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Politicians can learn from brand relationships

News, 13 January 2017
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BOSTON: Politicians and their aides make use of many of the techniques and stratagems of the advertising and marketing industry, but the recent presidential election suggests they should pay closer attention to brand relationships, an academic has suggested.

Writing on the Forbes site, Susan Fournier, Questrom Professor of Management and Professor of Marketing, and Senior Associate Dean at Boston University's Questrom School of Business, noted the existence of least 27 brand relationships, all managed by different rules.

"You have to know which relationships are in play if you are to succeed," she said, as she examined the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump through this lens.

The most obvious one in play was the adversarial relationship; voters were faced with, essentially, a binary choice, "where the operative dynamic is to choose against one option rather than for a particular brand".

"Marketers of adversarial brands are well-advised to shift focus from courting brand advocates to managing the dynamics driving brand antagonism, advice the Clinton strategists failed to heed," she commented.

The "secret affair" brand relationship was also in evidence as many voters hid their support of Trump for a variety of reasons, requiring anthropological skills to decipher.

"You have to find the people who are not talking and embed yourself in the community groups they consider safe spaces," said Fournier. "You need to go beyond a quest for badges of self-connection since signs of a lack of overt self-identification will be the more powerful diagnostic cue.

Her final observation remarked on the differences between "human brands" and ordinary brands. "Human brand management requires a different toolkit," she said.

"You need governance structures that protect against hubris, brand measurement systems that track not only awareness and liking but also authenticity and intimacy, and human resources more sensitive to public relations than marketing, with 'handlers' who understand the balance and integration needed in the public and the human face of the brand."

Data sourced from Forbes; additional content by Warc staff

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