Candidates in 2013 contest splash cash to make impact

Songs, slogans and strategy played a big part in the election campaign

From the profound to the bafflingly unfathomable, candidates pulled out all the stops in an election campaign season that saw new and varied marketing techniques come to the fore. 

The estimated ad-spend, based on the number and size of the newspaper ads, radio segments and side-of-the-road billboards was higher than it has ever been. 

Campaign rallies, songs, slogans and number rhymes have played their part too, often providing an amusing sideshow to the serious business of electing a government. 

But which names and numbers will linger in the minds of voters when the campaigning stops and the signs and posters torn down? 

And how much of a difference did their marketing strategies make on the electors as they pondered which box to mark? 

Pilar Bush, a marketing strategist who runs the Grand Cayman based firm AtWater Consulting Ltd, believes a strong personal advertising campaign is essential, particularly for newcomers on the political scene. 

“I think we have seen far more professionalism in terms of creating a visual identity. I think the creative has been the most sophisticated we have seen for a political campaign in Cayman,” she said. 

The Coalition for Cayman’s front-cover wraparound in last Friday’s Compass, Stefan Baraud’s web-advertising and the style and content of the ads from the UDP and the Progressives have helped them create stronger, more consistent brand identities, says Ms Bush. 

“If you look at all of those three political groupings and Stefan Baraud, they have created strong visual identities and strong colour associations. The PNA may get there as well but they started very late.” 

She believes the PPM was the most organised from the outset, beginning the campaign early, with all their candidates turning out in red and navy and consistent branding and colour coordination through the campaign. 

From a marketing perspective, she says they have appeared a united and organised team. 

For Stefan Baraud, running as an independent in his first campaign, to get a mention in the same breath as the established political parties, suggests some of his tactics hit home. 

It has taken a lot of “out of the box” ideas and every penny of his $35,000 campaign spending allowance, but there can be very few people in George Town now that don’t know anything about Stefan Baraud. 

He has life size cut-outs on the road side, billboards almost every few yards, his name and face even appear on the labels of water bottles handed out at his rallies. 

He says he has done his fair share of old-school politicking too, knocking on doors and talking to people face-to-face and leaving a door-hanger with his ideas and contact details when people aren’t home. 

His campaign slogans have been about hope and change and he hopes the fresh approach he has taken to marketing himself convinced voters he can bring fresh ideas to politics too. 

There was a sense of fun too in some of the campaigning. Supporters of independent Winston Connolly wore T-shirts with the slogan: “Keep calm and vote for Winston”, Matthew Leslie’s offering “Taking you the whole 9 yards” reminded voters of his ballot number and Joey Ebanks shirts cryptically proclaimed: “I am not afraid, 2013.” 

Others were serious and simple. Bo Miller, who did most of his campaigning through radio shows and phone-ins offered, “Bo means Business”. Frank McField’s posters hailed him as the “real independent” 

UDP leader McKeeva Bush came on stage to the sound of the Prince Buster tune Hard Man Fe Dead (You pick him up, you lick him down, him bounce right back, what a hard man fe dead), while rap group Money Train wrote song for the Coalition for Cayman. 

“The campaign slogans go from gimmicky to conveying the essence of what the candidates believe to be true about themselves,” says Ms Bush. 

She believes the most effective slogans are those that resonate with what the public already knows about the candidate. 

The Progressives advertising technique in the final week of the campaign was to mimic the style and colours of their opponents in ads attacking their ideas. 

The full-page ads could have been mistaken for UDP or C4C endorsements until you read the content and realised it is listing a litany of flaws and unanswered questions. 

“Clever, but risky,” is Ms Bush’s assessment. The ads risked alienating voters who may have found the tactic sneaky – not a quality that many look for in politicians, she says. 

The UDP had their own attack-ads with the “no votes, for the cut throats” slogan targeting the former party members in West Bay who have formed a new rival group, the PNA.  

UDP secretary Tessa Bodden said the national campaign had been centred around the manifesto and informing voters of the UDP’s achievements, goals and policies. 

She said the party had updated its logo, retaining the traditional gold and blue colours, to reflect the identity of its new team. 

Social media has played a role for almost all the candidates. 

But while many candidates have used Facebook and Twitter as a tool to advertise meetings or post some of their ideas, Ms Bush believes that very few fully embraced its potential as a campaign tool. 

Old school door knocking, radio, newspaper and television remained the favourite forums for most of the candidates. 

“There has been significant investment in big impactful units in print and on the radio and in terms of the out-of-home spend. I think the amount of money spent on advertising is higher than it has been and that reflects the intensity of the competition.” 

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