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The Top Lesson Brands Can Learn From Political Marketing

OK, so that can’t possibly be right...Double your sales by selling to half your current target audience?

It may sound crazy, but it’s the cornerstone of successful political marketing. It’s called "ignoring your opposition," and it’s probably the biggest "ah-hah" mainstream marketers can glean from the art and science of political marketing.

Let me explain with an analogy: Imagine you’re back in college, single, and looking for a meaningful relationship. (To keep it simple, I’ll roll this example out as a straight guy, but any flavor works.) Your friend tells you he’s been invited to a great cocktail party and there’ll be 10 single ladies there.

Which strategy would you choose to optimize your chances?

1. Make sure you talk to ALL TEN women, giving each one the same prepared rap, and hope that four or five show some interest, and finally really connect with one.
2. "Scope the room" upon your arrival, make up your mind which three women are the most-likely compatibles with you, spend three times as much time with each, and tailor your conversation to each of their interests.

Duh, #2, right?

So how come most marketers choose option one?

Why? Because classic "segmentation" fails to remove the never gonna buy, no matter what people from the target, and political-model research for brands consistently proves that 30-70% of brand marketers’ target audiences will never purchase that brand, no matter what the marketer says or does.

If you consistently vote for one of the two major party’s candidates, you already get this: You’re probably not voting "for the other side" no matter what you see or hear from the other party. You are in their "opposition." And every brand in the world has its opposition.

So imagine how much better your marketing would be if:
· You stopped diluting your messaging trying to persuade the unpersuadables…that is, if you just focused your message on your "swing"—the movable, persuadable buyers whose loyalty is up for grabs.

· You stopped investing against "the opposition," and focused your marketing communications investment as best you could against "the swing."

Yup, politicians may drive you crazy. But they just taught you one of the best lessons you’ll ever have in marketing.

So next time you’re grinding your teeth about your marketing ROI, or going to a party if you’re single, or about to scream at the TV when a political ad runs this year, count to ten, and instead say, "thanks."

Tom Cotton is a cofounder and partner in Protagonist, a marketing and advertising agency. He leads the agency’s political modeling joint venture, ExactCast, with Bernard Whitman, founder and president of Whitman Insight Strategies.

[Image: Flickr user sandcastlematt]