Lessons from Kevin 07™

Tags: political product, political party, marketing mix, political products, ALP, Andrew Hughes, Dr Stephen Dann, 2007 Federal election, Liberal Government, political communication, Peter Garrett, political marketing, electoral success, relationship marketing, party loyalty, Howard Government, John Howard, Rudd, Political communications, Liberal campaign, Tony Abbott, Australian Labor Party, Stephen Dann, marketing communications, Nicole Cornes
Content: Political Marketing Election campaigning
The Australian Labor Party's success in the Federal election campaign this year reminds us that it's all in the marketing mix, write Stephen Dann and Andrew Hughes. Lessons from Kevin 07TM
Political marketing is not simply political communication. The 2007 Rudd campaign demonstrated how a strong portfolio of marketing techniques aided the ability of the party to reach the voting public, meet their needs and deliver a positive election outcome. Political marketing is distinguished through the use, application and adjustment of the political marketing mixes to project the party's ability to govern. This research assessed the political marketing lessons learned from the success of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in the 2007 Federal election and shows how these lessons can be put into practice in the future. The political marketing product is a variable combination of politician, political party reputation, policy, ideology and active promises made to the electorate during the campaign. As a complex bundle of benefits for the voter, there has been an increasing tendency to focus on creating more tangible brand identity through either Party Affiliation or through presidential style portrayal of political figures. The 2007 election demonstrated the necessity for strong political products whereby the parties and individuals project a confidence in their ability to represent the electorate to the voters through a range of different approaches. The social cost of voting for minor parties and independent candidates was also considerably higher in the 2007 election as voters looked to secure their desired personal outcomes by investing their votes in the parties most likely to attain office.
Dr Stephen Dann is Senior Lecturer and Masters of Marketing Convenor, School of Management, Marketing and International Business at the Australian National University's College of Business and Economics. Andrew Hughes is Lecturer in School of Management, Marketing and International Business at the Australian National University's College of Business and Economics, and political marketing commentator for Channel 7 MBR subscribers: to view full academic paper, email [email protected] public access: www.mbr.monash.edu/full-papers.html (six month embargo applies) Five political marketing lessons from the 2007 Rudd campaign Lesson 1 The importance of the political product Political marketing should focus on matching the needs of the voters (for example, assurance for the future, social gains, tax reform etc) with the substantive elements of the political product of hope, optimism or belief future outcomes (promises of value). Throughout the campaign, the most successful parties were those that had a clearly identifiable political offering. Government Through New Leadership (ALP) and Government Through Senate Oversight (Greens) were clear messages. However the two-pronged message of the coalition failed because it confused consumers. On the one
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Monash Business Review
Lesson 2
Political communications Political marketing errors will be broadcast and rebroadcast to key target markets by media and opponents alike, as demonstrated by Peter Garrett's off-hand remarks, Nicole Cornes' tax policy mistakes and the gaffes by Tony Abbott. In contrast, debates between other ministers/shadow ministers allowed the public to see a trial version of the politician and policy in action. The Labor campaign strategy of also reinforcing their central message of `New Leadership' was also supported in Marketing communications by the widespread use of Rudd in FM radio and television programs that targeted the key 18 to 39 demographics. Howard was rarely seen or heard on these stations. Facebook and YouTube were also successfully used by the ALP - the ear wax video of Rudd was the single most viewed marketing message of the entire 2007 campaign on YouTube. The results of negative political advertising were mixed. The Liberal's inadvertently enhanced the ALP when they continued to allow Rudd to be positioned as `John Howard Lite' in what was meant to be an attack on the credentials and creativity of the ALP opposition. However, in marketing terms, the comparison of Rudd as a `Howard Lite' produced a dual positive effect for the Labor leader. First, the endorsement reduced the risk of switching from Howard to Rudd based on the increased perception of compatibility between the alternative of a new government
led by Rudd and the existing experience of the Liberal Government. Second, closing the gap between the two leaders reduced the options for the Liberal campaign to criticise Rudd without it impacting on their own leader's reputation. The negative approach also backfired when the Coalition highlighted Rudd's visit to a strip club in order to undermine his credibility. Instead, it highlighted how Rudd was more your average Australian male than Howard, reinforcing his simple message of "Call me Kevin", his personal greeting during the campaign. Rudd admitted to his mistake and showed he was human, a trait that the Howard campaign had to then desperately work hard to develop. Applying Lesson 2 Capacity to govern Policy Statements represent the future promises of law, social reform, economic or other issues that the party will act on if elected. Party endorsed communications are the official statements, websites, broadcasts and other materials which directly communicate with the voter. Investment of social pride through word of mouth is the cost associated with endorsing the ideas of a party if they fail to win, are unpopular or cause friends and family to change their opinion. Candidate's personality and reputation is the influence of the voter's knowledge of the local candidate and their reputation.
hand the message was positive, portraying continued economic growth under the Howard Government, yet on the other, there was a negative message saying that the economy could not be trusted with Labour. Consumers were left confused about what the actual message was. The respective promises of value were also supported by specific promises related to policy (ALP/ Liberals), proposed political conduct (ALP/ Greens), and through stated intentions to act on key issues (ratifying Kyoto for the ALP).
Applying Lesson 1 Using the projected capacity to govern Projected capacity to govern is the central product that underpins the election campaign and determines whether the party can meet the needs of the voter. Party brand is the reputation associated with the political party through their official communications, advertising and their track record in government and opposition. Investment of social pride through candidate endorsement is the risk that an individual will take by aligning themselves with a political candidate, either through open endorsement or implicit support.
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Political Marketing Election campaigning
Lesson 3 Addressing the Social Costs of supporting parties and platforms Price is the hidden element in the political marketing campaign. As outcomes cannot be guaranteed, parties can create value for the electorate through the social price concept. Voting for a party that cannot deliver their promised political product would have a sum total cost of vote plus psychic cost of pride, frustration and the time cost of waiting for the next election to try again, or act on a changed political allegiance. The failure of the minor parties (Democrats in Senate, Greens in House of Reps) can be traced back to the extent to which a voter public believes that a minor party has the capacity to govern and that a vote spent on the minor party local candidate is a vote invested in a viable chance for the party to gain government or represent the community. The 2007 election saw two clear invocations of the political pricing structure through the negative messaging in Liberal and Labor campaign advertising. Both attempted to raise the social price of voting for each other through the emphasis on the risks associated with Liberal's WorkChoices and the ALP's union officials. Neither party emphasised price reduction options deliberately, although the quasi-
endorsement of Rudd as `Howard-Lite' allowed for a level of Risk reduction for swinging Liberal voters in marginal seats to move across to the ALP. Social pricing needs to be an integrated aspect of the political product development The 2007 election saw two clear invocations of the political pricing structure through the negative messaging in Liberal and Labor campaign advertising. Both attempted to raise the social price of voting for each other through the emphasis on the risks associated with Liberal's WorkChoices and the ALP's union officials. process. Price reduction can be carried out by: greater engagement in the local community to decrease perceived risk and increase projected capacity of the individual to represent the community; through offering a higher risk,
Celebrity candidates need to be backed by viable political products to succeed High profile candidates were effective in only three marginal seats (Bennelong, Eden-Monaro and Macquarie) and three safe seats (Charlton, Corio and Maribyrnong) while losing in eight other campaigns. The celebrity candidate has no guarantee of success. Celebrity candidates, however, were used successfully for targeting high profile ministers and seats where the Coalition
held the seat by a margin of between 6-9 per cent. This meant that the Coalition had to send their high profile ministers (such as the Prime Minister) on long and tiring road trips to defend seats that could once be considered safe, taking them away from their own key portfolio areas, leading to a weaker message. Take for example the key battleground state, Queensland, where Howard was still visiting shopping centres in Brisbane the day before the election while Rudd rested at home.
In fact the ALP used Rudd more successfully as a celebrity in the campaign than as the leader of the alternative government. As a leader his image was consistent with the ALP's central communication message of "New Leadership", while Howard struggled to be perceived as having any new ideas or being the leader of Australia beyond 2007. The question though will always remain: if Peter Costello had been leader would the result have been any different?
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Lesson 5
Monash Business Review
high value political product ­ genuine local representation on a key local issue. Nick Xenophon addressed the social cost of voting for his party by highlighting how he would target the government on reduction of poker machine numbers and more regulation of gaming venues. Applying Lesson 3 Be aware of the costs of supporting the party, enhance rewards of affiliation Social benefit of supporting the party is the reward payoff from investing pride and reputation in the party if they win or if they are engaged in campaigning for a policy platform which is personally important for the voter. Party affiliation is the second level of reward from the social cost investment whereby the voter gains by association in their social circle by being associated with a particular political party. Primary vote is the exchange of the voter's primary electoral preference for the sense of hope that the party will be able to deliver on the promised policies and political products. Reciprocity is the level of trust and commitment between voter and candidate that the candidate will represent the community and voter's interest in exchange for ongoing voter loyalty. Applying Lesson 5 Celebrity provides two of 16 marketing mix matrix* variables: Celebrity candidates benefiting from being granted an initial free pass on the personal reputation (Engagement/Information) and candidate (Engagement/Access) aspects of the mix, however, their value to the campaign will come from how well the other 14 political marketing mix matrix elements are addressed. *The Political Marketing Mix Matrix for this paper can be seen online.
Lesson 4 Do not take voter loyalty for granted The failure of party loyalty to deliver automatic electoral success was the election's dark horse discovery. Political marketing has been limited in its application of relationship marketing which centres around issues of trust, reciprocity and commitment. Misapplications of political marketing based on assumptions of perpetual party loyalty combined with a lack of reciprocity between voter loyalty and perceived voter rewards has impacted on the strength of the party-voter relationship. Constant reminders in the media and marketing activities of the major parties of the open targeting of marginal seats, swinging voters and non-loyal voters left a level of voter discontent which manifested in temporary mass movements to minor parties or in the unseating of incumbent members as was the case in Bennelong. Assumptions of voter loyalty also led to market vulnerabilities in political campaigning and the specific purpose `decapitation' political marketing strategy which utilise high profile local candidates to contest `safe' electorates to force incumbent ministers on the defensive in their own electorates. The twofold take out of the election is the need to consider all electorates contestable and party loyalty to be fallible. Political marketers defending an incumbent need to continue the development and maintenance of the electoral relationship formed during the lead up to the election victory, and to ensure the sense of reciprocity of reward for support with the voters and party faithful. Political marketers attempting to unseat incumbent members need to address the needs of the market by presenting a credible candidate as the political product rather than discarding a seat as `unwinnable' with a strong local member. Applying Lesson 4 Relationships between people and party are key Capacity to vote for the candidate is the ability of the party to provide a viable candidate for the voter to support at the local electoral booth. Ability to communicate with the party is the sense that the political party is interested in voter issues, voter feedback and demonstrates a capacity to react and interact with the voter rather than simply repeatedly broadcast talking points at them. Preference distribution is the second level of vote exchange whereby the voter delivers secondary voting preferences in pursuit of the second, third or lower level political solutions. 37

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