With the French presidential election rapidly approaching, we’ve taken a look at the main candidates using our 3 Fs metrics (Fame, Feeling and Fluency) to predict brand growth and electoral success.
These same metrics predicted Donald Trump would be the Republican Party nominee in January 2016 and the final result between Hilary and Trump would be too close to call.
Fame – if a candidate comes readily to mind, they must be a good choice.
Feeling – if I feel good about a candidate, they must be a good choice.
Fluency – if I recognise a candidate easily, they must be a good choice.
In a branding context the 3 Fs are designed to reflect and predict market share and in politics they predict national vote share. Every political system has a different way of translating raw vote share into actual outcomes which can affect the final outcome. For example Hillary won the popular vote but Trump won the Electoral College.
So what about the French election? It involves a multi-round process. In the second round, only the two front-runners remain, and voters for other candidates are forced to switch their votes to one of the front runners, who they might not actually like, want, or even know that well.
What our 3 Fs can predict right now is the first-round outcome. Currently the polls have Le Pen and Macron neck-and-neck in the first round. Our study, based on interviews conducted in March 2017, before the candidate debates, looked at the five leading politicians. It shows the Front National’s Marine Le Pen with a small but clear advantage, as the only 4-Star politician. She is set to be joined in the second round by Emanuel Macron, of En Marche!, who scored highest among the 3-Star politicians on Fame, Feeling and Fluency.
Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of each of the top 3 candidates on Fame, Feeling and Fluency.
MARINE LE PEN (Front National)
STRENGTHS: Le Pen has the highest Fluency of any of the leading candidates – she’s seen as a strongly distinctive politician. We know from Donald Trump’s victory in the US election that Fluency can be a very powerful asset – if voters can recognise and process a candidate easily, they are more likely to see them as a good choice. Le Pen is nowhere near Trump’s record-breaking Fluency scores, but she’s the clear leader in this field. Perhaps surprisingly, Le Pen also leads on Feeling – though again, no French politician scores very well here. Still, compared to her rivals, she has a larger base of supporters who feel happy about her, which cements her strength as a candidate and sets her up for a First Round win.
WEAKNESSES: Le Pen is a fraction behind her main rivals on Fame. This likely reflects the way headlines and media coverage have been dominated by Macron’s remarkable rise to prominence and Francois Fillon’s legal troubles. Le Pen also has high negative emotion, making her a divisive candidate. However, she remains the clear leader on the 3 Fs and very well placed for a stronger than expected performance in both rounds.
EMANUEL MACRON (En Marche!)
STRENGTHS: For a politician with barely any profile a few months ago, Macron’s levels of Fame are impressive. He’s been able to make sure he comes easily to mind for voters despite the newsworthy activities of his rivals. He also does far better than Fillon on Fluency, showing his self-proclaimed outsider status is making him a relatively distinctive choice – though he is well behind Le Pen here. Finally, he has the lowest negative emotion of the Top 3 candidates, which gives him more room to improve Feeling, something he badly needs to do when, as we predict, he makes it through to the run-off.
WEAKNESSES: People may know Macron, but they don’t yet know how they feel about him. His Feeling score is much poorer than positive coverage of his campaign might suggest, with low Happiness and high Surprise reflecting his status as a political novelty. Surprise is generally a fleeting emotion – if he can convert it to Happiness, that’s good news for him. But if not, his support could easily melt away. And though his Fluency is higher than Fillon’s, there’s a big gap between him and Le Pen.
FRANCOIS FILLON (Les Republicains)
STRENGTHS: Fillon’s troubles over payments to his wife Penelope have at least solved one of his problems: as the surprise winner of the right-wing primary last year, he had less visibility than former rivals like Alain Juppe. Not any more: Fillon is a strong performer on Fame.
WEAKNESSES: On balance, though, the payment scandal has badly hurt Fillon. His Feeling is poor – and his negative emotion scores are well beyond anything we saw for either Trump or Hillary Clinton during the US election! It’s also had a negative impact on his Fluency score, which is catastrophically low. Fillon is not seen as at all distinctive – the corruption scandal underlines voters’ System 1 instinct that he’s just another establishment politician. His low Feeling and Fluency push him down to third on our chart and leaves him set to exit in the first round.
What about Hamon and Melenchon, the two left-wing candidates? Melenchon, at 2-Stars on our chart, is enjoying a lot of press interest currently. Our model shows why – he is stronger on Feeling and Fluency than any of the other candidates aside from Le Pen. That’s a recipe for growth, and explains why he’s in contention in the polls. But our model shows he has too much ground to make up on Fame to spring a surprise.
Our first round prediction is a win for Marine Le Pen by a few percentage points, leading to a second round run-off between her and Emmanuel Macron.