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Clever marketing vital in USG elections

Amanda Pierce / Lantern reporter

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Undergraduate Student Government President Nick Messenger and Vice President Emily DeDonato should be flattered.

In the peak of USG campaigning, several candidates are finding success through clever, and seemingly unique marketing strategies, an approach that some say is based off the success of the Nick and Emily USG campaign last year.

With images of the Nickelodeon logo altered to fit Nick and Emily’s names, the duo dominated at the polls, capturing 3,899 votes – 2,000 more than their nearest competitor. On election day, that image seemed to resonate with voters. After winning the election by so much, Messenger said he isn’t surprised that their campaign was imitated this year.

“Most years we see campaigns repeated,” Messenger said. “You repeat the strategies that work, and the Nick and Emily Campaign worked.”

Messenger said the key is to find campaign elements that people will remember.

“We see a lot of branding that aims at college kids,” he said. “The Nickelodeon thing could only be successful with a group of kids who grew up in the ’90s.”

The 2012 Kyle and Nick Campaign plays on childhood memories of Legos to portray their message of “Building the Buckeye Community.” The campaign is that of presidential candidate Kyle Strickland, a third-year in political science, and vice presidential candidate Nick Parker, a fourth-year in political science and sociology. However, Strickland said popular marketing isn’t enough to win voters.

“(Nick and Emily) had a really catchy campaign and imagery, but ultimately what it really comes down to is what your campaign is all about,” Strickland said. “We could just come out with a Lego theme or a Nickelodeon theme and be done with it, or we can come out, talk to student organizations, talk about what we have to do. Because it’s not just about having a flashy campaign, it’s about having ideas, too.”

Other candidates have attached their message to a popular brand as well.

The 2012 Travis and Danielle Campaign uses the North Face logo to convey their slogan and desire to be “The New Face” of USG. They chose North Face because of its prominence on campus.

“People will see it as something very iconic at Ohio State, so relatable,” said Travis Skaggs, presidential candidate and second-year in economics.

Skaggs said he and vice presidential candidate Danielle Meyer, a third-year in political science, made a conscious decision not to include their names in their campaign logo.

“If we wanted a logo with just our names in it, we would have used Taco Bell,” Skaggs said. “[The North Face logo] didn’t fit our names, but it fit our idea, and our idea is bigger than our names.”

Despite opting to not include their names in their logo, Skaggs said the Nick and Emily Campaign was “a good model to follow.”

The 2012 Niraj and Nikki Campaign, better known as “Nikki Niraj,” is a play on the name of the popular rapper Nicki Minaj, a strategy that Nikki Brown, vice presidential candidate and third-year in political science, called risky.

“We had a lot of ideas before the Nicki Minaj thing. We weren’t sure if people would get it,” Brown said. “We wanted to do something that people would recognize.”

Brown said she and her running mate, presidential candidate Niraj Antani, a third-year in political science, chose the theme because it was attention-grabbing, and because they wanted to use the “Be the voice” slogan.

Unlike the Travis and Danielle Campaign, Antani and Brown wanted to use their names in their logo, based off the success of the Nick and Emily Campaign a year prior.

Only one campaign steered away from a branded theme, choosing an OSU-centered logo and marketing platform instead. The Taylor and Kevin Campaign chose their look to reflect their “Buckeye state of mind” slogan.

Despite working with marketing for the Nick and Emily Campaign last year, presidential candidate and second-year in Russian and public affairs Taylor Stepp decided to take a different approach on how his campaign would get voter attention.

“We wanted something that was very central and direct. Students love it, the students we’ve talked to at least,” Stepp said. “I think it is resonating.”

Vice presidential candidate and third-year in political science Kevin Arndt said he didn’t want to use branding in their campaign because it was “artificial.”

“It’s sad to say that we need to have a name brand be something that students connect with … that’s not what this is all about. We need to serve students,” Arndt said.

Campaigns take on catchy slogans and interesting logos to capture voter attention, but some students don’t think they can be swayed by clever marketing.

“I don’t think it would influence the way I voted,” said Kelsey Shankle, a first-year in fine arts. “Personally, I would want to hear about how they stand on things, I don’t know if it would sway other people.”

However, Shankle admitted she noticed some campaigns more than others based on their recognizable logo.

“I only noticed the Lego-themed one because they had Legos in front of their tent,” she said.

Although the effectiveness of marketing in the USG campaign cannot be measured, each pair of candidates expressed their hopes that their image will bring them success in the elections later this week.


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