s votes from the Australian federal election continue to trickle in, a large portion of the public has been left surprised by the outcome. Prime Minister Scott Morrison even called the win a "miracle" as it was contrary to all public polling results. But was it really miraculous, or did the Coalition simply run a more effective campaign and demonstrate a stronger brand?
Understanding Human Psychology – AKA Your Audience
Effective marketing starts with understanding your audience. For campaigning political groups, this goes beyond policy and into the deepest parts of our human psychology. For example, the Coalition based their campaign on generating a fear of change, which has proven to be an extremely effective tactic because of something called negativity bias.
There are many types of unconscious bias that affect human behaviour and marketing effectiveness, as we've written about previously. Negativity bias is particularly useful in politics because it leverages the fear of uncertainty initiated by political change. There are four elements of negativity bias that all collectively demonstrate that negative things have a greater psychological impact on us than positive things. This tendency is a hangover from our caveman days where our main concern was simply survival. Early humans preferred caution and anxiety because it contributed to the success of our species. And while our survival is no longer under threat, this behaviour is still hardcoded into our genetic makeup.
The Coalition focussed much of their campaign around fear by concentrating on what would be at risk under an ALP government, namely around income tax, death taxes, negative gearing, etc. The ALP, on the other hand, focussed more heavily on communicating their policy differentiation – potentially missing the opportunity to leverage their audience's negativity bias.
When translating this into a strategic business approach, marketers would do well to first understand the problems faced by their audience. They should frame their messaging and collateral around addressing these problems. Marketers can go further and create a heightened sense of urgency by communicating the quantifiable loss their prospects might face through inaction or by choosing a competitor.
Popularity and Perception – AKA Branding
Under Australian Constitutional Democracy, the Prime Minister has very limited executive powers (ability to make key decisions without Cabinet or Parliamentary approval) and so the election should – in theory – be based on party policy rather than 'presidential individualism'. In reality though, the face of a political party matters. They represent the party brand and are responsible for effectively communicating the collective messaging. Perceptions, whether accurate in contemporary sense or not, also matter. Throughout this election campaign, the Coalition vigorously and successfully promoted the perception that an ALP Government would be economically irresponsible while reinforcing their perception as a fiscally responsible party.Strategically and consistently aligning perception, messaging and public appearance – AKA branding – is equally as important in politics as it is in business. Despite the internal chaos demonstrated over the last five years of Government, the LNP brand prevailed. This goes to show how important taking a long-term and strategic approach to branding is.
So what learnings can we take away from this election campaign and the surprise Coalition victory? Well for businesses at least, it's a great demonstration of the critical importance of understanding their audience and delivering a strong and consistent brand that resonates with their market.