Updated: Jul 19, 2019
Politicians are increasingly like brands. With the rise of populism, it’s clear that significant parts of the electorate are swayed by soundbites and slogans. Often the shallowest questioning of these slogans reveals their improbability, but these are the times we live in.
This has been brought into sharp focus by the Conservative Party leadership election, where Jeremy Hunt has positioned himself as the rational, thinking candidate vs the emotional, serious question dodging Boris Johnson. And where has it got him?
At Touchstone we ran a MindTrace test on these 2 and 9 other politicians to understand the emotional context of the election. The number 1 finding is that all politicians make us Sad. This is the overwhelmingly common emotion expressed, taking up more than half of all emotions shown. Only brands in the specific business of making us Sad could survive with that kind of rating: others would fail spectacularly.
Back to the contenders, it’s clear why Hunt is slated to lose. But it’s also clear how he could have formed a strategy to win.
Johnson is talked about more: this is expressed in terms of Engagement here, where he gets 62% more Engagement than Hunt. Engagement is the sum of all emotion shown during a viewing of the picture. For comparison, this level of engagement is similar to a poor poster advertisement. To quote Oscar Wilde, there’s only one thing worse than being talked about…and that’s not being talked about. Jeremy Hunt is not being talked about.
And when he is being talked about, it isn’t great: almost 2/3rds (64%) of the emotion expressed is Sadness, compared with around half (51%) for Boris Johnson. Half is a high rating, but 2/3rds is crippling in brand terms because it leaves so little space for any other emotional response. Boris’s bonus comes with much higher scores for Happy and Surprise – both positive measures – and a lower Contempt score than Jeremy.
Jeremy Hunt has a lower profile and is seen as seriously bland (Sad) compared with Boris Johnson. So where should he attack? Differences are small, and numbers are low, but Boris generates more Anger, more Disgust and more Fear. Of these, Anger is particularly strong among Conservative voters and Disgust among younger (18-30) participants. Creating an agenda that exploits these differences would have benefited Jeremy hugely. Instead, Boris has been able to build his Happy score and gently tap the higher Contempt measure from which Jeremy already suffers.
So, is your brand a Boris or a Jeremy? Or a Donald, a Theresa or a Tony? MindTrace can tell you very quickly and very easily!
Touchstone and MindTrace were aided and abetted in this work by Vitreous World (panel sourcing) and DataTree Connexions (programming and hosting).