Saturday, July 29, 2017

Running For Office, Creating A Brand


Eric Hogensen is an old friend who was instrumental in helping elect Chris Larson, the most progressive member of the Wisconsin legislature. His firm, HSG Campaigns has relocated from Wisconsin to L.A. and in recent months he's been releasing "how to" newsletters for candidates that offer free advise worth more than what expensive Beltway consults sell. This week he asked a question everyone Inside the beltway has been buzzing about for the last month-- How to Create A Brand Like Randy Bryce Did.
Our friend, Howie Klein, recently took note of an incredible ad from Randy Bryce (one of Speaker Paul Ryan's Democratic challengers) on his blog:
"…this authentic voice from southeast Wisconsin pops up on the screen a couple of weeks ago and BOOM! he immediately creates a platinum brand, goes from 7,000 to 113,000 twitter followers in two weeks, raises $500,000 from small donors in the same time period, puts out an online video that has over half a million views, and has endorsements pouring in from brand name political leaders like Ro Khanna, Alan Grayson and Kirsten Gillibrand."
While it's true that the DCCC can’t bottle, package, and resell this brand in any district in the country, there are some important political branding lessons to be learned from the Bryce ad.

1. Voters are looking for authenticity. Gone are the days when only suited-up Ken dolls with poll-tested sound bites could get elected to Congress. More and more, voters are looking for authentic candidates who look and sound like real people.

2. Communicate with voters, not at them. It's really easy to disregard ads that seem scripted. One of the reasons documentary-style ads like this work well is because they offer opportunities for the candidate to use authentic language that connects with voters.

3. Tell a story. At first, it's not clear that this ad is for a candidate. As it goes on, you meet the characters in a way that feels natural. Who Bryce is and what he represents sticks with you as a result. That's because the messages that stick with an audience are those told through a story.

4. Positivity works. As the ad's maker, Matt McLaughlin, told Longreads, "There's a reason story arcs exist and why archetypes exist. Randy is an archetype and so is Paul Ryan. We wanted to end up with a place of hope and excitement that centers around Randy. I could see other ads ending with, 'this is why Paul Ryan is bad,' but we’ve always been advocates of positivity. Although this isn't the average political spot, it's not an indie film. People want a happy ending."

5. End on a clever point of summation. In this ad, you learn who Bryce is: an authentic working person. He and his family are affected by the decisions made in Washington, and lately, not for the better. At the end, Bryce proposes, "...let's trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron and I'll go to DC." It’s a remarkably simple but clever statement that sums up the entire idea. Paul Ryan is a Washington insider, Randy Bryce is a regular guy. Who do you prefer?
How valuable is Bryce's brand? Recent polls indicate he may actually beat Paul Ryan. That valuable! I've been asking congressional candidates who they would like to have come to their districts to help them campaign. Not a single person has mentioned Democratic House leaders Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Joe Crowley, Ben Ray Lujan or Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- other than people who bring up their names spontaneously as people whose presence would hurt their election chances. Instead the two names heard most often-- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren-- has expanded to three names: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Randy Bryce... even if some of the candidates say @IronStache.

Goal ThermometerIt doesn't hurt to have a comic book super-villain like Paul Ryan as an opponent, but recent candidates who ran against notorious arch-villains like Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Virginia Foxx, and Steve King were unable to close the deal. If Randy Bryce does, it will be the biggest political story of the 2018 midterm elections. Right now, Bryce's brand is strong and growing stronger-- and Paul Ryan's is weak... and fading fast. There is an historic upset in the making. The DCCC is unaware of it-- as are the Inside the Beltway pundits, but by this time next year Randy Bryce's name-- or at least @IronStache-- will be one of the best known political names in the country. People have already started asking him for autographs. That's uncommon for a politician. The thermometer on the right leads to the Stop Paul Ryan page. Please click on it and contribute what you can. And let's hope that one day-- one day soon-- people ask, "who was Paul Ryan?"

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At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you build a brand that is a subsidiary of the democrap brand, your brand will stink too.


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