Alex Marland (Memorial University) has published about political marketing in the Journal of Public Affairs, political talk radio in Media, Culture and Society, and about Newfoundland nationalism in the International Journal of Canadian Studies.
Ever think about how much goes on in your mind before before you buy something for the first time? You need to hear about it, you need to have a problem that needs solving, you need to prioritize one option over others, you need to make a decision, and once you’ve made a purchase you assess the quality of the product/service while you are using it. Marketers know this and use models of cognition theory and behavioural decisions to figure out how to get you to buy their product.
The same thing happens in politics. And currently commentators seem to be attributing the NDP’s stunning rise in Quebec to Jack Layton. I get this: Layton scores well in leadership polls, did well in the French debate, and was even born and raised in Quebec. But someone else is very much responsible.
From a marketing perspective, the party’s lone Quebec MP deserves much of the credit for many Quebeckers currently toying with the idea of voting NDP. This is because he softened the ground as the marketing equivalent of a ‘product trial’. For years, Quebeckers have heard about the NDP, but it wasn’t seen to be able to solve their needs. They had no reason to prioritize it over other parties, and so voting NDP wasn’t a serious consideration.
Since winning a 2007 by-election, Mulcair has been the party’s regional salesman in Quebec, a position augmented by his role as a deputy NDP leader. He has represented Outremont capably and offers Quebec a credible voice in Parliament. A CROP poll in early April predicted he would comfortably hold off a challenge from former Liberal Justice Minister Martin Cauchon – and that was before the New Democratic Party’s province-wide rise.
In other words, Mulcair’s presence means that for the past few years more Quebeckers have been slowly evaluating the NDP, whether they knew it or not. When a number of them recently sensed that voting for other parties, notably the Bloc Québécois, would not fulfill their needs, the combination of Layton and Mulcair meant that the NDP emerged as a better option. Or at least one worth considering.
For all that, I wonder whether this dalliance will materialize on Election Day. Thierry Giasson is also hesitant, comparing the situation to Quebeckers considering a pricy cashmere sweater, who may not go through with the sale. One of my hesitations? Throughout the campaign I have been reading about too many phantom NDP candidates in Quebec. They do not have a sufficient local presence to turn survey intentions into quite the same proportion of hard votes. The Liberal party is mentioning as much in its "Not so fast, Jack" advertising.
Still, just as some Canadians are now looking at how the parties are using marketing techniques such as micro-targeting, we can use a marketing way of thinking to make a case for the NDP to give Thomas Mulcair a big pat on the back.
After May 2, of course.