What the Iowa Caucuses Can Teach Brands About Earning Consumer Trust

The run-up to the 2020 Presidential elections is well underway and a wide field of Democratic candidates are competing for the party nomination. After several debates and months on the campaign trail, the first big moment of primary season is fast approaching – the 2020 Iowa caucuses. As the Des Moines Register reported this summer, the candidates’ campaign stops and events in Iowa alone surpassed 1,000 in August and are expected to reach nearly 3,000 by February, when voting will take place.

For me this prompts a question: in today’s digital world, why are candidates flocking to Iowa to make a record number of personal appearances? With massive media budgets and social media staff at their fingertips, the sheer commitment in dollars and man-hours from candidates speaks to one vital goal – building trust.

Who Is Speaking for Your Brand?

The truth is no amount of media spending or targeted messages can replace the power of a personal appearance. “Shaking hands and kissing babies,” as the conventional wisdom goes, is the fastest way to connect with an audience and inspire their trust and confidence. Political candidates understand this. Does your brand?

While branding a candidate and branding a product have more in common than we might initially suspect, there are of course notable differences. But the power of a human face and a personal connection holds true across industries, markets, and product types. A political candidate is the obvious face of their campaign, but “campaign surrogates” like spouses or family members, high-profile endorsers, and door-to-door canvassers are also influential in spreading a consistent, compelling message. 

So, who is speaking for your brand?

As we’ve explored in the past, there are many opportunities for brands to develop and deploy effective spokespeople. From charismatic leaders to PR professionals and “boots on the ground” employees, brands benefit greatly from putting a human face on their message, culture, and products. 

Earning Trust

Whether online, through social media, in public appearances or at store counters, personal connections with brand spokespeople are an important way to earn consumers’ trust and build their confidence in your ability to deliver on your promises. As social media makes it possible for everyone within a company to have a public profile, more and more brands are grasping how essential it is for employees at all levels to help tell their story to the public. This requires coordination and consistency, but the reward is an enthusiastic audience and increased consumer trust and confidence.

It seems as though every election cycle begins earlier, lasts longer, and requires more from candidates (and voters) than the one before. But the underlying message of today’s candidate engagement strategy is clear: people need consistency and connection in order to trust any previously unknown quantity, whether a candidate or a brand. To build that trust, nothing is more essential than a trusted spokesperson.


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