Tom de Bruyne, founder, Sue Amsterdam and Behavioural Design Academy, Netherlands, gave the example of the 2017 elections in the country as an example of how behavioural science and data science helped the incumbent government regain power in the country.
Setting the context of the elections, de Bruyne, said, “We had a problem. The opposition party (PVV) headed by Geert Wilders had 44 seats. The current ruling party (VVD) headed by prime minister Mark Rutte had only 19. Several VVD MP’s were involved in scandals. There was negative sentiment around the Dutch PM. People didn’t like him and trust him anymore. This was at a time when the whole world was watching the Netherlands. It was soon after Trump and Brexit.”
He added, “Geert Wilders outsmarted every other politician in shaping public discourse by perfectly playing the populist playbook. He looked to make enemies big. He was framing the ruling government and framing us as the elite and exploiting fear for immigrants. He was hijacking the media algorithm. Outrage drives attention and reach. Reach drives market share. They asked voters and easy question to answer in the voting booth. Populists understand how decision making works, moderates don’t. Populists are selling the leader while moderates are selling the program.”
He then explained how the ruling party decided to go ‘counter-populist’.
"You basically try to figure what the populists were doing to influence the hearts and the minds of people. We experimented with things. People forget. The elections are decided upon in the last two weeks. We figured what triggered anger, public debate and excitement. Controversy is good around elections. It doesn't matter if people are outraged. It gives you constant opportunity to be there and push the message," said de Bruyne.
He added, "In the end you need to back to the same question - all the leaders who are going to protect you and keep the country stable. That's always the question you need to answer. The mistake people make during elections (and even marketing conferences) is use abstract words. This makes it harder. You must speak directly to the minds of your target audience in the language they understand."
He ended his talk by stating, "People don't always want solutions, but just make sure you understand their problem. Stuff like 'building that wall', doesn't help."
The Dutch election ended with the incumbent party coming back in power.