Sunday, November 10, 2019


"Shopping for Votes" was published in 2013, but tracked towards our recent Canadian election.  It recounts a refining of marketing methods to win elections. 

There has always been an effort to encourage favorable voters out to the polls and to persuade as many to support a party candidate as practical.  Over the years the process has become more refined. Susan Delacourt focuses on Canadian development realizing it tends to follow American developments.

Like most western nations Canada has been moving to a consumer society.  This is reflected in political parties striving to get elected.  The end of World War II launched released Canadians from the Depression and war austerity.  1945 saw the Family Bonus helping young families and became a major factor for Newfoundland to join Confederation.  A few decades later and Sunday shopping became an election issue as the public wanted more freedom to spend their money at their convenience.

One of the early characters encountered in the book is Dalton Camp who brought his advertising expertise to support John Diefenbaker in 1954.  I enjoyed listening to him with Peter Gzowski, Eric Kierens and Stephen Lewis talk on the radio.  During the course of the radio programs Dalton got a heart transplant enabling him to live a few more productive years.  He was credited with helping Diefenbaker win elections in 1957 and 1958.  Lots of ideas, but advertising was improved under Dalton's care.

Allan Gregg with a statistical background and a hippy lifestyle took a more scientific approach.  He understood polling and the type of questions that would help analyze.   He broke polls down to ridings.  Later promoted The Tragically Hip.

Polls can be analyzed and conclusions drawn, but have their limitations.  Focus groups attempt to delve deeper.  

Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were conservative, but realized they had to determine what the voters actually wanted.  Value research  emotional response to speeches used in analyzing Ronald Reagan

Fund raising was a very critical activity for any political party, particularly as marketing and advertising became essential to get elected.  Americans developed direct mail as a key tool and were constantly refining targeting and selecting most effective message.  These methods spread to Canada.

By the 1988 election Gregg  was using his poll results to plan Mulroney's travel.  Gregg counseled against an idea Mulroney had, namely the GST.  Polling indicated that voters would resent any new taxes.  At about this time I was a salesman phoning a supplier to get pricing on some furniture and learned about a manufacturer's tax.  This was a hidden tax and for some reason Mulroney felt people should be aware of taxes.  He also realized that there was a shift in spending from goods to service where taxing was absent.  He used up most of political capital in implementing the GST   The Liberals ran against this tax, but after they achieved power realized there was no easy way to replace the needed revenue.  Other parties minimized some of the pain by blending the federal tax with a provincial tax into HST.  Stephen Harper decided it would be good politics to reduce the tax, even though it would hurt revenue, especially including other tax breaks.  Taxes have always been hated by voters.

Stephen Harper had strong views, but realized to get power, marketing and advertising were critical.  Focused on those who voted, but did not follow issues.  Realized half of Canadians did not follow the news in print or tv.  He remembered Ron Reagan cut money  to such groups as disabled and nursing home tenants, but a photo with these groups was remembered better.  Staging was important and staff was hired to optimize opportunities to make a strong impression.  One of his advisors, Dimitri Pantazopoulos believed in sales techniques learned from "Customer Centerd Sellng by Robert Jolles adapting concept to politics.

An American conservative advisor, Frank Luntz suggested to Harper tying his campaign to the national obsession with hockey.  Harper not only had himself photographed attending son's hockey practice, but wrote a book on hockey.  Some noticed that the hockey logo for the Vancouver Olympics resembled the Conservative logo, including color.  Furthermore he made visits to local Tim Horton outlets often making hockey references.

Attack ads became common outside election campaigns.  Prominent victims included Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. 

Data bases are now recognized as the key part of election strategy.  A breakthrough for Canada was the use of postal codes that could break down locations that could be targeted.  Harper's set a strategy to develop data base for each riding.  Garth Turner (who at one time I regularly read) became a Conservative Member of Parliament, but became disillusioned that he was expected to contribute confidential information to a data base.  Targeting neighborhoods allowed the Conservatives to develop voter suppression robocalls, but were fined after an election.

A personal complaint has been Harper discarding a law set up by Jean Chretien that awarded $2.50 for a party for each vote it obtained.  Running a successful campaign requires a lot of money and the Conservatives had the best access to corporate money.  Public money for elections is one step to give a voice to many that are currently drowned out.

Marketing developments are not restricted to any one party.  To survive all the parties that are actually getting members elected are adopting as much expertise as they can. 

An idea of what I think of Stephen Harper and more of his marketing skills can be found at: 

As a salesman I came to realize that selling and marketing are different, but are complementary. My experiences helped develop my understanding of the importance of marketing.  You can follow my thinking regarding commercial selling, marketing all the way to data bases starting at:, -and-marketing-same-thing.html

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