Elections Bring Out Primal Elements in Advertising and Marketing
We recently had primary elections in my home state. I find that elections bring out the most primal elements of advertising, marketing and public relations - not to mention human nature. Advertising style in politics is remarkably direct.
For some reason, the creative community continues to believe that images of cute horses galloping will sell beer and cigarettes, but not political candidates. Neither will you see any use of exotic typefaces, abstract images, absence of copy or vague artwork. Designers regularly use all of these techniques in product advertising (to the peril of their clients), but not in politics.
Pictures of the candidates with their families, clear headlines, brief copy, plain fonts and basic color palates prevail.
As Samuel Johnson wryly noted, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” I suspect the winner-take-all nature of elections has this effect. Incremental market share means nothing. Winning marketing awards means nothing.
Being the No. 2 candidate certainly means nothing. Hence, there is no room for conjecture or unfounded experimentation. When election day comes, you’d better have the most votes.
This may be the reason that new channels supplement, rather than replace, older media. Print in the form of signs, handbills, mailers and newspapers has been the primary medium of campaign advertising since the rebirth of democracy in the 18th century. In the mid-20th century, broadcast media was added to the mix, increasing costs but not diminishing print.
Now we have extensive use of digital media in the form of websites, email and social networks. Yet print remains, and so do radio and television.
The reasons are straightforward. For one, no one wants to secede any territory to opponents. Dominating the airwaves and the internet isn’t enough if your opponents paper over every square inch of real estate in your district with yard signs.
Another reason is reach. Print flyers are distributed via mail. Voter rolls are a matter of public record. Anyone can obtain the name and address of everyone who voted in a particular party’s primary in the past. This information is simple, free and complete. You can mail to everyone who matters; i.e., voters in your primary election, and ignore anyone who doesn’t.
It works. I’m affiliated with one particular party, as are the other three registered voters in my house. We received copious mailings, but only for the primary in which we would be voting.
My friend who switches affiliations from election to election received materials for both parties. Another friend who rarely votes in primaries received far less campaign mail. Now that’s target marketing.
Use of tried-and-true methods doesn’t mean there isn’t room for innovation. I was particularly impressed by a book produced by one candidate.
Studies show that books are perceived as much more credible in the public’s mind than websites, email, or even magazines and newspapers. Some simple print and publishing techniques turned a piece of campaign literature into a book.
The book was 40 pages plus cover. Although the page count was shorter than a typical book, it was much longer than a typical article or Web posting. It was perfect bound. People perceive more value in perfect bound products than in saddle bound. The “look and feel” is more like what people expect in a book.
The book also bore an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). This barcode on the back cover is what turns a collection of glued pages into a book in the eyes of publishers and booksellers.
It means it can be ordered online or from a bookstore. It assigns monetary value and makes the book more searchable.
Will the public actually read something 100 times longer than a Twitter post? Yes. The book created quite a stir. “Have you read the book?” “Have you seen the book?” “Do you know what the book said?” And those responses were all mailed.
If you want to be one more voice shouting in the crowd, tweet and post to your heart’s content. It’s easy and takes very little thought or effort.
If you actually need to be heard above the din, turn to print. It takes more effort, more thought and it costs real money, but it gets noticed, discussed and remembered.
How much of an investment does your cause deserve?
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com