Tommy Battle cares about his city. He works hard for it. Tommy knows you — knows your family, too — and has a joke he'll crack that's all yours, every time you see him.
He's also a multi-term Huntsville mayor. Tommy's recent 2016 campaign, in a low-turnout and an anti-incumbent climate across the state, won him mayorship in a record landslide vote.
But really: Tommy Battle just cares about his city. That's what it comes down to. He works hard for Huntsville, and has since he was a teenager at his dad's restaurant, Britling's Buffet. From washing dishes to managing its inner workings, Tommy's early start at Britling's Buffet taught him the neighborly love and elbow grease with which he's used to carry this city into every new growth. And Tommy's still that same service-hearted, hands-on agent of focus and effort today.
From Britling's to the present, Tommy's timeline was something special. As a client who needed a fully formed marketing approach to tell this story to the public, Tommy knew Red Brick would also work hard. We'd also care. And boy, did we. Because telling his story, to us, was on equal footing with caring for the city — and we wanted his work to continue.
The campaign design has humble beginnings, but big ambitions. In a small, early-morning breakfast, Tommy and Trent (Red Brick's owner and strategist) hashed out a plan that focused both on Tommy's work ethic and the work Tommy has done for the city. The goal? A campaign direction that could grow with every future endeavor.
Tommy's 2012 campaign design, the most recent source from which to build this strategy out, needed some updating to reflect this plan. The biggest question: how do we build off the visual recognition of the last election success, all while enhancing it and applying a new narrative?
Tommy's hard work has done a lot for Huntsville. At first, we thought we'd play off Tommy's strong last name, Battle, and align it with interchangeable descriptors denoting each of his city-wide efforts since taking office. Design pieces could speak to a different effort throughout the campaign. But that variability was tasking and didn't get the biggest message across — that Tommy's long hours as mayor, and his history of hard work, ultimately spurs on these efforts.
Eventually, it became clear: in a variety of ways, Battle just works. We can subtract everything else and, so to speak, let the work stand on its own. Tommy's been working well for Huntsville as the mayor so far, he's been working hard as the mayor, what he's done as mayor has been working, and so on. By adding a pause between 'Battle' and 'works,' the various meanings of work could easily be intuited, if not allow the branding to be applied to any statistic we'd like to show.
Simplicity was key.
With ~81% of the winning vote, a smidge higher than his 2012 win percentage, Tommy's numbers are the highest ever for a Huntsville politician. Tommy's campaign is also unlike any in the history of Alabama politics — and the reasons are diverse.
As similar as it is to the previous term's win percentage, this term's number isn't accident or fluke. Throughout the campaign, Red Brick developed 200+ unique social media graphics, over 2 dozen multi-purposed videos, and 24,000 postcard mailers (sent out early, before June 1) but in small batches, neighborhood by neighborhood, and only when they would have an impact on the campaign. But it's the online advertising presence that drove this campaign, in total, to have more than 20 million digital ad impressions on voters. And this makes Tommy's strategy unlike any in Alabama. Political campaigns tend to prefer more traditional media buys/approaches, like blanket advertising with television, billboards, and print pieces, mere months before the election; by comparison, Tommy's the odd man out, with a longer campaign runtime, heavy digital focus, micro-targeting, and no billboard or print advertising whatsoever.
Odd man out, indeed. But being the odd man out got the right man in, so to speak.
According to AL.com, seven Alabama mayors lost their position in this anti-incumbent climate.
Let that sink in for a moment. In a low-turnout election, with officials turning over left and right, 2016's winning percentage is eerily similar to supposed landslide percentage of 2012. That's ~80% in 2012, and ~81% 2016. How do these numbers even work? What did those 20 million digital ad impressions even do?
Of those 20 million digital impressions, we micro-targeted voters we knew both had an 80% chance of voting for Tommy and were active and engaged in any combo of recent elections. No traditional blanket advertising, this go-around: as mentioned above, we were running in an anti-incumbent climate across the state, so we had to ensure each impression was worth the exercise.
The 2012 campaign, for contrast, spent north of $425,000 for its landslide victory, but went the traditional route and focused hugely on broad television spots and widespread mailers. Our 2016 effort, which went on for more than twice as long, cost less than half that amount. The results of this strategy should begin to look a little amazing at this point. Everything was stacked against us, we were trying something non-standard — and we were technically more successful than last terms' election.
Just look at the facts.
Start with television. It's the advertising approach closest to Tommy's previous, more traditional political campaign, in category.
2016's spend on television amounts to a little under $25,000. Sound like a lot? Well, it's not. It's underwhelming, considering that $25,000 is only 1/8th the cost of 2012's television spend. Plus, 2016's television was micro-targeted, just the same as the digital efforts. Television ads only ran during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, with the schedule built down to how many female v. male speakers were featured, whether image was more important than bullet points, and only when potential voters would most likely be watching.
And what about billboards and print advertisements? Nope. Negatory. Save those for somebody else's campaign. Efforts on digital were complimented, again, by targeting the voters we knew were going to support Tommy. Our campaign strategy was to send only 5 distinct mailers to these base voters across specific areas of Huntsville. And none of them were to have Tommy Battle featured. No, these were personal endorsement pieces from both Republicans and Democrats. Those that received the mailers were also micro-targeted: none were sent to anyone who hadn’t voted in at least 3 of the last five mayoral elections, and various combinations of voting in either the democratic and republican primaries and general elections. A mailer featuring Eula, Tommy's wife, and George, his grandson, for example, was sent to just 2400 households, of which all 2400 were republican women that had voted in the 2008 and 2012 mayoral races, and the 2014 republican primaries and general election.
Targeting, targeting, targeting. Catch the drift?
Red Brick was all in for this campaign project. Long-term efforts in data analytics, graphic design, video, copy, PR, strategy, web, interactivity, production, resource management — the list goes on. Tommy Battle's 2016 win was an exercise in agency elbow grease, if we're honest. But that elbow grease is why a man like Tommy Battle hired us to tell his story.
Sometimes telling the right story to the right people requests a genuine display of effort. Sure, we could spotlight all the big numbers and tell you how easy it all was. That would degrade the narrative behind this campaign project, though: it was work, tireless work crunching numbers, devising new directions, cranking pieces out; it was also care, the care that comes from cheering on the least of us, attending to every client need, considering every client position.
This is the third campaign for Tommy Battle that we, in some form, have worked on. In four straight elections (the 2008 race had a runoff) Tommy increased his winning percentage every time. That's unheard of for a three-term mayor and is representative of the job he does for Huntsville - and the job we do for our clients.
We like to think we're pretty good at this whole politics thing. In fact, Red Brick's founder, Trent Willis, is walking away from political campaign management with a greater than 90% win rate. He's helped some incredibly admirable, good people get elected to impactful positions - never losing to an incumbent. While we're hanging up our political hat, the foundation of what made us successful in politics was always storytelling. Red Brick finds unique ways to tell all of our clients' stories. And we're going to keep doing that. It's exhausting and stressful.
And we'd do it again. Passionately, unflinchingly, for any of our clients. Because we know they also work hard, and because they care about what they do, the same.
And we will. We will do again.