Against all odds, with Democrats holding a 3-1 voter registration edge and outspending Republicans 13-1, voters in New York’s 9th Congressional district sent its first Republican to Washington in nearly a century. Marketing played a key role in this major upset.
To say that Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY) turned things around in his victorious campaign that culminated in his special election victory last week would be an understatement.
It wasn’t just a turnaround. Almost every media outlet in the country called it a major upset and rightly so. Does anyone remember Andrew Petersen? Unless you were around in the 1920’s, you wouldn’t. Petersen was the last GOP representative from New York’s ninth before Turner. How does a district that is so staunchly Democratic turn on its heels and vote Republican?
There are many reasons and we will leave the political analysis to the pundits. Since this is a marketing column, I would like to discuss how marketing played a role, since it was our firm, the Bottom Line Marketing Group, who oversaw the strategy to woo Jewish voters, who comprise about 1/3 of the vote in this district.
Understanding what voters are thinking is the real secret behind successful campaigns. Data provided by McLaughlin & Associates provided clear evidence that disenchantment with President Obama’s treatment of Israel and his handling of the economy was running high. While local candidates mainly run on their own records and local issues, they can’t run away from their party affiliation. We saw clearly that the Democratic candidate had weak spots and that if we could craft a creative and effective message, we could make a breakthrough.
One of the core messages we developed for the Turner campaign was: “Obama threw Israel under the bus…it’s time to send a message to Washington.” This message gained traction, was widely quoted by Turner supporters and was even prominently featured in a Sunday edition of the New York Post.
The use of surveys and creating a message based on the data you have mined from the survey are essential ingredients of any marketing campaign. It is always critical to know your market cold. A business or nonprofit must compile a good profile of the residents, and potential customers and donors in their location. Once they do, it is much easier to figure out what kind of campaign and message will resonate with them.
For the Turner campaign, we spent hours poring over five different maps detailing hundreds of election districts to “micro-target” Orthodox and traditional Jewish voters that we thought would be receptive to Mr. Turner’s pro-Israel, pro-business message. We built a targeted direct-mail list and “walk lists” out of these maps.
Once we had the list, we had to polish the message. From bus signage to direct mail, we were sensitive to ensure that each targeted audience received a message attuned to their own ethnic group and culture. These included making sure messages would not be received at the wrong time, which meant reminding the Turner campaign not to make automated “robo-calls” to Jewish homes on Shabbos.
Obviously, there were many other players on Turner’s team – too many to list within the confines of this column, but my associate, Jonathan Schenker, who served as the campaign’s political director and liaison to the Jewish community, noted that he observed unusually long lines in polling places in Orthodox neighborhoods where Turner beat out Weprin by a whopping 8-1 margin. So the results speak volumes for the ground that we paved for Turner.
It is also worth noting another winner in last week’s election, Democrat Phil Goldfelder, who won the race for the 23rd state Assembly seat in southern Queens. Bottom Line worked together with Phil, as we have on previous campaigns. We provided a campaign logo and some other creative materials for his winning campaign. We wish each of these two fine men, Bob Turner, and Phil Goldfelder, the greatest of success in their public service.
This Week’s Bottom Line Action Step: Do your homework, craft a message and you too can be a winner.
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