[Note: The observations, impressions and interpretations found here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Jeff Johnson, who's campaign this series is about. This series is about the marketing behind Jeff's campaign. This is part x in a series. Parts one, two and three can be found here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), here (part four) and here (part five).]
Neither Jeff nor I had much experience with campaigning for elections in Lake Forest Park, so we went about studying what people had done in the past.
In particular, I looked through the past three elections worth of handouts and direct mail sent from Council candidates. There was one clear thread that ran through each and every piece – all the candidates claimed they listen. All of them.
I tried to put myself in the place of a regular Lake Forest Park resident who lives their life and probabaly doesn’t stay that connected to the local City government. You go along, and you don’t really know much about any of the candidates except for what their materials say. And all of their materials claim they listen, so the claim becomes common and empty.
It was also wrong.
All four of the incumbents’ (as I mentioned earlier, we started referring to Chuck Paulsen as an incumbent to drive home the message that he was indistinguishable from the other three incumbents) past materials said they listen. But all four conceived of, supported and contributed their own money to the promotion of the Prop. 1 tax increase that was subsequently voted down by 78% of the community. So clearly, they didn’t listen. And if they did, they certainly didn’t have their finger on the pulse of the community.
But at the same time, we knew that listening was something Jeff was truly good at. In fact, he had built his business on it. So we decided we could go with it as long as we would take the time to illustrate that Jeff does. We also thought if we could prove they don’t listen, we could undercut their claims that they do, when they inevitably put that on their campaign materials (which they did).
We hadn’t yet decided to go aggressively after the current Council or the incumbents running, so we focused on the idea that Jeff listens to people. He couldn’t have succeeded in auto repair – a business in which no one trusts the service provider – if he didn’t listen to people and stand by his work.
Further evidence of Jeff’s listening and interpretive skills was that he knew Prop. 1 was doomed to fail because it wasn’t what people wanted. And his proactive message was that he would take the idea that we shouldn’t raise taxes until we’ve proven we can control spending to the City Council.
The back side of the mailer illustrated that Jeff was not a one-trick pony and had more in mind for his four years than just his opposition to a proposition that had already been voted down. The other decision we made on the back side was to include the Gov Watch endorsement, which would help identify him against the four running incumbents.
We debated the Gov Watch symbol a bit because while people were familiar with the “No on Prop. 1″ campaign that spawned Gov Watch, we weren’t sure that people would know who Gov Watch was, on its own. But we decided that we could use our web presence to spell that out and also advise that Gov Watch do the same – which they were already doing on the “About” page of their website.
At the time we made these, we still didn’t have much funding and had no way of knowing how much we would have, so we thankfully found a designer who was largely willing to donate his talents and charge only a small fee for the work.
We wanted all of our materials to match so that if someone saw one item and then another later, there would be visual cues that they were all part of the same family of materials for Jeff Johnson. Based on that criteria, the yard sign ended up looking like this:
It was a lot to get onto one yard sign, but we thought there’s plenty of walkers in Lake Forest Park, and they’d be able to read the entire sign. We also wanted the artwork to reflect the flavor of the community, and since LFP is located right on Lake Washington and is heavily forested, the blue and green would fit in with the surroundings and evoke an idea about what it is we all like best about living in Lake Forest Park.
Part seven of this series will be coming up soon…
-My name is Jon Friesch, and my record is nearly officially 1-0 in campaign management.