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Positivity Matters: An Open Letter To Candidates

Good Thinking | August 15, 2018 | 3 min read

At Preston Kelly, we see it as our job to constantly re-think the role of marketing. One of the clearest tenets to follow for modern work to be most effective, or for that matter effective at all: it must be welcome in people’s lives. Research has shown this is best done with positive emotional impact. Unfortunately for political candidates competing in the current election cycle, this positive-impact approach has been in alarmingly short supply. In an effort to make his own positive difference, Chris Preston is reaching out to the political candidates vying for election in the mid-terms with an open letter to make a case for positivity.


Dear candidates,

Congratulations on your win in the primaries. As you ramp up your marketing machines for the midterm battles, we the people have a suggestion.

Find your best, most positive, authentic self.

Sell the heck out of that self.


No doubt you’ve already been tempted to go negative, or been encouraged to do so by your trusted advisors. Perhaps they’ve even guided winning campaigns in the past. But as an advertising agency owner in the current marketing climate, our brand research for clients from healthcare to home improvement, from the local Y to national retailers, shows consumers are ready for “positive change.” While the ambitious politicians among you will clearly hear the word “change” and move forward with jugular-ripping ferocity, we believe it’s actually the word “positive” that will ultimately win this political cycle.

But polite politicians get eaten, right? Or worse, forgotten? Maybe in the past, but today we’re looking at a social media-fueled smear cycle that you simply cannot outshout. Instead, looking for what is right with a brand — in this case, you — has been shown to have a significant sales lift over negative tactics. Even six years ago, 80% of consumers said they’d be more likely to purchase from a company that shows it makes a positive difference in people’s lives. (Source: Good Purpose Study, 2012) And they’re far more likely to share an image that makes them feel happy. (Source: Emotional Response to Viral Images, Fracti 2015) The most shared ad of all time, “Google Android’s “Friends Furever,” made consumers feel almost four times as happy as the average ad. (Source: Unruly Pulse, Business Wire, 2016) Of course, policy is important and dynamic leadership can help you get things done, but it is actually two things — standing out from the crowd, and a hopeful belief for a better future — that make brands win and we believe will help undecided voters to fill in your little black circle in the upcoming campaign. (Source: The New Science of Customer Emotions, 2015)

Yes, there is satisfaction in striking a negative blow against a stumbling opponent. But, in so doing, you are most likely to only reach your current fans and increase your risk of missing, confusing or repelling critical undecided voters. See the 2016 presidential campaign. If you want to reach the undecided voters, it’s actually hope coupled with a clear plan to achieve policy objectives that will win. Today, smear tactics only cloud what you stand for and keep your opponent’s name top of mind. Besides, it’s destroying our democracy, and devaluing your entire brand category.

Final note: as a creative director, I’m obligated to say “looking for the good” does not and cannot mean “be boring” or predictable. The Wellstone green bus was a frenetic breath of fresh air. The Ventura action figure was unexpected and unexpectedly effective. By all means, take on the issues. Take on the establishment or fend off the wolves, but do it in your own positive style. We the people will love you for it.

Though we use no.2 pencils, we actually vote with our hearts.


Chris Preston