It's a Pressure Cooker

It's a Pressure Cooker
February 27, 2018
Nick Barbknecht

It’s why you pegged your jeans in the ‘90s.

Why you signed up for that Tough Mudder race you had no desire to run.

It might even be why you go vote.

Young and old, we all respond to peer pressure.

That’s why it’s not surprising we have seen an increased use of social pressure advertising as a motivational tactic in recent years.

Social pressure advertising has been used a lot more frequently in marketing and campaigns recently, and while some campaigns have experienced low-level pushback from voters, the end results continue to be increased turnout of the base.

Peer pressure works.

Studies on Facebook campaigns have shown that Facebook users who share that they voted with their friends influence not only the user’s friends but also friends of friends to vote in greater numbers than just a message delivered on its own.

“Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections. The results show that the messages directly influenced political self-expression, information seeking and real world voting behaviour of millions of people. Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also the users’ friends, and friends of friends. The effect of social transmission on real-world voting was greater than the direct effect of the messages themselves, and nearly all the transmission occurred between ‘close friends’ who were more likely to have a face-to-face relationship. These results suggest that strong ties are instrumental for spreading both online and real-world behaviour in human social networks.”

The idea behind a social pressure piece of political advertising, be it direct mail, digital, or mobile, follows that if a targeted group of voters has a lower propensity to take an action they are already inclined to favor, a little peer pressure – “All your friends are doing it, and they’ll know if you don’t” – may deliver better results than a more simple push to get out and vote.

It’s the Fear of Missing Out. It’s a powerful emotion, and we know emotion is key to delivering a message.

There is the danger of taking it too far, though, and some campaigns have experienced pushback from voters who receive this type of social pressure advertising. 

For example, messages that list publicly available information about a voter’s history and all their neighbors' vote history might be a compelling message, but some voters who were previously unaware of that information being publicly available may be angry that their voting history and address are being advertised and voice their anger with both their neighbors, the campaign, and the local media.

We’ve learned that the key to designing an effective and powerful social pressure political advertising mail or digital ad is to thread the needle between using peer pressure to increase effectiveness without crossing into too-personal territory.

Turnout in the mid-term elections is going to be key. We’re here to help you best articulate your get out the vote message, including a social pressure campaign. Let’s get started.

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