Some politicians intuitively know what to say to motivate voters. However, there is generally much more science to creating political brand messaging than the average person might suspect. For instance, the first step would be to identify a voter segmentation scheme. And it should be substantially more nuanced than Democratic, Republican, Independent, Liberal and Conservative. Voters can be segmented across a myriad of beliefs, values, attitudes and other motivators.
For instance, here are some possibilities for voter segmentation:
- Staunch Democrat vs. Staunch Republican
- Staunch Liberal vs. Staunch Conservative
- Globalist vs. Isolationist
- Interventionalist vs. Non-interventionalist
- Think government can be helpful vs. think government is the problem
- Afraid of big-corporate control of government vs. think government should get out of the way of private industry
- Think some government oversight and regulation is necessary vs. think the less government oversight and regulation the better
- Deep down, view America as a white, Christian nation vs. deep down, view America as a land of opportunity for everyone regardless of ethnicity or religion
- Think diversity creates problems vs. think diversity strengthens and enriches our society
- Pro-choice vs. Pro-life
- Believe capitalism coupled with socialism works best vs. believe unfettered capitalism works best
- Believe federal, state and local governments all have a purpose vs. believe government should mostly be local
- Believe the primary purpose of the federal government is its citizens' physical safety and security vs. believe the federal government also has a role in its citizens' health, financial security and quality of life
- Believe in Keynesian Economics vs. Monetarist Economics
- Open-minded vs. Close-minded
- Believe the world is ultimately good vs. the world is ultimately evil
- Individualist vs. Collectivist
- Generally an optimist vs. generally a pessimist
- More cooperative vs. more competitive
- Have some connection with the military vs. have no connection with the military
- Prefer spectator and participatory sports vs. prefer culture and the arts
- Confident about one's place in society vs. insecure about one's place in society
- Successful in life vs. less successful in life
- Selfish vs. selfless and compassionate
- Focus on law, order and justice vs. focus on compassion and mercy
- Generally trust other people vs. generally do not trust other people
- Conspiracy theorists vs. people who are generally reluctant to believe in conspiracies
- Fear of global climate change and environmental disaster vs. no fear of these things
- Fear of nuclear war vs. little fear of nuclear war
- Fear of terrorism vs. little fear of terrorism
- Believe that racism exists and is a problem vs. do not believe racism exists or is a problem
- Believe in survival of the fittest vs. helping one's neighbor
I could go on and on with this list, but you get the idea. Once people are coded against these segmentation schemes, quantitative research can show which attributes are most correlated with voter choice.
Qualitative research, and in particular depth interviews, can provide much deeper insight into sub-conscious motivators, especially related to fears and deeply held beliefs and values. These interviews might last two to three hours with each individual and would include laddering, guided imagery and projective techniques among others. The attitudinal statements in the above list are often identified or explored in greater depth in qualitative research.
Powerful wedge issues will be discovered in the depth interviews. And then key messaging for those wedge issues will be tested. Ultimately, one can determine the likelihood of changing each voter segment's vote by using each wedge issue statement.
Finally, you overlay the power of big data analytics to individuals and you can get most people to vote any way you want them to. And the beauty of this is that the voters tend to think that these carefully crafted messages were their own ideas, not some carefully thought through voter manipulation scheme.
The final messages need to be powerful emotional triggers, usually tapping into deeply held, and often subconscious, fears.
Frankly, my greatest concern is that someone who has little to no interest in the health of our nation uses these techniques to be elected for personal gain - greed, power, etc.