Walter Wymer is professor of marketing at the University of Lethbridge. His academic work has helped develop the field of nonprofit marketing.
One traditional political marketing strategy is to negatively frame how voters think of your political opponent. If your election consultant is able to identify a negative label that is believable to voters, then your strategy will be to repeat the negative label as often as possible.
In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, George W. Bush was able to label his opponent, John Kerry, as a “flip flopper,” that is, someone who changes his mind often. While this may sound silly at first, when Republicans all used the same message and when this message was repeated exhaustively on Fox News and other partisan media (and also the mainstream media), the label stuck.
In the current election, let’s watch to see which candidate attempts to label his opponent. When, instead of criticizing a candidate’s ideas, a politician tries to label the opponent as reckless or bad at math, you see this strategy at work. Because Canada has a shorter election season, better campaign financing laws, a prohibition of lying on television, and a lack of prominent partisan media, the name calling tactic is often less effective in Canadian elections.
Unfortunately, I have noticed that reporters are simply repeating what name one politician is calling another instead of focusing on policy differences or the validity of the name calling. Rather than telling voters that one candidate said his opponent was bad at math, why not examine the numbers of each candidate’s plan and report the truth?