By Jeff Beals
Note: Take a deep breath…It’s political primary election season in the United States. Even though political campaigning can be annoying, there are tremendous lessons executives, entrepreneurs, marketers, sales reps and individual professionals can learn from those crafty politicos you see on television…
Many years ago, I volunteered on the political campaign of a local businessman, who was running for city council. During the campaign, I attended a number of political events, but one candidates’ forum stood out in my mind.
Candidates from each city council district gathered in a high school gymnasium in front of an audience comprised of community activists, neighborhood leaders, local busy-bodies and a smattering of other interested persons. Each candidate had just a couple minutes to tout his or her candidacy.
One candidate – a long-shot, political newcomer, who ended up losing in a landslide – had the most unique speech. He stood at the podium and said, “They tell me that political campaigning is all about name recognition. If that’s the case, my name is…” He proceeded to repeat his name over and over again, in a melodic/rhythmic way. He would say a couple sentences of substance, and then once again, repeat his name over and over. It was cute. People laughed. I’m not sure how seriously the audience took him, but he made an impression. I vividly remember that stump speech many years later.
While this nontraditional politician didn’t have the financial resources to win, he was right about one thing – it’s all about name recognition. At the very basic level, a politician running for office must focus first and foremost on establishing name recognition. The same thing applies to any professional working in any field. If you are going to market yourself, you must establish a recognized name among members of your personal target audience.
Political campaign strategy can teach us a great deal about our own self marketing. In establishing name recognition, politicians are good role models. Even though many of us find politics to be distasteful, we must think like politicians, because each of us is in a lifelong personal campaign.
Politicians build campaign strategies that are fundamentally based upon establishing a name. Frankly, the average voter is politically unsophisticated and poorly informed about election issues and candidates. Though I have a master’s degree in political science, I must confess that this sometimes applies to me too. Sure, I’ll be quite knowledgeable of some candidates or ballot issues, but there are always a few about whom I know nothing. When typical voters come to an obscure part of the ballot, where candidates for something like the Mosquito Abatement District are listed, chances are they know very little. In this situation, typical voters first look at the names to see if they recognize any of them. If one name sounds more familiar than the others, that is who gets the vote.
Politicians know this, and they act accordingly. That’s why most political advertising is so image oriented and not focused on complicated policy issues. That’s why you see acres and acres of yard signs littering the cityscape during each election cycle. It’s why we are inundated on radio and television with fatiguing political commercials. Pay close attention, and you’ll notice that each commercial says or shows the candidate’s name multiple times in a 30- or 60-second timeframe.
Campaign consultants know that their political clients must use a variety of media, a “media mix,” to develop name recognition. In order to plant your name firmly in each voter’s cranium, you must penetrate their personal lives. To do this, politicians come at us through television, radio, social media, direct mail, and in most local races, they literally knock on our doors. They know that frequency matters, which is why the same signs pop up everywhere and the same commercials air over and over again.
A politician doesn’t miss a parade, pancake feed, major sporting event or any fish fry on a Lenten Friday. Any gathering of potential voters becomes a politician magnate. Campaign managers work feverishly to get their candidates on the news, hopefully portrayed in a positive light. Everything is focused on getting as many positive impressions possible without the candidate saying anything of deep substance.
There’s no question: In politics, business and personal marketing, it all begins with name recognition. Like politicians, businesses repeat their names or brand names over and over again, using a carefully chosen media mix. It works. When a customer is searching on Google for a real estate company for example, she will find a list of several real estate companies. On her screen, they all look the same. Who will she call? Most likely, she will choose a company she’s heard of. To most customers, a familiar name feels like a safe choice.
In politics, voters rely on the candidate’s name identification. In business, customers rely on familiarity. Since YOU are a business unto yourself, and since you are engaged in a lifelong campaign to promote yourself, you must establish strong name recognition and personal brand awareness right now. If you do that, you will have an easier time finding clients, getting access to whatever matters to you and playing a bigger role in your company, community and world.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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