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What could politics learn from brands?


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Like most businesses, political players want to increase their slice of the available market – and like most businesses, they can only do so through proper, contextual understanding.

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What could politics learn from brands?

  1. 1. Share this Intelligence Applied 1 Intelligence Applied What could politics learn from brands? Content Themes: ■■ Brain game ■■ Finding faster growth ■■ Connected world ■■ Research excellence
  2. 2. Share this Intelligence Applied 2 What could politics learn from brands? Like most businesses, political players want to increase their slice of the available market – and like most businesses, they can only do so through proper, contextual understanding
  3. 3. Share this Intelligence Applied 3 What could politics learn from brands? The primary concern of most political research isn’t just to predict the result of elections. It’s to provide insights that have the power to influence those results. And doing so requires more than a simple snapshot of the way people think they will vote come election day. Like any brand, political players operate in a dynamic, fast-changing environment where it’s vital to look beyond topline analysis to understand the true strength of people’s loyalty to a party or cause – and the true drivers of their likely behaviour at the critical moment. As with consumer market research, they need to understand people in their full, individual context if they are to make sense of the answers they give to researchers – and translate them into winning insights.
  4. 4. Share this Intelligence Applied 4 What could politics learn from brands? Looking beyond the latest headlines Watch the evening news after a new poll has been published and you are likely to hear a lot of assumptive analysis. If polls change then pundits tend to pick out the most obvious and most recent headline as the cause: a speech or scandal, a new announcement or news story. However, such ad-hoc, join-the-dots analysis tends to miss the true dynamism inherent within voter intentions. It’s not something that a progressive market research agency would apply to consumer markets and helping clients win a greater share of spend – and it’s not something that we settle for when it comes to understanding voter intentions and helping parties to influence them either. TNS applies the same methodologies and techniques that we use for gaining a predictive understanding of consumer markets, in order to peel back the many-layered drivers of voter’s choices and anticipate what might happen if these factors change. By integrating an individual-level analysis of different voter groups, we can also identify the genuine drivers of voting intention that have the greatest influence over the broadest range of segments. When we plug in techniques such as regression analysis, qualitative interviews and explorations of trade-off scenarios we can identify the platforms, arguments and presentational changes that can shift voters from one camp to another. We aim to identify not only the differences between those intending to vote in opposing ways, but also the similarities that cross professed political lines and can hold the key to generating broader appeal. Smarter campaigning through contextual analysis Political players tend to have limited resources to campaign for their party or point of view – and so contextual analysis that segments people by their actual level of political loyalty, their propensity to shift, and the circumstances that are likely to compel them to vote, is hugely important. Focusing resources on previously unidentified voter groups whose voting intentions could be swayed by a common issue is the embodiment of value in political research, and it’s an area where analysis of shifting spend patterns in consumer markets has much to teach us. Such ad-hoc, join-the-dots analysis tends to miss the true dynamism inherent within voter intentions
  5. 5. Share this Intelligence Applied 5 What could politics learn from brands? Reinventing data collection Applying the analysis techniques developed for consumer markets is transforming the level of effective insight that we can provide for those looking to predict and influence political outcomes. Ultimately though, any analysis is dependent on the quality of the data available to it. And it is here that the insights honed in consumer market research are having the most significant influence on the political space. Until recently, the wheel that drove political data collection hadn’t been fundamentally reinvented since the 1930s, when Gallup first introduced mainstream polling in the US. Now though, we are delivering significant improvements through updating the way we collect data and the way we apply contextual understanding to weighting it. The basic goal of political data collection should be to reach the broadest possible sample of people in the context where they are most comfortable answering political questions. And today, that’s not necessarily going to be over the phone – or on the street with a clipboard. Mobile is increasingly essential for meaningful political polling, since a large proportion of the voter population can only be reached this way – and methods that depend on people being willing to speak to a researcher are doomed to be unrepresentative. However, mobile is far from the only new platform transforming the scope of political data collection. Social media listening provides valuable, real-time qualitative insight that can be integrated within voter models to reveal spontaneous reactions to candidates, ideas and terminology as they develop, and guide a more responsive communications strategy. Online surveys are one of the fastest-growing areas of political research and the significant variations between online and phone-based polling results suggests that some voters may be more comfortable sharing their views with an on-screen form than with a human voice on the end of the line.
  6. 6. Share this Intelligence Applied 6 What could politics learn from brands? Getting better and broader data is a huge help, but its effectiveness ultimately depends on our ability to see the data itself in context. Putting stated voting intentions in context Getting better and broader data is a huge help, but its effectiveness ultimately depends on our ability to see the data itself in context. If we are to translate a narrow snapshot of stated voting intentions into a detailed prediction of what people will actually do weeks or months down the line, then we require a full cultural understanding of the people involved that will allow us to weight their answers appropriately. We must understand and adjust for the likely discrepancies between how people say they will vote and what they will actually do; between their stated reasons for loyalty to a political cause or party, and their actual motivating drivers. And we must bear in mind that the causes of the discrepancies in people’s stated voting intentions can be as individual as they are. The relation of what voters say to their actual future behaviour depends upon the context in which they are speaking and the pressures they may feel at that particular moment; it comes down to their particular characteristics, the strength of their convictions and the root causes of them, as well as the general popularity of the views they hold. And at the broadest level, it comes down to the culture and history of democracy in their country. The trick to weighting poll data successfully lies not just in identifying where discrepancies exist, but also in identifying the reasons for them – and adjusting to the changing influence of these factors as time passes.
  7. 7. Share this Intelligence Applied 7 What could politics learn from brands? The evolution of political predictions As our understanding of voter landscapes becomes ever more detailed, it is increasingly clear that there can never be a one-size-fits-all solution to the art of predicting and influencing political outcomes. Data collection techniques must be tailored to the demography, infrastructure and attitudes of each country; the analysis of that data must reflect the evolving nature of its democracy as well as the dynamic political landscape. Above all though, the way that data is weighted must reflect a deep cultural understanding of the people answering political questions. Only by putting all aspects of the business of political prediction in context can we provide the precision insights required to change outcomes. Only by putting all aspects of the business of political prediction in context can we provide the precision insights required to change outcomes.
  8. 8. Share this Intelligence Applied 8 About Intelligence Applied Intelligence Applied is the home of the latest thinking from TNS, where we discuss the issues impacting our clients, explore what makes people tick and spotlight how these insights can create opportunities for business growth. About TNS TNS advises clients on specific growth strategies around new market entry, innovation, brand switching and customer and employee relationships, based on long-established expertise and market-leading solutions. With a presence in over 80 countries, TNS has more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else and understands individual human behaviours and attitudes across every cultural, economic and political region of the world. Please visit for more information TNS is part of Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups. Please visit for more information. Get in touch If you would like to talk to us about anything you have read in this report, please get in touch via or via Twitter @tns_global About the author Leendert de Voogd has been Global Head of the Political and Social practice of TNS since 2007. With more than 17 years’ experience, Leendert has held many senior roles including Joint Managing Director of TNS opinion, where he was responsible for the Eurobarometer surveys. He has also successfully coordinated survey research for the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the European Parliament and the World Bank and provided electoral consultancy to the European Parliament for the last three European Elections. With a strong academic background in Political sciences, Leendert regularly speaks at conferences and has had a number of articles published in titles such as “L’opinion européenne”. Social policy needs more than behavioural economics > What could politics learn from brands? You may be interested in...