Two Things Marketers Can Learn From Political Advertising
While it’s hard to write about this political season without venturing down the rabbit hole of who is right and who is wrong, I’m not going to. I’m just not. There’s nothing to be gained from it other than stirring an already hot cauldron of emotions on both sides. But I do think that there are two key lessons that we can take from what we’re seeing in the political advertising arena.
Video advertising (TV or digital video) does the best job of building brands
Candidates are brands just like the next consumer packaged good. And, when they develop their media strategy, they tend to rely heavily on video advertising.
Why? Because nothing comes close to helping convey emotion and tell stories quite like video. Since we as humans gravitate to stories, engagement tends to be higher with video advertising than it is with other more passive mediums like print or outdoor.
Storytelling is the single most important thing in the political advertising arena, as voters will learn who we’re most ideologically aligned with. If you’re trying to tell the story of what your candidate or product stands for, then video is the way to go. That’s why candidates tend to invest so heavily in it.
And, we should remember that consumers tend to make purchasing decisions in largely the same manner: by aligning themselves with companies and products that elicit an emotional connection and reinforce how they view themselves. Now this isn’t to say that all other media forms aren’t worth the investment. Other forms are often a great complement to a video schedule.
Tension leads to emotional connections
People often gripe about the negativity in political advertising. I’d like to believe that the candidates don’t want to play nasty, but they do. Why? Because it works!
As emotional beings, we’re drawn to tension and conflict. It’s what draws us into the story. It’s why the best books and movies have some sort of underlying conflict. Even Disney movies have conflict. Tension makes it easy for us to decide whose side we’re on. Are we with Peter Pan or Captain Hook?
In creative presentations, I’ve been on the receiving end of client feedback about a creative concept where the client is uncomfortable with the idea of ruffling some feathers. But I argue that if you’re not brave enough to draw a line in the sand and declare what you stand for, then your brand will come across as not only uninteresting, but also that it doesn’t have anything of value to offer.
Companies would be well served to actively seek to identify the tension in their product or category. Identifying this will reveal leverage able positioning to engage with the target audience. And tension doesn’t have to be nasty the way some political advertising gets.
I once worked with a client in the lawn service (fertilizer) category. We identified that the “tension” for consumers in this category was with neighbors. Most people were concerned with maintaining the neighborhood standard and just blending in. We developed a campaign that displayed that we understood their emotion and would help them avoid scrutiny of their neighbors.
So, while we may all be growing very tired of political advertising, it just may be teaching us some important marketing lessons. If you take a step back and look at it holistically, you’ll see that it’s effective because candidates are willing to stand up for something they believe in and to invest in the mediums that help them best appeal to people’s emotions. After all, that’s how we make decisions.
Adam Hoover is a senior account director with Borshoff.