How can marketers measure the real effectiveness of political messages?

By now you’d imagine that the "strong and stable" mantra is thoroughly ingrained in the public psyche, and "for the many not the few" will have refreshed the parts that other campaign messages cannot reach. You’re probably half right. Both parties are slavishly trundling the repetition wheel in the hope of gradually increasing awareness and shaping perceptions, but they won’t yet have reached anywhere near their overall penetration target levels.

There’s more than simply reaching people, there’s cutting through. What if the messages fail to score even when the awareness target is hit? You can bet Lynton Crosby and Seamus Milne will have seriously road-tested their concepts, polling and focus grouping them with alacrity, but results from new messages and policy pre-evaluation methods pioneered by ICM Unlimited could be rather alarming for them.

Policy makers to date have had to rely on conventional polling techniques, taking at face value what people say when they say it – ask a question, get an answer.

The problem is that people are unreliable observers of their own behaviour, and are affected by influences that they might not even be conscious of. You know this – you’re in advertising and marketing. But the difference now is that ground-breaking techniques that measure emotional certainty in the answers that people give inform us on whether people truly believe what they say – or whether they truly are open to persuasion or behaviour change as a result of the message they get from the likes of you.

ICM Unlimited’s Policy & Emotional Certainty Index (PECS) found that "Take back control" had twice the persuasive firepower of "Project fear" in the EU referendum, and gave us the only clue we had that Leave really were going to win.

So what do we find this time around? The algorithm says "strong and stable" scores 55/100 – respectable and about the same effectiveness as "Take back control", while "For the many, not the few" struggles on 30/100, just ahead of the flailing "Project fear" campaign.

So there you have it. If this election were just about the effectiveness of the messages, Crosby wins again.

Published in Campaign Live on 24th May 2017:

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