Voter sentiment and your brand

There is much to be gleaned from the primaries in free information, writes Siegel+Gale's research director

Whether you are a political enthusiast or not, there is a lot that brands can take away from voting results and campaign practices.

One of the first things I think about is all the free data that is being funded by various media outlets and the campaigns themselves. For example, a wealth of information was recently released on the Iowa market, which typically isn’t a subject of intense or detailed research. What can you learn and leverage?

Mine the free data
Who would have thought that Iowa — often perceived by those in other regions as a sleepy backwater — was a hotbed both for conservative evangelicals and liberal socialists? Of greater import is the fact that the bulk of the liberal socialist vote consisted of voters age 30 and under.  This is the group that has embraced shared-product brands like Uber and Airbnb. Are these the same consumers your brand is targeting?  Are there messages resonating with this demographic that are pertinent to your brand?

There is much free information to be gleaned from the primaries about each of the state markets. In Iowa, the top issue was the economy. Iowans were also concerned about foreign policy, health care and climate change. New Hampshire voters share Iowa’s concerns, but the top issue for them was drug abuse. If your brand is active in these states, can it address any of these issues?

In states where jobs and the economy are critical, corporate practices and brand messaging that emphasize American production and job creation will resonate strongly. Areas of the country (and individuals) concerned with climate change are likely to respond strongly to environmentally-friendly brands.

As the primaries move forward, you can identify the top issues across the nation and map your brand against them — without spending a dime on your own research.

Spend on targeting
And then there are the broader targeting efforts being used by the campaigns. Data and analytics are being loudly proclaimed as a major factor in the Ted Cruz victory in Iowa. Although his team of analysts originally identified 32 different personality types in Iowa, they eventually reduced the list to a more manageable five clusters like Timid Traditionalist, Relaxed Leader and Temperamental. These segments were used to identify voters for targeted messaging and direct mailers. This approach is not cheap. One estimate of the amount Cruz spent on his analytical team alone is $3.8 million, but with that investment came success.

You may not need to spend on that scale.  But …

Are you spending enough on your brand for analytics and data to ensure that you have the right message? Is it going to the right people? And, most importantly, is it driving them to take action?

Consider parallel positioning
From a broader perspective, the "establishment" versus "outsider" results are particularly important to brand managers. Would you consider your brand to be establishment or outsider? How the establishment and outsider candidates perform in the various primaries going forward may suggest parallels with your own brand. Are there opportunities for your brand in markets you haven’t explored?

Similarly, consider the different types of campaigns run by the various candidates. Ted Cruz ran a traditional and extensive "retail" campaign in Iowa, personally reaching out and touching as many voters as possible. In contrast, Donald Trump ran a more modern  "social" campaign, using Twitter and jetting to massive concert-style events to raise support. In Iowa, the high-touch experience won. Is your brand experience the right one to attract those same customers?

In many ways, politics is branding! Donald Trump himself was recently quoted saying that his "brand is doing very well."

Dave Pulaski is Research Director at the global brand strategy, design and experience firm Siegel+Gale.

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