Friday, June 13, 2014

Lesson in Negative Political Advertising

Named comparative advertising claims are useful in two circumstances. When a small or relatively unknown brand wishes to grow, that brand can benefit by identifying an advantage over a brand everybody already knows. Or, when a well-established brand wishes to seize the high ground of greater market share, named comparisons against another well-known competing brand can help win the day.

It is never useful for a well-establish brand to name and compare itself to a less well-known brand. The effect is to raise awareness for the unknown brand. Indeed, surveys also show the public has a general distaste of negative comparisons, even so far as to express sympathy for disparaged underdogs.

The recent primary election results in the Virginia Seventh District are illustrative of these facts and strategic considerations.

Here we see the incumbent, and most well known candidate, attacking the newcomer.

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Of course, the incumbent lost this primary election. And, there has been considerable speculation about the the reasons for this outcome.

But one fact stands out. Over the past four election cycles the incumbent won each general election by increasingly smaller margins. He won by over 51 percent in 2004. By, 2012 his winning margin had dropped to 17 percent.

When it comes to communication strategy, this simple fact points to the need to bolster loyalty among the electorate.  Obviously, speaking in a positive manner about his own merits should have been the communication strategy.

Instead, the incumbent invested over $1 million in television and radio advertising in an attack strategy that substantially promoted the name recognition of his challenger.  Indeed, the challenger had only a $200,000 budget for his entire campaign.

The fundamental lesson of this primary election is what happens when a large communication budget is invested on a flawed message strategy. The incumbent spent heavily to raise awareness of the challenger's name. In a state with an open primary, this opened the door for like-minded voters to support the challenger.

In advertising and marketing, never stoop to conquer, especially when your own status with your customers is shaky. And, when it comes to politics, never under estimate a professor.

  Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

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