Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Logic Or Emotion: How Consumers - And Voters - Make A Selection Decision

How A Single Message Influences Choice
Devine Mulvey Longabaugh

Similar to those charged with marketing a product or cause, candidates for political office often believe they must present the logic of their candidacy to influence voters — such as 10-point plans and issue position papers — when instead logic serves only a secondary role, if at all, in the choice decision.

This reliance upon logic reveals a flawed understanding of how people make choices, whether for the personal fragrance they prefer, the sports team they support, the university with whom they affiliate, the tourist destination they visit, and even the candidate for whom they vote.

Instead voters innately rely upon emotion, rather than logic, to make their choice. Afterward, decisions are rationalized using logic, but the choice itself is made emotionally. People don't realize this is happening, because we rarely think about emotions, we feel them.

Three weeks ago a pair of televised ads appeared from the two leading Democrat presidential hopefuls, each offering their visions for America as rationale for their candidacies: Hillary Clinton's "Fighting for You" and "America" from Bernie Sanders.

However one sees either candidate, the messages found in these two ads offer a teaching moment, as each candidate relies upon vastly differing strategies to express the rationale behind their respective candidacies; one a logic strategy, the other an emotion strategy.

The Sanders ad demonstrates benefits offered viewers for their vote — hope, trust, yearning, confidence in each other, even love — communicating as a peer with intrinsic, emotional appeal, permitting viewers to draw their own conclusions about the candidate. With nearly 3 million YouTube views to date, the spot offers a distillation of the candidate's focus on the big themes that occupy voters by concentrating on the voter, rather than the candidate.

The Clinton spot, to date receiving over 68,000 YouTube views, relies upon a logic strategy focused on the candidate rather than the voter, offering an explanation of her résumé, her mettle, of what she has done through some three decades of public service. Monosemous, the spot leaves precious little room for viewer interpretation which ignores, perhaps unintentionally, the innate intelligence of the viewing audience.

The New York Times named the Sanders spot "Ad of the Week," linking to Nick Corasaniti's article, "Bernie Sanders and Fans Embrace Tune of 'America' in Ad Free of Attacks."

In contrast, "Clinton got it right" opined Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post, "'They've all come to look for America.' They just have to watch Clinton's ad to find it." He tweeted: "Both Sanders and Clinton produced terrific ads, but only one of them makes me feel included."

The New York Times gets it almost right, while Capehart gets it entirely wrong.

More than Ad of the Week, the Sanders ad is a game changer.

It's about you, not him says Josh Voorhees of Slate. "America" is declared magnificent, brilliant, and described as the "Best Political Commercial I've Ever Seen." The Sanders spot finds the pitch perfect tone to express the candidate's unique voice by understanding its audience. It prompts the viewer to challenge their assumptions and reconsider candidate preference.

The Sanders campaign created a message that's already become an indelible classic.

While the Clinton spot is instantly forgettable.

With all the moving parts associated with a presidential campaign, can a single ad snap the stereotype of conventional wisdom, catapulting one candidate into a competitive race with a presumptive party nominee and front-runner?

Look for the answer in tonight's results, and in those of the weeks ahead.

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