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Key takeaways from political campaigning

Key takeaways from political campaigning Bryan Gernert

With the presidential primaries in full swing, now is a great time to examine political advertising. What do politicians do differently than brands? How can brands reach their audiences on a deeper level? What can political advertisers teach brand advertisers?

To achieve success, political and brand campaign managers will need to insure that their "products" connect with consumers. Neither has an easy task.

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Political marketers have had years of experience selling "products" with short shelf lives in tumultuous market conditions. Brand managers are increasingly facing similar conditions and can learn from their political counterparts, specifically understanding and leveraging consumer values.

Political campaigns must address the issues that are important to their voters -- job creation or reducing the deficit -- and then connect with voters by addressing those issues. They do this as issues change, and voters shift allegiances seemingly overnight. 

Voters' values shift much less frequently. Addressing the issues while knowing the values that underlie those positions provides a secure anchor, even as everything else seems to shift.

Political campaigns make voter insights actionable by adjusting campaign messaging, informing debates, and reaching voters based on the values that drive these issue positions. The result is messaging that connects at the deeper level, speaking to "core" voter feelings or behaviors.

What values are we talking about? Well, all the important ones. The table below is a sample of how Republicans and Democrats differ on some of the core values.

But, knowing these values is just the beginning. A clear outline of how political marketers see their target emerges only by adding on attitudes toward more specific and often sensitive issues, online behavior, demographics, and geography.

Victory requires transforming this understanding of the voter into action. Political campaigns must reach voters defined by values with the correct message in the right places. This focus changes their online media buys.

For example, the most effective way to reach pro-labor, pro-defense voters may be on MarthaStewart.com. Similarly, those Democrats noted above that value social responsibility may be best reached on nba.com.

Political marketers care less about the site list and more about who receives the message. The ability to use online media to reach voters based on values is a critical part of the Campaign 2012 arsenal, especially as Super Tuesday nears.

So, what does this have to do with brands more interested in the Super Bowl?
Well, Republicans over-index for brand loyalty and Democrats over-index for convenience. But seriously, what is the big take away?

Every brand marketer can use insights derived from consumer values to help them more effectively navigate increasingly difficult market conditions. Just like their counterparts on the stump, they need to play their loyal base, understand what moves undecideds, and focus on what's most important to influential targets.

Inversely, consumers have consistently proven that they will boycott even previously favorite brands if they know these companies do not align with their values or agree on certain issues. And, never has it been so easy to do.

Take, for example, the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), a controversial topic in the technology and publishing industries. In support of this cause, one developer has chosen to design an app that identifies which corporations support SOPA, conveniently named "No More SOPA." It could just as easily be entitled "No More Sales."

Brands that take on the tactics of political campaigns can use consumer values, beliefs, and online behavior, plus old demographics to reach their audiences. Armed with this knowledge, they can align their brand values with the core values of their most influential consumers and fearlessly take on issues that truly make a difference to the consumers that matter to their brand. Dads, by the way, qualify as some of those consumers -- 40 percent are more likely to buy a product based on company involvement with an issue that is important to them.

Brands get top advertising spots (like the Super Bowl) if they have the budget. Political marketers make it to Super Tuesday by understanding the values of the voters that matter most to their candidate. Brand marketers should think a little about this difference.

Marketers that recognize the values-driven approach of politicians will find ways to create brand loyalists for life. Marketers should authentically use cause-marketing values to help identify the cause or issue that aligns their brand with their most valued consumers.

By learning a little more about consumer values and insights and taking a page from political campaigning, marketers can affect real change. By caring less about site lists and more about reaching an audience based on the values that matter to their brand, marketers will learn how to buy online media in a new way.

Bryan Gernert is CEO of Resonate.

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"Close up of conference meeting" image via Shutterstock.


A proven business leader, Bryan Gernert has led businesses through periods of significant transformation and growth. He has applied his management expertise to businesses in several industries, with emphasis on information technology and...

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