Article by Sherwood MacVeigh, Director at Hyperquake and Christopher Corgiat, Senior Brand Strategist at Hyperquake
It’s only natural that we choose brands – political candidates included – based on personal aspirations; casting our vote for those we consider to be most like us, who believe what we believe or bring to life what we want for ourselves and our families. And like the political sign in the front yard, our selected brands proclaim our beliefs and values.
Similar to a politician seeking office, a brand campaigning for “votes” should move consumers to purchase by painting a detailed picture of how their lives would be better – their aspirations fulfilled – if they select that brand at the store shelf. Yet the campaign trail is long and winding: a brand has to carefully craft its messages and employ an arsenal of tactics to convince an often skeptical public that it is, and will continue to be, the candidate of choice. Here is a campaign roadmap for brand managers and their agencies.
Pre-Electoral Period: Brand Platform Development
Whether your brand is the incumbent or a challenger, you need to develop a compelling platform that will resonate at shelf and in consumers’ hearts and minds. This platform has to state the brand’s position about current issues (i.e., how it addresses consumers’ wants, needs and expectations) and provide proof points to support that opinion. Empty promises imply empty brands; people see right through language that isn’t genuine. Consumers need (and want) to know that your brand believes what they believe; that it aspires to the same things they aspire to. Patagonia, for example, has crafted a brand platform that focuses on the moments of connection between people and nature; the company offers simple, utilitarian clothing and tools that reflect the core values and personalities of the climbers and surfers who founded the business. Patagonia supports its platform with commitments to protect the environment and give back to the communities it serves.
Planning & Training: Campaign Coordination
Convincing consumers to “vote” for your brand at shelf is similar to conducting a never-ending electoral campaign. Meeting and greeting consumers (via focus groups, ethnographic research, or social media polling), listening to their opinions and concerns, and “kissing babies” through targeted promotional activities can engage the electorate and help your brand win votes by reducing and overcoming obstacles, speaking to your shared passions, and connecting both emotionally and rationally. For example, Zappos’ shared passion for shoes motivated the company to eliminate buyer barriers to purchasing shoes online: Zappos investigated consumer needs and desires, uncovered anxieties about shopping online, and adeptly responded to its voter base with a 365-day, “no-questions-asked” return policy, as well as free return shipping.
Brand Electoral Period: Campaigning for Votes
Your brand also needs a clarion call, a campaign message that crystallizes its vision and energizes voters. This promise should be honest and straightforward; it should evolve but never be broken.
As an example, Volvo’s campaign message has traditionally focused on the safety of its automobiles. This focus is so strong that it remains a core promise even as the automaker infuses its new products with excitement and innovation; in fact, it supports it, as evidenced by Volvo’s addition of a convertible to its lineup. Because Volvo’s safety message has been synonymous with the brand for so long, consumers assume every new offering is safe and reliable without Volvo having to state the fact overtly.
When it is empowered by an understanding of consumers and self, a brand campaign can effectively employ targeted messaging and tactics that echo and support voters’ aspirations and their unique path to fulfillment. Case in point: As competitors countered and imitated Dove’s moisturizing benefit that it leaves skin clean, soft and smooth, the brand evolved its communications from purely product-benefit-focused to include a more personal and aspirational message – ‘’Beauty is more than skin deep” – that revitalized Dove’s overall brand platform and created an even stronger connection with consumers. Dove asks its target consumers to “encourage girls in your life to embrace their unique beauty”; to help them “find the courage they need to feel beautiful” and reach their full potential.
Post-Electoral Period: Keeping Promises
It is important to remember that consumers vote every time they go to the store – a brand election is not a once-every-four-year event. Therefore, it is imperative that your brand delivers on its campaign promises every day. If it falters, there are usually multiple competitors ready to step into office.
When brands try to evolve, they sometimes forget that their campaign promise – and the brand’s image – may be compromised, even if the evolution is predicated on delivering new products or services that voters say they want. Levis provides an interesting example of this premise. The company attempted to modernize its brand by offering more stylish, fashion-inspired jeans; however, those offerings didn’t support Levi’s longstanding promise of providing jeans for the everyday man, and consumers stayed away in droves. Fortunately, Levi’s recovered from its campaign missteps and, in the process, learned an important lesson about voter loyalty: A brand’s promise has to remain relevant and true, even as the brand evolves.
Rock the Vote
Most brands compete in a dynamic environment characterized by evolving customer needs/tastes, technologies, and competitive initiatives; this makes it difficult for a brand to stay relevant, differentiated, and engaging, and complicates the brand-building process. No matter the market conditions, however, a brand seeking consumer votes must:
- 1. Get to know key constituents and their unique needs.
- 2. Define a campaign platform that is based on its consumers’ passions and aspirations.
- 3. Communicate its position clearly and concisely.
- 4. Show constituents how their future will be better as a result of their vote.
- 5. Stay the course and deliver on brand promises.
In short, if a brand wants to win the election at shelf it has to make consumers feel like they are winners, too.
About the Authors
Sherwood MacVeigh is Director, Senior Brand Strategist at Hyperquake, a brand evolution agency. She can be reached at Sherwood.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christopher Corgiat is Senior Brand Strategist at Hyperquake. He can be reached at Christopher.email@example.com.