The Age Of Intransigence: The Shrinking Swing Voter Pool For Brands And Candidates

Whether you’re helping a political candidate win an upcoming midterm election, or helping a brand that faces re-election on the grocery aisle everyday, market share or voter gains often depend on convincing high-value buyers or voters to change loyalties and move into your camp.

Whichever side of the marketing aisle you’re working, you may be encountering a bigger pool of dug-in opposition, loyal to a competing brand or candidate, who won’t vote for your brand or candidate no matter what you do.  And the result can be a shrinking swing-voter pool.

What’s going on here? Are high brand and party investments paying off?  Or are brand or candidate voters more satisfied with their incumbent? On the consumer side, are heavier investments in retention/loyalty programs that shore up the base (e.g., frequent flyer “handcuffs”) delivering a better ROI than brand communications targeting the acquisition of new consumers?



And in the political arena, is the ever-rising spending tide in each election cycle simply battering voters into complacency and tuning out the electorate?

Twin Streams Of Decision Capital, From Political Parties to Mobile Carriers

Mobile communications providers and party political spending may help shed some light here. Mobile handset subsidies may be having the same effect on cellphone buyers as the Citizens United decision is having on voters:  Each has precipitated a dual flow of visible and not-so-visible “decision capital” that is effectively “hardening the base.”

For the mobile phone industry, billions of dollars in branded advertising dollars flood the airways; but under the surface, billions in handset subsidies—especially from Apple and Samsung—enable the inexpensive purchase of the latest handsets with an expensive catch: low price of entry, but a contractual commitment to a two-year “voting cycle” remarkably in sync with local or national congressional races.

It makes you wonder if Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” was the forerunner of mobile telephony contracts.

Political spending has also split into twin streams of accountable and not-so-accountable decision capital. While branded “I paid for this message” candidate spending rises, ever-bigger streams of PAC money are shifting the tectonic plates under visible candidate messages, contributing to the shrinking of swing voter pools and increasing voter dissatisfaction with bigger, louder and more opaque marketing efforts.

It’s no wonder we are seeing growing voter dissatisfaction, increased cynicism around the process, and the passive, “inertial loyalty” of the tuned-out voter.

The Secret’s In The Swing

But this changing dynamic presents a big opportunity to rock the tough vote. While the swing voter for brands or candidates may be shrinking, political-model research can still surface a robust swing voter pool if you know how to dig deep into the essential motivations of the voter and connect your brand or candidate to what really matters in their lives. 

Enlightened brand and political marketers go deeper through behavioral research to the most core, human motivations beneath brand and candidate issues. They get at the deep drivers of life preferences and behaviors that drive purchase and voting preferences in ways that enable their “pitch” to resonate deeply in the voter’s core belief systems.

Promising “hope” and “change” was as effective for driving Obama votes as the promise of “magic” is to a young family choosing to vacation at Disneyland. While the “base” has hardened in both the travel and political theatres of war, these brand promises have proven to resonate at the core of the human experience. They can swing the vote that’s most important to the growth and success of the enterprise, whether it be a commercial or political one.

No matter how tight a race you are running, in whatever consumer or voter field you are responsible for, the chances are very good that you can shake loose a segment of swing voters that will listen, learn and move with you if you now how to identify them and effectively reach them.

There are three questions you can ask yourself that will help you begin to surface the opportunity:

  • Have I found a brand promise that resonates more deeply than my competition and that surfaces the swing voter, while connecting to the core of what the product category or political race is all about?
  • How can my product or candidate uniquely own that promise and block my competition from ever claiming it for themselves?
  • Do I know exactly where, when and how to deliver that message to the swing voter when they are most open to truly hearing it?

If you can answer these questions, you’re well on your way to countering The Age Of Intransigence and persuading the swing buyer or voter to step up and join you.



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