American and Australian politics may be two different beasts, but this latest Victorian election has proven one important marketing similarity. Connections matter.
Humans are exposed to enormous amounts of information every day. Information which is often necessary to be stored away in the memory. However, science has shown that we are only able to effectively store between three and five pieces of information in our heads at one time. So how do we get around this? We group.
By forming connections between new information and existing information we are able to effectively group information into manageable chunks. For example, when asked the question ‘What is Apple?’ we don’t do a Google search through our name for any references to Apple. Instead we pull out the Apple chunk which has connections to all the important pieces of information around Apple. Very similar to a mind map.
Test yourself now. Think of Apple. What are the first things that come to mind? For me it is the logo, Steve Jobs, their product range, the word innovation and the pink/purple screen image that is currently featured in all their advertising. Each of these pieces of information are connected to my Apple node and if I want more information on any of them I just have to draw out the connections to each node.
Sorry, that veered a little off the road. Let me get myself back on track. What does this have to do with elections?
American elections draw strongly on this ideal. Using the ever popular technique of celebrity endorsements, political parties in the US try to create new links between two previously unconnected phenomena; the party and the celebrity. Creating this link also creates a transfer of information, feelings and emotions from one phenomenon to the other. In most cases the node with the stronger connection will override the other and in this case the strongest connection usually lies with the much loved celebrity.
As a result of the adoration voters feel for that influential individual, similar feelings will now be attributed to the party.
In Australia, we are yet to move towards a crossover between the entertainment and political markets (at least to the same extent as America). At least not consciously!
There is a school of thought currently circulating the news outlets that the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, ruined the Victorian Liberal Party’s campaign. This statement is, of course, open to debate based on a number of other controversial issues, but knowing the phenomena that American politics relies on, these connections may be more powerful than you think.
As the Victorian and Federal Liberal Parties are rather similar, chances are they are filed rather close to each other with connections already existing due to similar policies and names. Despite the request for Tony Abbott to stay away from Victoria in the lead up to the election, the association was already there impacting the Victorian Liberal group in everyone’s mind.
While we may not be relying on celebrities and entertainers to influence our party perceptions, we are still being strongly affected by these (accidental) endorsements.
The marketing lesson . . . keep your enemies close but your friends even closer. Because, ultimately, it is your friends who easily (and possibly inadvertently) make these strong connections with your brand!