2010 Toronto Municipal Election - A Brand Experience Perspective


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An intriguing and thoughtful look at the 2010 Toronto Municipal Election from a Brand Experience perspective. Provides insights and recommendations for future elections.

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2010 Toronto Municipal Election - A Brand Experience Perspective

  1. 1. “Political advertising ought to be stopped. It’s the only really dishonest kind of advertising that’s left.” David Ogilvy
  2. 2. Advertising is playing a bigger role in political campaigns than we would like to think. In years to come, the brand of our politicians may become more important than the message. Brand Experience Specialists will have responsibilities that are of equal importance as those exercised by traditional campaign managers. Advertising creatives, alongside policy strategists, will have the power to influence the voter when it is time for them to cast their ballot. In 2008, political candidates in the United States spent about $2.6 Billion dollars on advertising. That figure has increased by 11% in 2010 to $3.3 Billion. Canadian legislation bans donations from corporations and unions, therefore limiting the amount of money that a politician can spend on a campaign. On the federal level, the Government of Canada has spent $130 Million on advertising in the 2009 - 2010 budget. This is a three- fold increase from the 2005 - 2006 budget. Whether advertising is used to market a product, service or idea - its conversion rate vs its costs have always been debated as metric is generally broken down by medium. As technology and how we use it continues to evolve new metrics will most certainly surface by the time the next election comes around. PRINT ADVERTISING RESPONSE RATE DIRECT MAIL RESPONSE RATE SMS/MMS RESPONSE RATE
  3. 3. There is no doubt that Canadians are interested in their municipal politics. As councilors across the country took their best shot at convincing constituents that they were the best person for the job, there was extra attention that was paid to the Calgary and Toronto municipal elections. The reasons for this varies. The two cities historically represent opposing partisan brands (conservative and progressive) and the results could provide valuable research for the country’s imminent federal election. For the past four years, Calgary has voted conservative whereas Toronto has voted progressive. Toronto and Calgary are home to an ever growing urbanite population that is increasingly connected via the Internet which plays a role in how information is communicated between candidates, media and the voter. For Canadian standards, the online engagement activity was impressive. Calgarians published more than 55,000 tweets during their elections whereas Torontonians sent out more than 180,000 tweets during the election. Toronto has the third highest number of Twitter users, behind New York and Los Angeles.
  4. 4. “If you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything.” Leo Burnett
  5. 5. Toronto’s interest in the election was reflected in the record number of voters at advance polls; an increase of 14% from the last mayoral election. All of the leading mayoral candidates made attempts at promoting their brand and platform. More than any other election in the city’s history - a strong emphasis was placed on establishing cohesive and effective online strategies. What did these strategies look like? They took the shape of content-rich web sites that were filled with policy documents, YouTube videos, photos and e-mail capturing forms. Mayoral candidates used e-mail marketing to promote their message - whether it was a call to action to donate, volunteer or read the latest press releases. There was also a lot of time dedicated to managing social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
  6. 6. “Everything you remember about a company, through interaction, what other people say about them, advertising, using their products or every other interaction is their brand for you.” Jonas Bergvall
  7. 7. In business, the success of a brand depends on how well it’s able to differentiate itself from its competition, the strong emotional bond that it creates with the audience and the relevancy of its value added proposition. In a campaign, a political brand flourishes for the same reasons. It can galvanize traditionally quiet voters, help reinforce identity and provide the tone for a politician’s campaign platform. A strong brand that evokes a strong emotional bond allows us to overlook controversy, donate our money and commit our time to its success. The outcome of the 2010 Toronto Municipal Election is due to the emotional attachment the voters had to the candidates (EA), the immediate (perceived or actualized) benefit(s) of this brand (IB) and the candidate’s brand memory identity (BMI). The EA, IB and BMI are measured as low, medium or high.
  8. 8. SMITHERMAN’S BRAND EA: Low | IB: High | BMI: Low The Emotional Attachment (EA) to the Smitherman brand was low. The voter could not form the bond that was expected and this had negative effects: Smitherman was the only candidate whose poll numbers continued to decrease throughout most of the race. The Immediate Benefit (IB) of the Smitherman brand was high. His campaign positioned him as the only candidate who could successfully challenge Ford. The result was that Smitherman finished the race in second place. The Brand Memory Identity (BMI) of the Smitherman brand was low. This is attributed to a change of brand focus throughout the race which decreased the trust that voters had towards the candidate. The leopard that can change his spots was a familiar analogy that followed Smitherman throughout the race. The inconsistency of his brand reflected negatively with the message of trust that he was trying to get Torontonians to buy into. Had the BMI value been high, the results of this race may have been different.
  9. 9. PANTALONE’S BRAND EA: Low | IB: Low | BMI: High The Emotional Attachment (EA) to the Pantalone brand was low. It peaked during the 2010 World Cup where Pantalone was viewed as a bridge builder and a sports enthusiast but it leveled off as voters could not find something tangible to get excited about. The Immediate Benefit (IB) of the Pantalone brand was also low. The brand was positioned as the anti-thesis of the change that dominated the front runners’ rhetorics. The Pantalone brand was seen by many as the status quo: a rating that resulted in a low IB score. The Brand Memory Identity (BMI) of the Pantalone brand was high across all mediums. The image was consistent which helped develop trust between the voters. The proliferation of the brand across all channels helped anchor the campaign in the minds of the voters - allowing quick recognition and positive attribution. The Pantalone brand was the only brand that got positive reviews across the board. Had the IB and EA scores been high, the results would have looked more favourable for the campaign.
  10. 10. FORD’S BRAND EA: High | IB: High | BMI: High The Emotional Attachment (EA) to the Ford brand was high. Voter’s attention on Ford was far from dubious: a raucous character with a history of controversial incidents. Love him or hate him, Ford had more than our attention; he tapped in to our emotions. The Immediate Benefit (IB) of the Ford brand was also high. Ford was positioned by his campaign as the individual to lead a change in the way our city runs. Dissatisfaction with the status quo was Ford’s communicated benefit. It is no surprise that the Brand Memory Identity (BMI) of the Ford brand was high. His message was simple, repetitive and effortless. As a result, the memory retention of the brand in the mind of the voters was high. Whether you think of his contentious AIDS remarks or the his now infamous “gravy train” reference, the name Ford involuntarily makes us use our brain power to think about him.
  11. 11. “A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.” Scott Talgo
  13. 13. Political campaigns will continue to be more about how you say things rather than what you say. The value of a strong brand should not be underestimated as it will play a crucial role in who Toronto’s next mayor is. What will the results be of the next election? We will find out in 4 years or less - depending on how nice the 2010 elected officials can play with one another. Politicians who take their brand seriously and integrate its experience into the campaign will come out on top. Findings from market research should not only be used to guide the platform of the candidate, it should be used to form a strong brand experience by applying the data to better the score of the EA, IB and BMI. Online and mobile technologies will evolve which will introduce new ways of communicating and transmitting information. Here are some recommendations on how to incorporate Experience Design (XD) into future political campaigns. 1. Come up with the policy at the beginning of the campaign. Decide on where the candidate stands on issues. These issues should be tested beforehand for relevance, emotional response and campainability. 2. Divide the advertising and marketing of the candidate into advertising and marketing of the issues instead. This results in creating micro-campaigns and micro-sites. The main objective of these campaigns should be primarily to create the highest level of emotions in the electorate to the issues. The secondary objective should be to have a clear call to action (CTA). This can include visiting a site or sending an e-petition to an MP or rival candidate. The final objective of these micro-campaigns is to introduce the candidate. The issues should be vague and have a populist or general appeal attached to them. 3. Decrease resources and time spent on demographic targeting and instead allocate resources on medium-focus advertising. Ethnocultural communities don’t live in isolation nor do they form their opinions in their own groups. How the ethnocultural community accesses media should be the focus. This election has shown that Toronto’s ethnocultural communities access information in the same patterns that “mainstream” communities do. 4. The candidate’s site should be concise. The site should not function as an information portal and instead be positioned as a showcase of the micro-campaigns that were instigated on the candidate’s behalf. Research has shown that users retain 20% of written content on sites further illustrating the short attention span of the voter. 5. Continue to focus on social media but understand that up until now, its conversion rate has been really low. As such, these avenues should be used to promote the micro- campaigns and act as an influencer to strengthen brand loyalty. A successful campaign is more than just getting attention and having a lot of followers.
  14. 14. 6. This election has shown that traditional media such as street posters, direct mail and radio play a big role and should not be overlooked. Research has shown that radio still has the highest ROI from any other media. Direct mail was an extremely useful tool for fundraising at the onset of the campaign but its effectiveness decreased as the campaign continued. Research has shown that e-mail marketing has a better CTA rate than direct-marketing. Perhaps a two-pronged approach would work best - initially launch direct mail and then only send e-mail marketing call to actions. 7. Information about the candidate and his/her issues should only be made available via downloadable PDFs - site real- estate should be reserved for the promotion of the micro-campaigns. Resources should not be allocated to print documents (brochures, postcards, etc…). Postcards and brochures should only be used to promote the micro- campaigns. 8. New and unique media buys are needed to increase the emotional attachment to the micro-campaigns. Some suggestions include bus shelters, taxi cabs, restaurants. There should also be resources thrown at online media buys. Twitter ad buys will prove to be pivotal in the next election. Ahmad Ktaech is the founder of K & Co., an Experience Design (XD) firm from Toronto, Canada. Ahmad was the Brand and Advertising Director for the Joe Pantalone Campaign. Contact Ahmad Ktaech: ahmad@kandco.ca and follow him @ahmadktaech