Dissecting the Greens Party election ads

The Greens political party is to be commended for the professional, disciplined, on-message election campaign they ran in Melbourne during the Federal Election and they are currently running in the Victorian Election.

Seen in and around the Northcote electorate, it shows the disciplined use of the Greens party key message.

There are two key messages that the Greens Party have pushed in the last election and this. They are:

1. The number of votes needed to elect a Greens Party MP is very small; and

2. Voting for the Greens Party is something that “people like us” do.

If you haven’t read the “case study” from marketing firm “Make Believe” on the makeover of the Greens Party, I suggest you do so now.

Let’s look at the second message first. This is probably the most important. It is clear that the Greens Party made a very good decision when it decided to outsource its campaign to Make Believe. It is classic Community Based Social Marketing – very well executed. When looking at how to transform the Greens political party into a “modern, accessible party” they first did research into what the hurdles currently were for people voting Green – especially “Green leaners”.

What we found was the primary barrier for this audience wasn’t that they disagreed with the Greens’ policies or values –it was the misperception (conveniently reinforced by the other parties) that Greens voters ‘aren’t people like me’.

It’s this finding that has driven the entire re-brand of the Greens political party, at every level – state, national and local.

Image courtesy NZ Greens Party.

If you lived in the electorate of Melbourne, you would have seen many posters, coreflutes and billboards the “This time, I’m voting Greens” slogan all over the place. Most of the time, the slogan was accompanied with an image of a nice looking person: a comfortable looking forty-something woman, a trendy barista or university student. None of them were “traditional” (or rather, Herald Sun stereotypical) Greens party voters – hippies, dreadlocks, crazies.

Evelyn is a nice, calm, normal looking voter.

This message is carefully aimed at the “Green leaners”. It is aimed at middle class voters who identify as “progressive” and are worried that the Greens Party is extreme, concerned with protests or environmental issues. It seeks to normalise voting Greens.

In addition to identifying the main barrier to voting Green, Make Believe also uses another principle of Community Based Social Marketing – which is that people are more likely to change their behaviour if modeled by someone they trust or who are “like them”. By highlighting that nice, safe middle class people are changing their votes to the Greens Party, it is reinforcing 1) that more and more middle class people are “switching” and 2) voting Green is a natural middle class, mainstream thing to do.

The coreflute you see in the photo at climate rally is another Community Based Social Marketing tool. The coreflutes are for people’s homes. One of the key things you can do to promote your behaviour change (in this case, voting Green) is to ask behaviour leaders to showcase the positive behaviour. The coreflute with the key message on it shows neighbours that the desired behaviour is something done by neighbours. People are more likely to trust their friends, family and neighbours when making important decisions. Seeing these signs around – combined with the billboards – reinforces that the desired behaviour.

Apparently only a vote for a Greens Party candidate makes it powerful.

“Your Vote Is Powerful” – although apparently only when you vote Greens party. Despite the logic fail, this key message is successful because the other key barrier to voting Green is that many people think their vote wouldn’t count – that voting Green is a waste, or that they might risk electing a Liberal.

The “Make Melbourne History” and the “Your Vote Is Powerful” directly confronts that hurdle by emphasising the small margin in the Melbourne electorate.

Above and beyond all of this, the Greens election machine exercised unprecedented discipline on all of its candidates. All election material was consistently branded – and all candidates were required to use the core Greens Party website rather than personal ones.

The key messaging work gave Greens Party supporters, volunteers and candidates the language they needed to articulate why they were voting Green.

The Greens Party spin-doctors Make Believe has done an excellent job of rehabilitating and energising the Greens political party. As they state on their redesigned website:

Make Believe was principal communications agency leading strategy, creative, branding, messaging, and online work for The Greens’ Federal election campaign. We also worked closely with Adam Bandt on his grassroots campaign in Melbourne – and are now focused on supporting the The Greens’ Victorian State election effort.

5 responses to “Dissecting the Greens Party election ads”

  1. Matt Avatar

    I don't share your high opinion of the "my values haven't changes, but my vote has" ads. While the typeface is reminiscent of the highly successful Federal campaign there is no other Greens party branding. I noticed them in the city as I drove past but they weren't as recognisable or high impact as the Federal examples.

    1. Alexander White Avatar

      Matt – the "values haven't changed" message riffs off the "people like me vote Greens Party". In Northcote and surrounds it is also speaking to the fact that in a progressive area, a "Right faction" Labor MP is in the seat, therefore inferring that Labor's values have moved to the Right. But most of all, it is attacking that hurdle that "people who vote Greens aren't like me".

    2. Alexander White Avatar

      I also agree that the Federal Election material – especially Adam Bandt's – were of a higher quality than the recycled campaign we've got in Victoria.

  2. Josh C Avatar
    Josh C

    Alex, when you put it like that it becomes pretty clear why Labor is taking such a hit on the primary. I hadn't really clued in to the strength and cleverness of the Greens campaign. It's not targeting me so it washes over me – I ignore it. I'd noticed the 'normal' and slighty baby boomerish poster-people, but hadn;t considered how strategic it was.

    Particularly, the 'normalising' and middle classing of voting Green has a positive feedback loop. Every person that actually changes their mind about voting Green seems very vocal. My parents friends (almost all baby boomer lefty teachers) won't shut up about it and they convince each other!
    (NB my folks know better)

  3. Josh C Avatar
    Josh C

    You certainly don't see the Greens EVER promoting their ideas on tax increases. Higher stamp duty, estate (death) duties and removing negative gearing. Want to smash the Greens votes with baby boomers? Run a credible ad about those three issues and watch middle class voters flee from the Greens.

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