The Hill: The Democratic Party Must Step Up its Political Branding to Win
By Will Bunnett

The Democratic Party and its vaunted, persistent technology advantage didn’t help them stop Donald Trump and a Republican sweep in 2016. It won’t guarantee any better results moving forward, either…

To create a durable market edge, companies depend on their strategic brand positioning—something unique and values-oriented that no one can do as well as they do. In the past, the Democratic Party proved that concept as well as anyone…

It’s only once a campaign puts that stronger value proposition in place that it can turn to communicating that value through certain channels where it has an advantage, such as digital.
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Campaigns and Elections: How Clinton’s Value Proposition Lost Her the Brand Election
By Will Bunnett

By most professional standards, Hillary Clinton ran a near-perfect campaign. She had a more sophisticated digital operation, rocked the debates, put on an amazing convention, had a comprehensive field program, raised far more money, and ran far more ads. Donald Trump barely even did most of those things, let alone knocked any of them out of the park.

So why is Trump now the president-elect? With all its gaffes, his campaign hardly conducted a master class in branding, and he did lose the nationwide vote by roughly 2.5 million. His biggest risk was Republican voters sitting the election out after his seemingly dozens of horrible campaign moments.

But in the end, Clinton’s brand wasn’t strong enough in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin to protect her from last-minute doubts raised by FBI Director James Comey. And Trump positioned his brand just well enough that when Clinton showed weakness in a couple of key states, the enthusiasm among his core supporters put him over the top.
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Campaigns and Elections: A Blueprint for a Smart Digital Rollout
By Will Bunnett

A campaign launch should create a memorable connection between candidate and audience while leveraging that attention to build long-term capacity. That’s why a strong digital strategy is essential for any campaign kickoff.

In fact, digital is a powerful way to boost brand recall. That’s part of the reason why digital played such a dominant role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign rollout in June—a launch which holds some clear lessons for down-ballot efforts. The benefits of a digital campaign rollout, such as driving email signups, donations and social media engagement, aren’t confined to top-of-the-ticket candidates.

In a smaller contest, you can produce smart rollouts using an integrated digital strategy if you plan accordingly. Here are some things to think about in the planning process.
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Campaigns and Elections: What Really Worked in 2014?
By Will Bunnett

If the 2008 election represented the birth of broad digital organizing, it looked like digital might grow up in 2014, but what we actually saw was an awkward teenager reaching some new heights while clumsily knocking things over.

Here’s what worked in digital in 2014—and what didn’t.

Facebook ads amplifying emails
Most political advertising online relies on so-called “last click attribution” to measure effectiveness: somebody saw the ad and clicked to the website, so did they take an action or not? But commercial marketers long ago moved beyond simple last-click models. This cycle we learned that political marketers must, too. My employer, Trilogy Interactive, partnered with Facebook on a study that showed supporters who receive fundraising emails and ads simultaneously contributed 67 percent more via email.
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The Hill: Democratic political brands fall into a common business trap
By Will Bunnett

Spending on TV ads in this election is predicted to top $1 billion for the first time in a mid-term, according to the Wesleyan Media Project. Apple, the world’s biggest brand, spent about $350 million advertising phones last year.

So why does everyone love their iPhone but hate their member of Congress? Do you think Apple would put up with a 14 percent positive rating like Congress has?

To put it bluntly, there’s too much money in campaigns now not to take rigorous advantage of the best thinking in commercial branding…
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epolitics: How Twitter DIDN’T Predict the Iowa Caucus Outcome
By Will Bunnett and Steve Olson

With all the excitement around the Iowa caucuses in New Media Land, you could be forgiven for thinking the biggest contest of the night was seeing who could most convincingly predict the results on Twitter and Facebook. As Mashable asked, “Did Twitter Predict the Iowa Caucus Better Than Pundits?”

After looking at several models, the answer is, unfortunately, no.
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Direct Marketing News:

Special Guest: Will Bunnett, Clarify Agency principal and former senior email writer and producer in 2008 at Obama for America, discusses the current state of email marketing in the 2016 Presidential campaign, the importance of taking advantage of external events, and the story behind one of the Obama campaign’s most successful emails.
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Most companies would agree that getting 45% market share would be a huge success. Yet, in politics, winning 45% means losing the vote. In our webinar, you’ll hear key lessons about political marketing campaigns—including best practices for email, social media, and retargeting—while learning how to apply them to your own advertising strategy so you can win more customers.
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The Verge:

“It’s absolutely standard practice and has been for over a decade to suppress what we call the ‘inactive people.’ Maybe they haven’t actually gotten around to unsubscribing, but they’re not really interested anymore,” Will Bunnett, principal at the digital firm Clarify Agency, said, describing the practice. “If the RNC just started doing that, they’re well over a decade behind.”
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Will Bunnett, a political strategist with the progressive digital brand agency Clarify, has been designing ads this election cycle for clients who support abortion rights.
“The hypothesis is that men are not super good at empathy or understanding and are more likely to listen if we sort of make it about them,” he told Vox. “So we’re looking to tap into male identity. And some of the ways that are proving most effective make me a little uncomfortable personally, but I’m already sold on this issue, and we’re trying to target the people who need to see something and get on board.”

Typically, Bunnett said, it doesn’t matter too much if the demographic of an ad messenger matches the demographic of the intended audience. With abortion, however, his team has noticed the opposite dynamic: Matching demographics appears to be a much more significant factor in driving an ad’s effectiveness.

Another effective strategy: messages that “define the opposition” in a negative, repellent light. Bunnett said they’ve seen that some of their better-performing abortion rights ads with men have taken the approach of emphasizing that men who want to ban abortion are uncivilized, backward, mean, and rude. “Rather than trying to convince you that you’re such a manly man for thinking carefully about abortion, we’re saying, like, you just need to know you’re not the caveman over there.”

Bunnett says some of their most effective ads have tapped into a “hyper-traditional sense of masculinity,” like themes about saving damsels in distress. “An ad might feature a guy saying, ‘Hey, you might not be able to get pregnant, but this is really, really important to the women in your life and they need you to step up,’” he said.
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Bloomberg News:

The focus on targeted ads likely helped Trump gain a big lead in early fund-raising, according to Will Bunnett, a principal at the progressive digital ad agency Clarify. But Trump may have another advantage over Biden in using the platform, he said, because of the way Facebook’s algorithm puts ads in front of people who’ll interact with them, often by getting riled up.

“The easiest way to get people to interact with your ads is to get them mad about something,” Bunnett said. “Facebook is a pretty natural fit for him in a way that it might not be for Joe Biden.”
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TechWire Asia:

“Tech has made money and insider access less important in politics,” Will Bunnett told Tech Wire Asia. “It used to be that you needed a lot of money to win.”

Bunnett is the Principal of US-based Clarify Agency. Previously, he worked on projects for many prominent US politicians, including former President Barack Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Chuck Schumer.

The old ways of reaching your audience were on TV, and raising that money required connections to some really rich people in the country.

That is no longer the playbook. Raising small amounts of money efficiently allows campaigners to run ads that are effective.

“Just look at Donald Trump getting outspent by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and still winning the race,” Bunnett observed.
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Still, the five-alarm fire approach isn’t without skeptics, even among Democrats. Some party activists worry the tone and frequency of the messages will have a “boy who cries wolf” effect, desensitizing donors over the long haul and ultimately making them less willing to pony up. “There’s a risk that people … will disengage,” said Will Bunnett, a member of Obama’s 2008 email team who now manages online campaigns for the communications firm Trilogy Interactive.
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National Journal:

Perhaps as important, according to Will Bunnett, who worked on the online team of President Obama’s 2008 campaign and is now a digital strategist at Trilogy Interactive, is that small donors often become the foundation of a campaign’s volunteer team.

“Once they’ve actually plunked down some of their own money, they’re much more likely to come out and knock on some doors and make some phone calls,” Bunnett said.
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Will Bunnett, a senior strategist at Trilogy Interactive, and a former producer at Obama for America, said that in spite of these problems, Republicans have a successful niche brand at the moment — the base isn’t going anywhere. So they need to find a way to convince new voters that the Republican brand is relevant to them. That’s going to be hard to do without a strong, visible leader.

“It’s very similar to the branding problem Apple had in the early ’90s, when it had a small, devoted following, but its brand didn’t seem relevant to most PC users,” Bunnett said. “Apple fixed its brand problem with innovative products and design. But without a Steve Jobs-like leader, Republicans will have a hard time innovating.”
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Huffington Post:

Will Bunnett, who was a senior e-mail writer and producer on the Obama for America campaign and the overseer of the Fight the Smears microsite, advises Democrats in a “working-paper” memo to engage their detractors rather than sit idly by.

“The number one rule of smear fighting is don’t let a bad narrative about your candidate settle in. Because the anxiety a smear creates leads people to seek information, you have a window to make sure some of what they receive counters the smear.”
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