Branding Like Bryce

Our friend, Howie Klein, recently took note of an incredible ad from Randy Bryce (one of Speaker Paul Ryan's Democratic challengers) on his blog:

"…this authentic voice from southeast Wisconsin pops up on the screen a couple of weeks ago and BOOM! he immediately creates a platinum brand, goes from 7,000 to 113,000 twitter followers in two weeks, raises $500,000 from small donors in the same time period, puts out an online video that has over half a million views, and has endorsements pouring in from brand name political leaders like Ro Khanna, Alan Grayson and Kirsten Gillibrand."

While it's true that the DCCC can’t bottle, package, and resell this brand in any district in the country, there are some important political branding lessons to be learned from the Bryce ad.

1. Voters are looking for authenticity. Gone are the days when only suited-up Ken dolls with poll-tested sound bites could get elected to Congress. More and more, voters are looking for authentic candidates who look and sound like real people.

2. Communicate with voters, not at them. It's really easy to disregard ads that seem scripted. One of the reasons documentary-style ads like this work well is because they offer opportunities for the candidate to use authentic language that connects with voters.

3. Tell a story. At first, it's not clear that this ad is for a candidate. As it goes on, you meet the characters in a way that feels natural. Who Bryce is and what he represents sticks with you as a result. That's because the messages that stick with an audience are those told through a story.

4. Positivity works. As the ad's maker, Matt McLaughlin, told Longreads, "There's a reason story arcs exist and why archetypes exist. Randy is an archetype and so is Paul Ryan. We wanted to end up with a place of hope and excitement that centers around Randy. I could see other ads ending with, 'this is why Paul Ryan is bad,' but we’ve always been advocates of positivity. Although this isn't the average political spot, it's not an indie film. People want a happy ending."

5. End on a clever point of summation. In this ad, you learn who Bryce is: an authentic working person. He and his family are affected by the decisions made in Washington, and lately, not for the better. At the end, Bryce proposes, "...let's trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron and I'll go to DC." It’s a remarkably simple but clever statement that sums up the entire idea. Paul Ryan is a Washington insider, Randy Bryce is a regular guy. Who do you prefer?

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