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On chocolate and politics: What CPG brands and political campaigns have in common

Marketing politics and marketing candy may not, on the face of it, have that much in common. But surprisingly, there are similarities when it comes to reaching audiences — whether you call them consumers or voters.

Take brand recognition, for instance. Kyle Yadon-Smith, the head of digital for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is a tad jealous of Vinny Rinaldi’s job at The Hershey Company, where he’s the head of media and analytics. Hershey sells some of the most famous brands in the world — Reese’s Pieces, Kisses, Kit Kat — while the NRSC’s politicians may not hit the sweet spot with such instant name recognition.

“You have all this institutional brand ID,” Yadon-Smith says of Hershey. “We’re jealous of the starting point.”

And yet, in this far-reaching conversation on The Current Podcast, Smith and Rinaldi find surprising similarities in the way they reach and engage their respective “bases.” But the marketing strategy still has to be broad enough in the hope that “you’re getting that incremental gain for a new household conversion and/or a repeat purchaser,” as Rinaldi says.

But then, even for Hershey, there are challenges launching new brands, more akin to a fresh political campaign. “We just launched Reese’s caramel cups and it is like launching a completely new thing even though it’s part of the Reese’s family,” Rinaldi says. “Yes, you’re going to have those loyalists try your new product, but can you attract new customers into an already built brand because of a new introduction of caramel into a peanut butter cup? You have to find those new pockets of opportunity to not lose your base or not have them switch completely and keep that cycle growing with new consumers.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Yadon-Smith and Rinaldi talk about how data-driven campaigns help their respective brands find audiences in swing states, or beyond the major media markets. Grab a snack and tune in.