Andrew Bax­ter

The Australian - The Deal - - News - Andrew Bax­ter Fol­low Andrew Bax­ter on @an­drew­bax­ter3 Andrew Bax­ter is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Publi­cis Aus­tralia.

Po­lit­i­cal mar­ket­ing is emo­tional

There are a num­ber of lessons for every mar­keter in this elec­tion cam­paign; some clas­sic lessons in ad­ver­tis­ing as well as brand­ing. And some lessons learnt from elec­tions past.

The wise will tell you that there are only two elec­tion cam­paign strate­gies: it’s time for a change, or it’s not a time to change. A quick look at La­bor’s ad­ver­tis­ing his­tory high­lights the point. Two fa­mous cam­paigns de­manded change – 1972’s “It’s Time” and 2007’s “Kevin07” – while Bob Hawke’s jin­gle in his 1987 dou­ble dis­so­lu­tion pleaded for Aus­tralians to do the op­po­site and “let’s stick to­gether, let’s see it through”.

Ar­guably “It’s Time” and “Kevin07” are two of the four mem­o­rable and fa­mous ad cam­paigns in Aus­tralian elec­tion his­tory, along­side the Democrats’ “Keep the Bas­tards Hon­est” in 1980 and the Lib­er­als’ 1949 cam­paign con­sist­ing of 200 15 minute satir­i­cal ra­dio pro­grams.

While “Keep the Bas­tards Hon­est” came from a line in the mid­dle of a speech made by Democrats leader Don Chipp dur­ing the 1980 elec­tion, the other three were de­vel­oped as clas­sic ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. And the for­mula be­hind them was al­most iden­ti­cal. All used more emo­tional per­sua­sion rather than ra­tio­nal, all were sin­gle minded in their mes­sage, all had mem­o­rable taglines, all had great ad peo­ple in­volved, and all made the most of new and in­no­va­tive me­dia.

Re­cent re­search out of Bri­tain shows that fa­mous and emo­tional cam­paigns are more ef­fec­tive than ra­tio­nal ones. It’s one of the rea­sons why the three afore­men­tioned cam­paigns worked so well. Yet the ten­dency for elec­tion ad­ver­tis­ing across the 2010, 2013 and 2016 cam­paigns has been ra­tio­nal.

And not only ra­tio­nal, but with mul­ti­ple mes­sages in the one ad. Ad­ver­tis­ing best prac­tice says the mes­sage in an ad should be sin­gle minded. It makes it eas­ier to com­pre­hend. Yet La­bor’s launch cam­paign last week had six mes­sages in it. The Lib­er­als had five, al­beit all based around a core mes­sage of jobs growth.

A great tagline should also be clear and mem­o­rable. “Strong New Econ­omy” and “We’ll Put Peo­ple First” might be clear, but they’re far from mem­o­rable, and will quickly dis­ap­pear into the ether like 2013’s “Choose Real Change” and “A New Way”.

“It’s Time” and “Kevin07” were not only mem­o­rable taglines, but the cam­paigns around them tapped into in­no­va­tive me­dia op­por­tu­ni­ties of their day. “Kevin07” was the first to tap into the em­bry­onic so­cial me­dia trend. “It’s Time” was the first to be plas­tered all over mer­chan­dise such as T-shirts, and the jin­gle around it was the first to be re­leased as an LP. Re­search and lo­cal area mar­ket­ing were also new tech­niques picked up early by both par­ties and still used ex­ten­sively to­day. The me­dia in­no­va­tions in 2016 are live stream­ing, geo-fenc­ing of so­cial me­dia, vir­tual re­al­ity and full screen mo­bile ads. Early into this elec­tion the lesser well known ad peo­ple in charge of both par­ties’ cam­paigns are yet to tap into them.

An­other mar­ket­ing tac­tic at the dis­posal of cam­paign heads is to build a strong brand around their party’s leader. Great brands are built on four key pil­lars: they are dif­fer­ent, rel­e­vant, well re­garded for their qual­ity and pop­u­lar­ity, and peo­ple know and un­der­stand them.

Kevin Rudd, with “Kevin07”, was the first politi­cian in Aus­tralia to latch onto be­ing a brand. He con­versed with the peo­ple, he didn’t pre­tend to be any­thing else but him­self, he had ideas. He un­der­stood the four pil­lars and how to lever­age them. He di­alled up his points of dif­fer­ence, he was the most rel­e­vant politi­cian to the way things were hap­pen­ing in 2007, and he seemed to be a good qual­ity and pop­u­lar fel­low from Queens­land. Peo­ple felt that they knew him well. It was clas­sic brand the­ory, ex­e­cuted well.

So why, nine years later, have politi­cians turned back from the suc­cess­ful per­sonal brand path laid out so well by Rudd? Part of it is to do with the per­ceived fail­ure of brand Kevin Rudd three years later. Aus­tralian busi­nesses have an un­usual habit of get­ting be­hind in­no­va­tive ideas for a brand, but when they fail, they re­vert to what they did be­fore, rather than learn­ing from what specifics led to that fail­ure, and try­ing again. This is ex­actly what hap­pened with Rudd. Peo­ple, who thought they knew, un­der­stood and liked Kevin Rudd the brand, re­alised he wasn’t quite all he had made out to be. Again, all ab­so­lutely ex­plained by the four pil­lars of clas­sic brand the­ory, but the party heads re­verted to the pre­vi­ous norm.

Bland per­sonal brands and one-way, ra­tio­nal mes­sag­ing won out as we en­tered the Gil­lard and Ab­bott years of prime min­is­ter­ship. So whether it is the lead­ers’ brands or the ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, the mar­ket­ing lessons are there for both ma­jor par­ties. If one heeds them more over the next six weeks than the other, it could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning or los­ing.

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