Research shows that approximately half of voters are late deciders who make up their minds during the election campaign. Political parties lean into traditional marketing strategy to align with voter emotions, use market research to craft messages appealing to voter ideologies, and increasingly rely on digital marketing tactics to connect with the undecided in real-time.

Traditional Marketing: Colour Psychology

Colour influences behaviour and ultimately, perception. In the application of traditional marketing, colour establishes and reinforces brand identity. Palette choices factor into packaging, logos, and retail environments for the influence over consumer response. Colour is carefully considered for its subconscious communication and people assign meanings based on what they have learned.

Colour elicits emotion, creates mood and communicates ideas. Consider how the colour red is used by sports teams. Red conveys intensity. It is associated with passion, anger, dominance, aggression. A team wearing red sports jerseys could be perceived as the stronger, more aggressive opponent and therefore use it to psychological advantage.

Colour can also convey alignment to an ideology. Political parties use colour show the contrast to their opponents. A chosen colour for a political party is reinforced across all touch points: website, print collateral, ribbons, clothing choices. Colour is used to show allegiance and consistency.

Colours become associated with organizations and ideas and therefore assume new meanings, which are socially learned and have long-lasting effects. The visual aspect of politics often focuses on the non-verbal elements of electoral campaigns and representation, showing how the facial and physical appearance of candidates can influence voters**.

The art and science of messaging lies within the traditional marketing realm. In more recent elections, market research has been informing communication strategy with policies and issues shaped by the revealed results.

If the medium is the message, how are media changing political campaign messages? In 2012, Canadian scholar Tamara Small reviewed federal political parties’ use of Facebook pages noting a lack interactivity, and infrequent updates indicating that parties have not yet prioritized social media in their communications strategies.*

However, with all things digital marketing, we see this as ever-changing.

Digital Methods of Reach

Data-driven marketing techniques in the political marketing space are referred to as computational politics. Overall, electoral politics is integrated into the digital marketing ecosystem and it has transformed influence and perception.

The tools and technology of digital political marketing are more complex and extend beyond the public level of awareness, and because political digital operations happen behind the scenes it is not well understood or it goes unnoticed. It’s fully integrated into everyday routine.

Cross-device targeting plays an important role in delivering omnichannel storytelling messages. Geolocation targeting can identify and reach voter segments everywhere they go. This is an important factor in the election funnel because decisions are not necessarily made in a voter’s living room; decisions happen in the micro-moments of people’s lives.

Consider Cambridge Analytica’s OCEAN model which characterized voters by five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Using first- and second-party data to create an internal database of thousands of data points per person and layering in voter history, this information was structured to identify key segments that were persuadable. This helped to shape messaging targeted to the vulnerabilities of individual voters.

If you are among the contingent of undecided voters, get informed. Knowing that big data could be set to target and persuade you, be ready to cast your ballot with information guiding the decision.


* Political Marketing in Canada. Edited by Alex Marland, Thierry Giasson, & Jennifer Lees Marshment. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012. ** Red Parties and Blue Parties. The Politics of Party Colours: Use and Perception of Non-Verbal Cues of Ideology, Luigi Marini