Anne Holland

Please Tell Politicians – Stop Saying Your Competitor’s Name in Speeches

September 29th, 2008

Every time I turn on the radio or TV news these days, I have to grit my teeth. Most political sound bites and commercials from the presidential race break a cardinal rule of advertising – saying your competitor’s name.

Ad research has proven, over and over again, that the name people hear is the one they remember. Familiarity breeds comfort. Comfort breeds purchases and, possibly, votes.

Context doesn’t matter as much as politicians would like to think it does. You can say nasty things or nice things – what listeners hear the most is the person’s name you’re mentioning. Names alone have more power than you think. That’s why all politicians are advised to use the phrase “my opponent” or “the Democratic/Republican candidate” relentlessly instead of their competitor’s name.

Does this mean marketers should refrain from using competing brands’ names too? Yes, except for a few situations where a competing brand can help you. Such as:

o Comparison charts
o Price wars (but use the name sparingly)
o Search marketing battles if you’re an underdog going up against a famous brand (but follow trademark and act ethically.)

In the meantime, if you happen to know anyone connected to either of the candidates’ camps, please urge them to pay attention to this research! The more they talk about each other by name, the more they may be losing votes. It drives me nuts to see bad marketing committed by good people.

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