An article yesterday in Advertising Age reflects on what Marketer’s can learn from the election campaign tactics. The article astutely discusses pro-active things marketing communications experts can do to deliver their message in today’s multi-channel universe. However, the article does not really touch on a key to brand positioning, in both politics and commercial arenas; and that is the role of the media.
I am an Oakland Raiders fan (call me crazy). The Oakland Raiders football club, when Al Davis was alive, had a contentious relationship with the media. This resulted in the media trashing almost everything the team did, even back when they were winning. The media presented the team in a negative light and many people were reluctant to attend games for fear of their safety. (As an aside, I took my mom to a game for her 80th birthday and she is still around this year to celebrate her 85th, while remember how the fans, upon finding out it was her birthday, sang her “happy birthday,” but I digress). The media had a lot of control over the Raiders’ brand position despite their advertising, promotion and other marketing communications efforts. Since Al Davis died, the team and the media have a better relationship and the media’s presentation of the team is much more positive, even if their performance isn’t … yet.
The same thing has happened to the Republican “brand.” The media has successfully positioned the entire Party as being made up of right-wing extremists. Thus many people perceive the Party and its candidates (including Scott Brown of MA) as being part of a Party that broadly supports extreme positions. Regardless of your politics, this perception is widely received by independent voters and can affect their election choices. Exit polling suggests that many voters did not vote for Mitt Romney because of a perception of him and his Party communicated by the media they see.
Brands are built by PR, they are influenced by advertising and marketing communications, but if a majority of your media positions you differently than you prefer, you probably don’t have enough money to counter that position, especially if your competition wants to piggy back on that perception. Remember that perception is reality and your marketing communications budget needs to include the necessary efforts to influence the media to present the brand position you want to hold.