If you were Coke or Pepsi, would you spend 80% of your TV commercial talking about your biggest competitor? Hardly. But have you noticed so many of this season’s political ads doing just that? They’re filled with reasons to not vote for the opposition rather than reasons to choose the candidate endorsing this message.
Political ads break with other common tenets of branding, like being consistent in tone, personality, look, feel and messaging across all media and at every point of customer engagement. Have you noticed that the presidential candidates portrayed in ads aren’t always the same brand personalities who show up at debates, stump speeches, fundraisers and TV interviews?
Or, how about the conventional branding wisdom of having an engaging story that tracks authentically and consistently with brand values and actions. Is it just me, or did you get the sense that many candidates were continually creating and changing their brand stories as they went along the campaign trail?
Perhaps part of the problem is that candidate brands cannot afford to be consistent throughout a campaign; they must morph to address the crests and valleys of poll data and real time events. They can’t afford to aim at one target audience, either, but a diverse and moving target of undecided voters. And since every candidate is a sub brand member of a larger party brand, it’s often hard to discern where the party ends and the candidate really begins.
With the stakes considerably higher than the choice between one soda and another, I can’t help but believe the discipline of branding could benefit candidates and voters alike. A choice is good; a clearly differentiated choice, so much better.