Last week I wrote about how the marketing task of creating awareness that can be converted into votes can be explored together with the hierarchy of effects of marketing, where awareness must create positive association that leads to likability or preference.  An understanding of what is positive and of value to the Filipino voter is something that many campaign platforms must attempt to capture while developing the image of the candidate that can connect with the profile of the voters.
 
In that article, I posed a reflection on how these platforms, such as anti-corruption, anti-poverty, transparency and governance, education, jobs formation, among others, can be creatively and well communicated in media – and yet there are quite a number of Filipino voters who still vote mainly on how a candidate makes them feel – as discerned from the candidates’ projected trustworthiness or even plain honesty.
 
This can be compared to some brand ambassadors in the fast moving consumer goods industry.  Some endorsers, no matter how controversial, are found more effective in converting awareness into sales because they are perceived as honest; after all, if they can dare wash their dirty linen in public, they must be telling the truth about the products they are promoting.  The same seems to be true in local politics where known womanizers or gamblers still get voted into office, perhaps out of sheer likability because of charisma and well, maybe because of their perceived honesty. 
 
This is a challenge for any marketing or campaign strategist who might have to choose between competence or personality as basis of communication, as it is possible that people don’t care for having both, after all, a clear and concise message is imperative to rise above today’s media clutter.
 
To find out, a marketing person might start with segmenting the market of voters.   Kristina Cooper of BBC News shared some information on how there are two kinds of voters 1) the sophisticates or people who know a lot about politics, will take facts and policies into account and might even read the manifestos;  and 2)  people who are less engaged and will form a view based on feelings and general impressions.
 
Already we are bombarded with many issues in media (ranging from adoption to corruption), and it would be interesting to look into how people perceive the prospective presidential candidates and the efforts being done to package for attractiveness and charm, as compared to educating people to vote based on good governance.
 
This brings us to the kind of material or information the voters receive regarding candidates or their political agenda.  For example, Prof. Jon A. Krosnickof Ohio State University shared a study on how awareness should be executed based on how voters make decisions, “Voters are especially attuned to unfavorable information about political candidates. Learning one bad thing about a candidate does much more damage to the candidate’s image than learning one good thing helps. So it is no surprise that we see so much negative advertising: a dollar spent criticizing your opponent will help you more than a dollar spent spreading the word of your good qualities.” 
 
We are already witnessing these adverse exchanges in both traditional and online media and we see how negative news about Vice President Jejomar Binay has affected the latest rankings in surveys where Senator Grace Poe has taken the lead.  Should we expect a demolition job on the next forerunner of this race?  Let’s see.
 
Another marketing task that can be added to the discussion is the concept of availability – which perhaps can be best connected to the topic of elections via membership to a political party.  Does belonging to one, “extend” the distribution or reach of the candidate?  In Philippine context, does the party system matter at all when party-switching is more the rule than the exception?  Would Sen. Grace Poe benefit more from her membership to a political party or is it the other way around?
 
The psychology of voting may be quite ambivalent but it does seem that voting is more emotional than rational.   Lee Dye of abcnews.comwrote:   “As an old political pol once told me, issues don’t decide elections. Personalities decide who wins and who loses. Never mind the future of social security. The winning candidate needs to know how to smile convincingly. We’ve got to like the person more than agree with how he or she stands on the issues.”
 
So how do you think the Filipinos will vote in the 2016 elections?
 


Chiqui Escareal-Go is the CEO and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. (www.mansmith.net).  For inquiries, please email info@mansmith.netor call (02) 584-8989 or 412-0034)