A 'Bigly' Landslide

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A 'Bigly' Landslide

By Bill Schober - 11/18/2016

Now that the unusual, arguably frustrating and certainly interminable election of 2016 is over, perhaps it's safe to make a few path-to-purchase-related observations about it without igniting a firestorm from partisan flame warriors.

The political prognosticators missed the outcome by a mile by trusting in polls. But anyone who drove around rural and exurban America over the summer and fall - especially in the upper Midwest - couldn't help but notice that Trump-Pence signage seemed to be everywhere.

That alone wasn't all that unusual, I suppose. Anyone who reads political history knows that trying to gauge electoral support by signage is on a fool's errand.

What shocked me, however, was the utter dearth of Clinton-Kaine signs. I found myself boring my poor wife with a long-winded analogy to in-store marketing: Would a "Hillary Inc." executive get fired due to wretched execution (Glossary: page 22) and compliance (Glossary: page 14) rates?

[Whoops. ... I suppose I should mention that you'll find a brand new 2017 edition of the Institute's Path to Purchase Glossary inserted into this issue, produced in cooperation with our colleagues at EnsembleIQ and made possible through the generous support of a great American company, Menasha.]

I don't know if our new president-elect is, as he claims, a marketing genius or not, but I do know that if I judged his campaign by Design of the Times, OMA or even Shopper Marketing Effie standards, he would've won in a landslide.

Not only did he blanket the highways with his signage, he managed to put his primary marketing message, "Make America Great Again," onto hundreds of thousands of heads and apparently, made a profit while doing so.

Yeah, yeah. ... I'm sure some Effie judges would balk at using paunchy, 70-something and quite often cranky-looking brand ambassadors (Glossary: page 9). But Trump's electoral win ("SECTION 4: RESULTS ... 30% OF TOTAL SCORE") would likely not only merit an automatic trophy but entry into an Effie Hall of Fame, if there was one.

Now, let's consider Trump's brand messaging in terms of the Four C's (Glossary: page 23):

  • The blood-red background certainly commanded attention;
  • the active verb connected and the boldness of the statement certainly conveyed information; and
  • ultimately, whether you chose to believe it or not, the audaciousness of the claim, which was used consistently from the start to the finish, was a closer that eliminated any doubts as to where he stood.

Secretary Clinton's marketing, at least from a path-to-purchase perspective, struck me as a stumble at just about every step:

  • The message was nice, but it was almost the textbook definition of "static" and certainly lacked a direct call to action;
  • the arrow had a direction, at least, but it was sideways at best and/or tilted to the right, ironically enough;
  • mostly, though, there were way too many variations of her signs out there, and an awful lot of them employed reversed-out type on pale blue backgrounds.

As packaging expert Scott Young says: "What gets visual attention? In a word, it's contrast." President-elect Trump's signage had it; Secretary Clinton's did not.

Being in a blue state, we didn't get hit by many presidential campaign commercials, but I did see some, including the closers aired during NFL broadcasts the weekend before election day. The Trump campaign switched things up by adopting an optimistic, Reaganesque "shining city on a hill" tone with swirling music.

The Clinton campaign, however, went with the umpteenth-squared airing of their "Role Models" ad where little kids hear Trump disparaging women. Yet another stumble along her path, in my opinion. Given the media saturation of the Billy Bush tapes, opinions about DJT's loose lips had to be almost universally baked-in by then. Didn't anyone on HRC's campaign realize that, by then, they were telling the same joke over and over?

In digital shopper marketing terms, the HRC campaign was just "retargeting" voters with a product pitch for something they'd already bought (or rejected).

I wouldn't venture a guess as to whether the outcome would've changed if HRC had an organization that was better educated in terms of digital - but a little more expert guidance wouldn't have hurt.

Well ... except for experts like Nate Silver, who after predicting a Clinton win with whopping 71% certainty saw the contrary results, switched off his blog in frustration and just went to bed early. Yeah, my faith in terms like "digital precision" was rattled - "bigly," "big league" or whatever else you'd like to call it.

Let's hope it doesn't take long to "make it great, again."

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