Friday, May 15, 2009

Thinking About Branding

Being an advertising exec for many years I've always known about the power of branding. But I always love to see it at work in real life situations. I recently acted as the Campaign Manager for my wife's run for our local City Council in the recent primary. Even though we won at the polls, we were edged out by the incumbent by a mere 37 votes from absentee ballots that were cast earlier in the campaign. We learned a lot and sometimes you really can celebrate a losing campaign because of the teaching opportunities success sometimes just doesn't afford. So I've been thinking about what made the difference. And one word has come to mind. Branding. The incumbent, backed by the Mayor (because "yes" is a favorite word of the incumbent) grossly outspent us probably by a margin of $8000 to under $1000. Thus, our opponent could afford things we couldn't- like dozens of yard signs. Even still, we won at the polls!!! But if those 37 people that voted absentee didn't know anything about either candidate other than one had a ton of signs and one didn't, the opponent's branding worked. If absentee voters either couldn't be bothered or just couldn't actually get to the polls on election day, it doesn't take much effort to check a name on a ballot -the name that seems to be the most popular based on the sign visibility - and stick it back in the mailbox. Of course our campaign had branding elements too. We didn't sit on the couch and hope people would vote for us, but in this case the signs were obviously the most visible to those 37 men and women on the street. But here's the punchline - my wife's opponent who won this election already held this office in the nineties and was overwhelmingly voted out of it by 66% in 1999...BY THE SAME CONSTITUENCY!! How quickly a yard sign can make us forget. The power of branding. In a related note, I just heard of a study where children will eat healthier food if it's wrapped in McDonald's packing. Again,the power of branding works even if the product isn't the healthiest - whether a cheeseburger and fries or an outdated council representative. For the next election I'm dressing my wife up as a McNugget.

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