By Katie Ford
In the wake of the recent elections, I collaborated with a group of my political junkie colleagues to analyze 5 trends most relevant to corporate marketing and communications. We look forward to your comments about this list and what else should be on it.
President Obama won re-election by a healthy electoral vote margin of 126, but the popular vote margin was only 2.85%—the fourth closest since 1968. The President won nearly every contested swing state by a margin of 1 to 2 percent. The key was using “massive internal data sets”—what we know as big data—to identify micro-targeted voter demographics likely to support the President and closely align advertising and voter outreach to ensure those voters went to the polls. That’s how the campaign knew to target women under age 35 in Miami-Dade, Florida, and reached them by buying ads on unconventional programming like The Walking Dead and Don’t Trust the B—-in Apt. 23. How much more efficient was this approach to using ads to reach voters? Precisely 14% more than 2008.
Takeaway: The more effective you are at collecting and interpreting big data, the more efficiently you can apply your marketing resources.
Beware of the Echo Chamber
The Romney campaign was surprised they lost Ohio, and the Republican party was surprised they lost women and Hispanics. The Republican positions on issues like immigration, climate change, abortion, gay marriage and income inequality resonated best with white male voters, but the US is increasingly non-white, and women actually comprise more than 50% of the voting base. The lesson here is about understanding your target audience demographics and priorities and making sure the people who are helping you interpret your data are representative of the people you are trying to reach —or have at least spoken with the people you are trying to reach on more than one occasion.
Takeaway: If you want to unseat a competitor, you have to appeal to people who are not already your fans.
Define or Be Defined
In politics, the effectiveness by which you define who you are and what you stand for is a critical component in achieving success. This truism played out in the recent presidential election. As the Brookings Institute noted, President Obama’s campaign did a very effective job of defining Governor Romney as a rich, uncaring venture capitalist out-of-touch with average Americans. They reinforced this image consistently and it stuck, forcing Romney’s campaign into a reactive posture from the start. Where both candidates missed the mark (as evidenced during the presidential debates) was in developing and sustaining clear, coherent and compelling narratives on why they were the best candidate for the job. The ultimate result was conflicting data points and pointed barbs, ultimately, whittling down their narratives to nothing more than “I am not the other guy.”
Takeaway: A strong narrative provides the grounding to flex when needed while remaining consistent; it can also serve as a way to bridge beyond in-the-moment competitive rhetoric.
Power of Spontaneity
There is a fine line between staying on message while being authentic versus becoming the next internet meme. This fact was plainly evident in the first debate, where Governor Romney came across as authentic and relatable while President Obama felt overly prepared, detached and scripted. Humanizing a brand to tell stories is increasingly important as people shy away from overtly corporate and political messages. Yet, it is a high risk, high reward game. One of the most common tactics is trying to use humor to deflect a tense moment. When a candidate made a genuine joke, it was received positively and people responded in kind, amplifying the authentic moment. Comedy Central research found humor was one of the top rated ways to connect with younger voters, and they released a five tips to reach Millenials video directed at the Obama and Romney campaigns.
Takeaway: Humanizing a brand through authentic moments and humor is a high risk, high reward game; but people connect to genuine personality, not faceless spokespeople.
Social Media Memes
Memes are digital sound bites. They often visualize a statement or belief, typically in a satirical tone, and can spread quickly throughout the internet and other channels. There’s no reliable data to point to the influence of meme’s to decide an election, but they can certainly motivate audiences. It’s simple to Like or Share a meme that points out a discrepancy or creates a sense of urgency among voters. Romney’s 47% comments created an uproar and the subsequent memes reinforced the urgency: a vote for Romney is a vote against the common folk. Memes can strengthen a message or completely derail it – and messaging is never more important than in a presidential election.