WITH less than 24 hours to go before Jamaicans go to the polls to elect a new Government, marketing consultant and branding coach Naomi Garrick is projecting that the candidates who better used social media during the campaign period are the ones who will capture the imagination of uncommitted voters.
With diehard supporters of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP) likely to line up behind their colours, it is expected that the uncommitted could play a key role in marginal seats, and Garrick told the Jamaica Observer that the short sprint from announcement to election, plus the COVID-19 pandemic, impacted the usual marketing associated with general elections in Jamaica.
“Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, less than three weeks is a pretty short time to campaign, effectively communicate key messages, promote strong personal brands, and to really connect with the ideal audience of each political party,” said Garrick.
“We live in a very fast-paced digital age so, in addition to manifestos and traditional means of communicating messages, I believe in taking advantage of the digital channels available to us and utilising them as much as possible for effective communication in the form of more short videos — no longer than two minutes — one-page flyers utilising infographics that get to the point, audio clips with graphics to support key messaging, and more virtual town halls where voters can have their questions asked and answered,” added Garrick.
With the pandemic putting a shutdown on traditional mass meetings, many candidates turned to personalised songs or dubs for branding, and Garrick said while this use of the virtual space was commendable, there needed to more substance in the messages.
“I enjoyed seeing each party utilise the digital space more effectively in addition to the traditional media. There is greater reach at a much faster rate and an opportunity for a post to go viral which, depending on the nature of the post, could be positive or negative. I also think the use of dubs was an interesting addition to the election campaigning. But a dub can’t be played just for the sake of getting a ‘pull up’ or a ‘forward’,” argued Garrick.
She noted that representation by artistes or songs played a major factor in the personal branding of some political candidates and questioned if the choices of music reflected the personality or brand of some candidates.
“’Does my existing brand actually align with the artiste/song selected for the dub? Will this come off as genuine or tacky? Will it do more damage to my personal brand than good?’ These are some of the questions that should [have been] considered,” said Garrick.
With many of the candidates, particularly those in the JLP, pitching the quality of their party leader as key aspect of their campaign, Garrick noted that there were positives and negatives to this strategy.
“For example, if the party leader has a strong personal brand with strong key words and results associated with their brand, that is already deemed more positive in the eyes of the candidate’s ideal audience. If you are a new candidate and the party leader has already received positive favourability, then it would be of great benefit for the candidate to be associated with the party leader.
“In the same thread, if there is already a negative perception of the party leader that could hurt the candidate’s chances, then the candidate may be better off pushing their individual personal brand without associating with the party leader, for fear of negative association,” Garrick said.
She noted that personal branding plays a critical role in politics as voters are not only voting for policy but also the people making these policies.
“Individuals will be interested in knowing the faces behind the party, not just in terms of what they look like but, what do they stand for,” said Garrick.
She underscored that personal branding also has a lot to do with feelings and emotions because people want to feel a sense of connection in order to establish trust.
“Think of it this way: Even if we may not know everything about a particular politician, I guarantee every Jamaican has at least one word that they would use to describe that individual — and that becomes a part of their personal brand. What words does a politician want to be associated with their name?” she said.
“We must remember that your political brand and your personal brand is still the same person,” declared Garrick.
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