Tuesday, July 12, 2016 12:00:07 PM

Election seasons are known for creating a flurry of emotions and reactive behavior as voters sift through layers of conflicting information from presidential candidates. While politicians have the hard job of convincing voters not to turn away, brand marketers can benefit from an impassioned atmosphere in which consumers are eager to support their candidates. By avoiding hot-button issues and playing off the competitive spirit of elections, marketers can promote brand awareness while lightening the mood among voters.

Plan Content to Align with Election Timelines

Newsjacking presents opportune moments to call attention to new products or engage consumers in your brand story, but these strategies are most effective when planned to coincide with key moments in the election cycle. Boston Market generated buzz with its Market Bowl Poll campaign, which prompted customers to vote online and redeem a coupon by featuring new chicken (left-wing) and turkey (right-wing) menu items. Similarly, 7-Eleven released blue Obama and red Romney cups in 2012.

In both cases, the brands strategically timed their campaigns to build traction, keeping their products on consumers minds throughout debates, primaries and caucuses. They also included a clear call to action that involved making a purchase and visiting a website for more information or further engagement.

Follow Trending Topics

Although television and print media are still primary sources of information, voters of all ages are spending more time engaging with political content online. Approximately 59 percent of people who watch online videos about candidates are under age 35, while 25 percent are over 45. Approximately 33 percent of registered voters follow presidential candidates on social media, and 21 percent follow political parties, according to eMarketer.

Brand marketers have diverse, affordable outlets for reaching voters, allowing them to supplement planned content with up-to-the-minute responses to trends that develop along the campaign trail. However, pay attention to the climate of online discussions to avoid making light of serious, heated topics, and stick to broad themes. For example, Kenneth Cole angered Twitter users by relating fashion to political unrest in Cairo, while JetBlue made a positive impression with a contest offering to fly winners to their chosen destination if their favorite candidate lost the election.

Stay True to the Brand Message

Make advertising dollars count by reinforcing the brand message. While getting consumers to share and respond to content is important, the ultimate goal should be increasing brand familiarity and favorability. Focus on candidates or themes that are most effective for showcasing the brand, whether it supports or parodies the topics.

Consider how the brand's typical customers interact with online content and the image or level of quality they expect from the brand. FedEx playfully mentioned the mudslinging behavior of candidates in this successful tagline: "Competition may not always be professional, clean, or elegant, but at least your promotional materials can be." This simple, direct message reinforces the idea that FedEX provides high-quality, professional printing services, but it doesn't tarnish the brand identity by negatively calling out specific candidates or incidents.

Interact With Other Brands

Marketers can boost brand visibility by pairing up with a complementary or competing brand. From the Doritos Locos taco to Oreo Breyers ice cream to TGI Fridays' Jack Daniel's burger, national brands have long benefited from combining popular products for mutual gain. Small businesses and local brands can use similar strategies to drive traffic to brick-and-mortar stores or online websites, and the competitive element of political events provides a variety of themes to inspire campaigns.

For example, restaurants can offer unique versions of a seasonal food item and compete to see which "candidate" wins the most votes and positive reviews. Competitive promotions can motivate locals to try both eateries, and much like the followers of presidential candidates, loyal foodies can attract more business by passionately detailing the highlights of their favorite dishes.

Choose the Right Media

Starting early in the election cycle gives marketers more time to gather information and determine which media outlets generate the highest response rate and ROI. Armed with this data, brands can better concentrate their efforts and tailor their campaigns to fit the different sectors of the customer base. TV, print newspaper and direct emails are useful for advertising promotions to a wide audience, while memes, short posts and online video are valuable for sharing a brand story by engaging consumers on social media and mobile devices. If you need help coordinating a smart advertising strategy, contact the LA Times to reach an expansive audience through print and digital media.

Categories: Marketing Tips

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