archetypes, should provide us with tremendous dividends.

How can we tell if our outreach is reaching these people? How can we tell if we need to fix something? Fortunately, we have a third target audience. We have people who are like our current members. We can use the same design methods to craft an approach to our current members and their peers, and see how it works. That design and testing is a big database problem.

Fortunately, New Path Treasurer candidate James Oaksun has some expertise in the analysis of large datasets. If elected Treasurer, he will analyze the LP’s current active member database to find common characteristics of our current members. Our hypothesis is that if we target people who are most like us, we should have a better chance of getting positive responses. If we use the same successful design methods to pursue Sarah and Mike, we should be successful with them, too. James is offering his services to the party and committee pro bono – without charge.

In addition, James has relationships with some of the country’s leading copy writers. We would have to spend a little money, but the payoff of better letters could be substantial.

15 thoughts on “New Path Plan for the Libertarian Party: ‘Marketing: A Tale of Two Libertarians’

  1. Stenotype

    “Redesigning our website, and crafting our messages and outreach to meet these two libertarian archetypes, should provide us with tremendous dividends.”

    That is not even close to the proper use of the word archetype, “prototype” is closer in meaning than a pseudo-religious Jungian projection. Semantics aside, the use of the word seems to indicate to me that the author is a lay person pretending that they are a marketing professional.

    I am also a little confused by a peculiar vagueness, is Mr. Oaksun a marketing professional? His expertise is hinted at but not well demonstrated. Let me explain why I am concerned:

    You cannot use demographic data to create “typical” prospects to market to. The data helps define hooks and calls to action that target swaths may be responsive to but as soon as you try and create a “typical” respondent by conglomerating data, you have lost the game. He or she doesn’t exist.

    Marketing is about expanding receptivity of a message (or impressions of a brand) to larger audiences not narrowing them to appeal to choice individuals. Market demographic analysis is not a deductive pursuit, it is an inductive art. Message development is closer to whichcraft* than technical writing or data mining.

    More so it is troublesome that here is no recognition of a whole marketing plan. I would expect to see a “sales plan” and before a branding or message campaign were considered. I would also avoid presenting the plan piecemeal.

    I would have felt much better if the New Path were proposing that they commission a marketing professional to devise a distributed strategy and plan based on branding, message and local action and then share it with states and counties so that they too can leverage it.

    Facebook and twitter are good for communication but terrible for action. The only way you are going to get “Mike meet Sarah” is if you have local infrastructure ready to follow through on any leads and actually get people meeting each other. Simply getting Sarah on Mikes friends or followers list does not accomplish anything.

  2. George Phillies

    Those of you who want to read the complete plan can do so at http://NewPathForThe . In most of the country, we do not have local groups, so a strategy based on ‘attach people to pre-existing local groups’ rather than ‘find people and assist the go-getters in forming local groups’ has certain serious difficulties.

    However, the ‘how’ is in the next section.

  3. George Phillies

    Mind you, where we *do* have local groups, attaching people to them is a positive step. However, we shall have to plant the hops before we can make the beer.

  4. Geno Canto del Halcon

    Stenotype should check a dictionary. I did, and it appears to me that the author has used the word “archtype” correctly. I didn’t read much more of Stenotype’s comments, because Stenotype had already lost credibility. Note: James Oaksun is running for treasurer, not marketing director. That doesn’t mean that he is not a capable statistical analyst, which is a standard part of business curricula these days.

    Stenotype comes across as arrogant and ignorant. Dr. Phillies comes across as the doctorate-level professor and dedicated activist that I know him to be. Thank you, George!

  5. James Oaksun

    I would certainly favor some targeted short term marketing consulting, if we found we didn’t have the resources internally (on the committee) to perform that. Fortunately I know a few people – nationally renowned experts – who would be ideal. I also know others within the party who would be eager to come to the fore, contingent on what I hope will be a wholesale change in the leadership come Memorial Day. Once a fresh and invigorating breeze is blowing, you may be surprised at who would be willing to get involved!

    You are absolutely correct that we need to have an infrastructure to refer Mike and Sarah into. We deal with that in other areas of the plan, and can learn from the practices in place in some of our more successful state affiliates such as Indiana, Texas and some others.

    My professional expertise is in finance, corporate strategy, and analysis of very large data sets, mainly. My argument is that, in additional to traditional media, we should do more micro-targeting – which has been used successfully in most recent major political campaigns. The most obvious place to look, initially, for micro-targeting data on “libertarians” is in our own member database.

    Every web designer I know, starts their projects by developing descriptions of a few archetypal/prototypical site visitors, to ensure that those people’s needs and expectations are being served by the site and the related communications.

    The most effective (and least expensive!) micro-targeting we can do, as we discuss elsewhere in the plan, involves direct approaches to our own friends, social networks, and family members.

    P.S. “Archetype” and “prototype” are commonly recognized synonyms, not just in a Jungian sense. Elsewhere in this article we also use “typical”, “target buyers”, “targeted people” and “persona”.

  6. Spin, spin, spin, spin .......... Lake

    “James has relationships with some of the country’s leading copy writers. We would have to spend a little money, but the payoff of better letters could be [un] substantial ……….”

    Even Homer (whom ever he was) or Shakespeare (whom ever he was) could do nothing more than spin the split personality and destructive mind set of a group that proclaims two things at once!

    One side of the 21st Century LP mouth / mouth piece: [Phillies] “we are the one and only American Peace Party (amoung the DOZENS of anti war organizations! Go figure …………..)

    The other side of the 21st Century LP mouth / mouth piece: [neo con W. A. R. ] acts like, talks like, walks like just another lying white guy GOP thug ……….

  7. George Phillies


    The 2001 plan was better than the previous one, which had us preparing to take control of a house of Congress in the next couple of years.

    Comparing the two plans is like comparing apples and camels; they are so different that it’s not going to tell you anything useful. A good plan has things like a budget, timelines, metrics, organization, back analysis such as SWOT statements…things that the New Path Plan provides. The people who gave us the 2001 plan are almost all not on the LNC any more; you may ask yourself what was done to put the plan into effect.


  8. Buck Turgidson

    It’s seems others in the Phillies sphere of influence have signed on to the “Christians need not apply” when it comes to LP membership.

    Seriously, I think George Phillies believes that Christians are intellectually inferior and not as enlightened as he is.

  9. paulie Post author

    Re: main article, I share this basic idea of who all we should be targeting, in general terms. I think some people may be getting to bogged down on details rather than looking at the overall message here.

  10. Carolyn Marbry

    BT @ 9: When we’re talking about who is likely to hold Libertarian viewpoints, the “Mike” and “Sarah” archetypes are correct. That’s not to say that there isn’t a Muslim Mike or a Wiccan Sarah or a Jewish Mike or a Baptist Sarah who are also Libertarians, but in the most general sense, most Libertarians tend not to be religious, and after all, “Mike” and “Sarah” are symbols of average Libertarian-thinking folks.

    That said, you bring up a very good point, and that is the importance of outreach to those who promote religious liberty (that is, freedom to believe as one will), regardless of their religious beliefs.

    As far as your belief that George Phillies thinks Christians are inferior or not as enlightened as he? I can say this much. I’ve known Phillies for years, acted as his press director during his Presidential campaign, worked closely with him on the New Path slate, and even I do not know what his religious beliefs are. For all I know he is a Christian.

    My parents are fundamentalist Christians, and while they still vote Republican (I’m working on that), they hold very Libertarian viewpoints on many issues. My sister converted to Judaism almost 20 years ago. So believe me, religious freedom is a subject near and dear to my heart.

  11. Stenotype

    Semantic argument:
    Geno, I am glad that you know how to use a dictionary. Words have different meanings in context and dictionaries are very poor at communicating that.

    A targeted prototype is not defined by demographics.

    So you might say that males are a good demographic and 40-somethings are a good demographic. You might say that the Armored Man/Protector/Champion type is a good demographic too.

    You would not, however, target 40-something males that have a penchant for being right all the time unless you were selling prostate check-ups.

    If the concept is not clear, I might suggest that marketing will sound like hoodoo to you.

    Archetypes refer to basic types and in the general sense they are universal. Archetypes are a demographic metric in themselves as they describe presumably separable categories of people.

    There is a reason for my semantic criticism. The improper use of the word echoed another problem in approach.

    The presence of a lot of single white male 40-something Don Quixotes in your extant customer base does not mean you should target them. Matter of fact, it may indicate that you should be targeting more broadly or that you have saturated that demographic band in your target audience.

    The real crux of a campaign is based on the product and the needs it fills.

    As areas of demand are defined probable demographics are identified as being more easily motivated. You can then cast your nets broadly into those pools; hope; test and then tune.

    The process is opposite to what I read described… as was the use of the word archetype in context and matter.

    The good stuff:
    Thank you for your response Mr. Oaksun. I have almost no experience with you or your work so I really appreciate your filling in detail. I have seen a video of you, perused your website, and I am impressed with what I have seen. I am not as impressed with others on your slate. For that, please forgive my leading cynicism, I recognize that you probably do not deserve it.

    I beg you to consider my perspective to understand the answers I am looking for as a pragmatic radical.

    Your description of a web-designers approach to features and heuristics is a different animal than defining a marketing campaign flow with messages, hooks and capture mechanisms.

    I have heard more than several pitches in my day. I am always a little cautious when I hear marketing plans that start with demographics, end in buzz words and never quite get to the actual plan and how it ties expense to return.

    I think I would very much like to see the National LP move more towards that “empowering entity” model which your plan teases about but does not seem to concretely define. Its all a little unspecific and I am hoping to hear more about mechanics than pipe dreams.

    I think we have spent a little too long with National disassociated from local groups and concentrating on direct mail fund-raising for its primary membership contact and not proactively feeding the activist base from which it grows.

    How would your plan as a whole affect those concerns I have?

    Can you tell us a little more about what types of marketing devices your micro-targeting would employ? What mechanism for follow up would you use?

    I am also interested in understanding what “analyzing large data-sets” means in your experience base. It is a very generalized description for what is being billed as a talent you bring to the table. As a member, what do you offer to me that I do not already have with our current treasurer?

    Thank you for your indulgence and your hard work now and in the future.

  12. paulie Post author

    The presence of a lot of single white male 40-something Don Quixotes in your extant customer base does not mean you should target them. Matter of fact, it may indicate that you should be targeting more broadly or that you have saturated that demographic band in your target audience.

    Agreed. But that did not seem to me to be what they were saying at all.

  13. Stenotype

    “But that did not seem to me to be what they were saying at all.”

    Perhaps not, but I think my reading that way is quite reasonable. Throughout the article, our “prototypes” Mike and whats-her-name are personified and the language used to describe them is not illuminating of understanding, it is deterministically focusing.

    Look again at the adjectives “Way Left”, “Ultra-individualistic”, etc… The descriptions are so specific, the conglomeration so objectively stated that it is impossible to think of these two “prototypes” aka “archetypes” as anything but specific people.

    When I read this it almost came across as someone was writing up idealized illustrations of themselves and their spouse and presenting them each as the ideal Libertarians to target. It would have pleased me to see “types” listed with the expanded groups they belong to and how they are approached.

    It made me groan to see the reverse: Narrowly defined specific personalities as targets.

    Reading him above I don’t think that Oaksun wrote this. I want to hear more from him on how his experience applies to the party as treasurer and what his marketing scheme is.

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