Political Campaign Marketing - Identifying & Developing a Narrative
Each and every candidate puts forward a set of policies and values which represent their intentions if elected. The voters are seemingly voting based upon these policies and values.
Skillfully optimized political campaigns target and influence the votes we cast. Policies and values are great to have, but alone, will not win an election.
Marketing is the arrow while public opinion is the target. Everything from coffee mugs, t-shirts, yard signs, bumper stickers, campaign rallies, and talk shows are used to impact that opinion on a candidate or an entire political party. For high quality campaign printing products visit www.clashgraphics.com/campaign-printing.
In this article, we address the identification and development of a narrative, which is required to run and win a political campaign.
Political Narrative Explained
“Narrative-building is essential for almost every complicated argument because it’s the only way to get our pattern-seeking brains to discount contradictory facts and data.”, as described by Jonah Goldberg for National Review. A narrative is a communication mechanism that must be strategically created.
Identifying the Narrative
For a political campaign, there is no other aspect as important as the narrative. Look no further than the candidate. It is the candidate’s set of beliefs, character, personality, and history which mold the narrative. Considering, representing, and exemplifying the wants and needs of one’s constituents is largely what makes a candidate worth voting for.
Presidential Campaign Narrative Example
2008 - Presidential Election John McCain vs. Barack Obama - With John McCain, the narrative was wrapped in a blanket of long term experience, having made serious sacrifices for the country as a wartime veteran. “Country First” and “The Original Maverick” were slogans based on his life and history.
Barack Obama’s narrative was focused on his being a junior Senator and a political outsider. “Change We Can Believe In” and “Yes We Can” became the focus as the campaign developed while inspiring the hope for real change and political reform.
At the time of the 2008 election, there were several factors which led to Barack Obama’s victory. Many argue fatigue over the Republican party and a desire for radical change in Washington D.C. were the deciding factors. It is undeniable however, that Obama’s “Yes We Can” and “Change” narratives were suited and appealed to the majority of voters in 2008 and 2012.
Developing the Narrative
Over the course of a campaign, the primary narrative does not alter. The details of it are exalted to attain a desired reaction from a specific voting demographic. A candidate must consider their hometown, age, ethnicity, wealth, education, and gender. Then careful research and a deep understanding of the opinions and emotions of voters, allows one to succinctly summarize and verbalize a core purpose and aim of the campaign. The following five steps will assist in the formulation of a political narrative:
Interview the Candidate - Learn about the candidates past experiences, how he/she was influenced in life. Gather stories or anecdotes which can be used throughout the campaign.
Create Compelling Ads from the Narrative - Using current events and demographics as a guide, create ads which speak to voters and the issues they are dealing with.
Use the Candidate’s Personal Stories - Voters typically cast their votes for someone they can relate to. In this case, it isn’t as much about party affiliation or even politics. The most effective hooks are sometimes derived from the candidate’s personal stories, allowing voters to get a glimpse of and relate to the person.
Current Events and the Message - As a campaign progresses, the narrative and message should be able to absorb current events at the local, national, and international level. Voters will learn about breaking news and wait to see what the candidate has to say.
Target Narrative Keywords and Phrases - Once the campaign has developed the narrative and its message, the keywords and phrases should then be turned into campaign marketing materials, such as: coffee mugs, t-shirts, yard signs, bumper stickers, hats and banners for rallies, town hall meetings and conventions.
Narratives are Branding Strategies
Similar to how large companies employ branding tactics, creating a narrative makes a political party or a candidate the favorable brand. It is through the narrative that people are able to relate to the candidate.
As with any marketing strategy, this sort of branding must be masterfully employed. Even the most well-tuned narrative can backfire. However, when implemented correctly, a narrative and its slogans can be remembered for generations. “Prouder, Stronger, Better” and “Morning In America” were campaign gems that made their way to bumper stickers, yard signs, t-shirts, and flyers from coast to coast as Ronald Reagan swept the 1984 presidential election.
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