Can we blame the economy for company performance? 6 lessons brands should learn from political campaigns

I came back from my summer vacation a week ago hearing all the media noise about negative political ads, fluctuating stock markets, consumers cutting back on spending, businesses investing less, well, you know the rest.  It is an election year, afterall.

As a strategic branding consultant, I couldn’t help but to research the effectiveness of the political attack ads that are designed to diminish positive effect for the opposing candidate’s target.  I wondered if it is working.  So many opposing views in articles and blogs.

I reviewed a meta-analytic assessment of the effects of negative political campaigns.  This Research concludes that negative campaigning is no more effective than positive campaigning, but seems to be more memorable, generating greater campaign-relevant knowledge.  It also suggests that negative campaigning has the potential to do damage to the political system itself, as it tends to reduce feelings of political efficacy, trust in government, and perhaps even satisfaction with government itself.  However, contrary to the popular belief, it provides no support that it reduces or depresses voter turnarount.  Interestingly, while the overall findings for intended turnout are negative, the overall findings for actual turnout is positive.

Net, net, I think the negative political attack ads are designed to energize the base and increase campaign interest–and contrary to current articles and blog posts, backlash effect is minimum.  The country is already divided and strategic differentiations are clearly defined.  There is not much any of our candidates can do or say to change the opposing views.  With that said, I think the Democratic party has much more to gain by energizing and uniting their base, versus the Republican base who have been united and energized the entire time these past four years.

As for the undecided voters (are there any out there), this strategy may increase campaign interest, only if campaign-related knowledge is shared.  More importantly, trust must be build on the information shared, which is hardly the case with intensely different fact sharing on each side.  What is true is that you are neither wrong or right if the crowd disagrees with you—you are right only if your data and reasoning are right.

You would think that political parties can continue disagreeing on how to tax the top 2%, but at least agree on how to tax the 98% consumers to revive middle class, which will in turn improve the economy and business performances.  What surprises me even more is the extend of discussion on taxes versus cultural values that are true behavioral motivators—in voting or consumption.  If business leaders were more concerned about leveraging the cultural macro trends and driving sales and profit from the front end, versus cost cutting and bitter tax debates, they will actually end up making more money for all the shareholders.

What can we learn about from all this as it relates to branding and marketing strategies?  Can we just sit back and blame the economy for the company performance?  Here are 6 important lessons to learn and follow:

  1. People have a simple wish for a better life.  Communicate how your brand can improve their current conditions.
  2. Energize your base through powerful, emotionally charged marketing campaigns.
  3. Great brands are built on beliefs and values.  Decide which beliefs and values to include in your Value Propositions.
  4. In today’s economy, all consumers are seeking price value.  Don’t lower your price at the expense of your quality and service.  Lower it only to gain market share through a meaningful campaign.
  5. Gain trust by showing you truly care for your base target…share relevant trustworthy reasoning why the consumers should choose your brand…more importantly, deliver on your brand promise.
  6. Leverage the 3 major cultural macro trends, and step in to The New World Marketplace which is a far cry from the one taught in business textbooks.

3 Responses


    I have started working for insurance company. Gaining trust you mention, is something insurance companies really miss on, which has people keep moving from agent to agent. They get the people and then dump the people to people’s disappointment. You are absolutely right, about that aspect. Because people either not renew their life policies orchange company and agent altogether for the auto policies. Which is really a loose loose situation for all.

  2. John R. Selig

    Be true to you brand’s beliefs and values. Bankruptcy court files are full of records of failed companies that didn’t deliver on their brand promises. Marketing will not produce sales if the brand doesn’t deliver.

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