We are heading to the finish – people are voting, Trump and Biden are crossing the country to rally support, and the final ads of the season are coming out.
Today I want to look at two of these spots, ads that could not be more different in tone and style and effectiveness.
Early on in the campaign, I anticipated that one of Trump’s major themes would be safety and law enforcement. He ran a powerful spot with that message over the summer.
In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has lost its focus. Thrown off by Trump’s questionable debate performance and bout with COVID, the campaign struggled for footing. Protests and rioting diminished, too, which moved the law and order issue out of the spotlight.
Now, at the close, Trump is back on the police theme with an effective, tough spot. The ad states that during the riots this summer Biden and Harris fanned the flames. The spot’s promise is simple. According to the ad, “President Trump will keep America safe.” You can see the spot here.
It is an effective spot. The message is clear. There is a point of difference, and a credible benefit. Why vote for Trump? Safety. George Bush used the same message at the close of his campaign.
Joe Biden is running a sweeping spot about national unity. He promises that he will bring the country together and end the divisive, negative tone in politics. He states, “Character is on the ballot. The character of our country.” He continues, “We need to remember, this is the United States of America.” You can watch the spot here.
It is a pleasant spot with strong branding, but it is just not as effective as Trump’s. The problem is that Biden just isn’t communicating a benefit. National unity is a very important thing, but it isn’t a compelling benefit for many people. Right now, people want to get back to school, find a job, pay the rent, stay healthy. Unity, decency and harmony are important but, for many people, secondary to the things that matter most.
In a sense, Biden is back to his ineffective marketing from earlier in the campaign when his prospects didn’t seem too bright. To anyone supporting the Biden campaign, this has to be a concern.
If Biden wants to talk unity, he needs to finish the thought. The benefit of unity is what? With unity can we beat the virus? Solve the student loan issue? Improve the economy? Provide better healthcare?
Perhaps Biden has decided the election is pretty much over, so he can get on with unifying the country. Certainly, his recent visits to historically red states suggests this is the case.
This strikes me as a profoundly dangerous approach. Right now, Biden needs to give the last few undecided voters a reason to vote for him over Trump. National unity alone is not that benefit.
Trump finished strong against Hillary Clinton with an energetic campaign that promised benefits – and that approach worked.
If Biden starts to coast, Trump might pull off another unexpected win. He is, at the core, a marketer. Biden is not – and needs to copy Trump and close with a relentless focus on benefits.