Political Candidate Brand Strength

Beth Fossen, David Schweidel and Michael Lewis published a recent paper on candidate brand strength in Customer Needs and Solutions. They used inspiration from the idea of performance premium measures of brand strength. In essence, these measure consider how a brand should be doing given certain important features, look at how it is really doing, and then ascribe any difference to the hard to measure brand aspect. Typically brand performance might be assessed using price (consumers being willing to pay more for the brand than ‘expected’) or revenue (the brand gaining more sales in the stores than ‘expected’). Clearly this isn’t very meaningful in politics, you can’t reliably pay more to get your favorite candidate elected (or least we hope not). That said you can see how the candidate performs in terms of votes compared to such things as the partisan lean of their districts and so infer what the politician themselves are bringing.

The authors are interested in the interaction between brand strength and advertising. For example, do stronger candidates advertise more or less? To do this they need multiple observations. “We employ data on U.S. House of Representatives candidates from the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 elections, providing us with up to four elections in which to observe the performance of the candidates. The repeated measures nature of our data allows us to infer candidate-specific, time-invariant effects that reflect the strength of their brands.” Brand strength differs a lot — candidate quality does matter.

Using Republicans as their focus, they find that strong candidates advertise less, as do their opponents. “…strong Republican brands and the outside organizations supporting them may deem excessive advertising to be unnecessary. Likewise, it can be speculated that Democratic candidates facing strong Republican opponents and outside organizations supporting them might consider advertising a waste given the strength of the opponent and their odds of success.” (Fossen, Schweidel and Lewis, 2019)

Having a strong candidate can save you a lot of money in advertising.

Read: Beth L. Fossen, David A. Schweidel and Michael Lewis (2019), Examining Brand Strength of Political Candidates: a Performance Premium Approach, Customer Needs and Solutions, December 2019, Volume 6, Issue 3–4, pp 63–75