Marketing a damaged brand. The elections race to the bottom explained.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the negative marketing aspect of a US election is different than any other marketing category. The fact that there are only two options for voters to consider makes the race to the bottom attractive. Throw enough mud and folks won’t have a choice but to vote for you. So what does one do when they have an inevitably damaged brand?

Believe it or not, there is coming back from this kind of damage. Several business brands’ links have actually been responsible for the death of customers and continue to thrive. Just about every major airline in the world has at one point or another suffered a disaster. Every car company has manufactured a product that has crashed because of defect and killed the owner. And most fast food chains have had deadly food contamination issues.

Fortunately, the public has a pretty short memory with brands that have goodwill with their customers. Right now, investors are fleeing Chipotle after slow sales following an e-coli outbreak at serveral of their locaitons. My take is that it’s probably a good buying opportunity for Chipotle stock. Sooner or later people will forget about the e-coli problems and customers will come back one by one. Don’t believe me? How long was Mc Donald’s effected by their outbreak in 1982? Or Jack in the box in 1993? What about Burger King in 1997? Still don’t believe me than take a look at Wendy’s in 2006?

These brands all showed they took the problem seriously and addressed the issues head on. They then went about marketing their businesses the way they did before. Over time, their reputations were repaired and they returned to the levels of profitability they had before.

In all these business cases, the brands had time to recover and there was a lot of competition in the marketplace. So attacking the competition to make themselves look better in comparison wasn’t an attractive an option. Just imagine Wendy’s saying, our e-coli outbreak wasn’t nearly as bad as Burger King’s. Which has been more or less Donald Trump’s response to sexual assault charges. Hey, at least I wasn’t accused of rape like Hillary’s husband. Hillary is facing her own image problems to which her response has also been to go on the attack about Donald’s dark, dangerous nature.

Unlike in business marketing, negative political messaging, has more or less drowned out the positive messaging. The negative stuff is going to win the election for one of them. So who has the strongest negative campaign?

As we say, sex sells. People love to talk about it and think about it. It also real easy to understand why what Trump allegedly did was bad.

Wikileaks, FBI and email scandals are much harder to understand and a lot more boring to talk about. They’re also complicated messages to communicate to an audience. We in advertising like to break things down into very simple messages. “Crooked Hillary” may be simple but it is harder to understand how her campaign advisors emails and their mentions of a quid-pro-quo directly make her as bad as a guy who allegedly groped several women against their will.

From a message standpoint Hillary’s campaign has a big advantage. Trump is going to have to fling a lot more mud in the last couple weeks to make up the difference. Expect it and have fun.

Posted on: October 20, 2016, by :