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THE ELECTION LEARNING TREE

June 20, 2014

Now that elections have wrapped up around the U.S., I thought I would comment on Southern Oregon elections where I live.  By passing a library district, a ban on GMO agricultural products, and approving OSU Extension funding, the voters surprised a lot of statewide and national pundits. So, what were the marketing keys to these successes?

Grassroots support will beat money every time. There is nothing like a local, impassioned supporter of your cause (boots on the ground as they say). GMO ban and library supporters were numerous and vocal. This is a bit amazing when you realize that GMO supporters, mostly big chemical companies, spent more than $800,000.

Social media gets the vote out. This is related to the first one, grassroots support. Facebook, Twitter and other social media really kept morale high and got the troops out. They were also used to attack miss-information efforts by competitors.

Broadcast television still delivers. Broadcast TV (cable and local) is still the most powerful media for reaching the most voters, but running too many TV spots can be a negative for many voters.

Timing is everything. Because Oregon votes by mail, it is critical that marketing efforts peak and are sustained when people have their ballots in hand. Contrary to what you might think, many people do not fill out their ballots until close to the deadline.

Positioning strategy is king. Communicating the right message, to the right voters, is critical. I believe that the pro-GMO team made a major strategic blunder by focusing on costs (how expensive the ban would be to enforce). This obviously didn’t resonate with voters, since they passed several costly measures.

Local campaign leadership is critical. Finally, you must have strong campaign leadership that understands local voters. It is nice to have regional and national money, but these come with outside experts that can demand messages that don’t resonate. As an old Broadway tune goes, “You’ve got to know the territory.”

All the winning ballot measures knew what voters they had to get out (rural and Ashland voters) and they understood that people in Southern Oregon value local control and they hate outsiders telling them what is best for them. The takeaway for your business – do you know your customers and what will resonate with them?

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