We underestimate the power of resonance in crafting communications and messages that matter. It turns out we do this at our own peril.
Brands and organizations are heavily investing in social-driven messaging for both digital marketing and political campaigns so much that it now seems that presidents and policies are being bought and sold online.
But if there’s anything to learn from the 2020 elections, it is that money does not automatically guarantee marketing or political success.
The biggest spenders can still get burned, especially if their messaging does not strike a chord with the people that matter —the voters or the target consumer market. You can refer to my recent piece on the 2020 Elections fundraising bonanza to understand this better.
Resonance: the thin line between successful campaigns and expensive misfires
Resonance is the thin line that separates successful marketing and political campaigns from failed ones. The goal of every campaign and piece of advertising should be to provoke an emotional and memorable response in the target audience. But too many times, we’ve seen many marketing/campaign teams lose sight of this.
When your message lacks substance and is not relatable to the target audience, it becomes difficult to get people to engage with your message effectively.
In the same vein, when the audience is not engaged or motivated, it also becomes impossible to trigger the intended action regardless of whether this is to curry public sympathy in favor of a particular political candidate, drive social changes or political discourse, or trigger purchasing decisions and everything in between.
Digital advertising should lean more towards resonance than any other thing.
Only by crafting communications that resonate on both emotional and strategic levels can change be initiated. So far, the biggest enemy of this is prioritizing your internal audience over the one that matters most, according to James Surowiecki, business columnist and author of The Wisdom of Crowds.
The peril of overrating your internal audience
In explaining why over prioritizing your internal audience can cause marketing disasters, James Surowiecki based his talking point on the recent research conducted by OpenLabs, a progressive nonprofit that conducted an extensive post-2020-election survey.
Revelations from that survey showed that the Democratic Party lost many voters that could have been won over more easily, even losing a significant chunk of nonwhite votes that were traditionally considered Dem-leaning. While explaining the plausible cause for this, David Shor, founder and data scientist at OpenLabs pointed at ineffective ads that often alienated voters in some instances.
This in turn is caused by the sharp contrast in commonalities between staff members on the Democratic campaign team who are predominantly college-educated and disproportionately white young people living in cities, compared to the average Dem or swing voters on the street who may not have a college degree, are not living in cities and, who are mostly in their middle-age years.
The difference between the people crafting the message and the audience the message is intended for is often overlooked and this can be catastrophic.
In the 2012 elections for instance, while 75% of the Obama team revealed income inequality as their greatest priority, less than 1% of undecided voters cared this much about income inequality, in an election that could easily be won or lost by voters in this category.
Political campaign staff as well digital marketing teams should therefore take messages from their internal audience with a pinch of salt. While it’s always great to listen to the people working for you to ensure they feel valued and are well-engaged, it’s much more important to listen much more attentively to your audience so you can craft your message to hit them where it’s hardest.
Resonance is perhaps the single biggest factor that could make or break any digital marketing or political campaign. It’s also clear that the single biggest threat to achieving this when crafting messaging and communications are to assume people will fancy it because we like it.
Prioritizing the internal audience over the audience you’re trying to reach is why many political or marketing pitches don’t click, regardless of how meticulously they’ve been designed.
Rather, integrating extensive audience/consumer research into the marketing/campaign process will help you better understand your audience and gain valuable insights into what they want. This is by far the most effective way to ensure you don’t waste your time, money, and other valuable resources crafting a message no one wants to hear.
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