Don’t Tell Your Audiences What They Want–Obama Lawn Sign Blow Up

Don't Tell Your Audiences What They Want--Obama Lawn Sign Blow UpLooking for one of these?

So are thousands of other Obama supporters throughout the country. And they’re pissed: They want to be able to show their neighbors where they stand. They’re viral marketers eager to spread the word, proud of their stand but frustrated as heck they can’t get the ammunition they need to shout it loud and clear!

According to a recent article by Tim Craig in the Washington Post:

“Kevin Griffis, an Obama spokesman, said the campaign hasn’t put a priority on lawn signs, noting that they don’t vote on Election Day.”

Well, as much as Griffis may snub his noise at sign-wanters (based on the campaign’s insistence that Obama doesn’t need the name recognition boost signs provide), signs do matter to Obama supporters. The campaign, in staying unresponsive to folks who are looking hard for signs — and willing to pay for them — is sending out a negative vibe ala, “we don’t care what you want.” And that’s all wrong.

According to Scott A. Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County, VA Democratic Committee, “”Signs are incredibly important, because supporters want to show their support and want to show their neighbors who they are supporting. It can be very frustrating when their neighbors have John McCain signs and they can’t get Obama signs. A lot of people feel like they are fighting this fight street to street, house to house, and when they see McCain signs everywhere, it makes them feel alone.”

While bumper stickers have clearly fallen away from the game of retail politics, the lawn sign has not. In fact, it’s possible to say, especially with the lightweight, plastic signs, that it’s easier than ever for campaigns to mail signs to supporters. In any event, the Obama campaign has made a bad tactical move here: “People vote, not signs” is just rationalizing a bad decision.

Campaigning, like fundraising, isn’t pure science. Human emotion plays a huge role, and overlooking it is a mistake.

Make it easy for your base to get and stay emotionally involved (as well as intellectually, creatively, politically, etc.) by listening hard to their needs and wants, rather than shouting over them. The community they form around your org’s work and issues is a valuable one, to you and to them. Do whatever you take to nourish it, no matter what the science says.

P.S. Learn how to craft the shortest and most compelling story for your org. Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz on October 29, 2008 in Branding and Messages, Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 2 comments
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  • Is being able to get a yard sign the difference between voting for one candidate or another?
    Incidentally, they also seem to be doing well on the yard sign front according to http://yardvote.com/

  • Nancy E. Schwartz

    Chris, I agree that getting a yard sign or not isn’t likely to change a lot of votes.
    However, I do think the “user experience” will influence a voter’s ongoing dedication (or not) to the candidate/cause. Always want to avoid the “bad taste in the mouth” syndrome.

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