Monday, August 10, 2015
LESSONS FROM POLITICS ON MARKETING
– FIRST GOP DEBATE
We’re most fortunate to work within many private sectors, throughout the world. We’ve worked within the services industry, medical devices and diagnostics, financial, fast moving consumer goods and pharmaceutical among many others. And, we’ve learned much from each. But, we can also learn from observing what transpires in the public sector, politics in particular. This article deals with lessons and potential implications and considerations (PICs) for marketers from the GOP, “Grand Old ‘Republican’ Party,” kick-off debate, which occurred on 6 August 2015 and was viewed by some 24-million Americans on Fox cable news channel.
Please note that we are neither advocating for any particular political party, nor any particular candidate. We are merely trying to identify lessons from our observations regarding a current, topical subject that are applicable to marketing within private enterprise.
By way of background, particularly for our OUS (Out of U.S.) subscribers, there are currently 17-Republican candidates vying for their party’s nomination to run for President of the U.S. against the eventual Democratic Party’s nomination (which, many believe will be former First Lady, New York Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton). Fox held two debates since they did not feel they could accommodate all 17 candidates in the same venue. The larger venue featured the top 10-candidates based on their standing in the polls, with the other venue devoted to the remaining 7-candidates. It was, as expected, the larger group of leaders that received primetime, got the most airtime and generated the most buzz (apart from Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who participated in the smaller, shorter debate). One other note, this appeared to be less of a debate (among 10-candidates?!?) and more like an interview of the candidates with moderator generated customized questions for each.
Learnings & Observations
1. It’s difficult to beat TV’s reach – As mentioned, the two-hour “debate” with the top 10-contending candidates generated a reach of more than 24-million viewers. These numbers are huge. To put this in perspective, it was nearly 8-times larger than Fox’s airing of the first GOP debate four years ago, was more than double the viewership of the first Obama-Romney debate in 2012 and generated a larger audience than any American television program in 2015 (sans sports). As per social media, Donald Trump generated the most tweets with less than 900,000, which is a far cry from 24-million viewers.
PICs (Potential Implications and Considerations) for marketers: Utilize TV (or other mass mediums) combined with social media to advance messaging that plays to the interest of your target-customers.
- Traditional media still works!
- If you can afford it, TV will get you the greatest reach and generate the highest levels of awareness for most categories of products.
- Social media is not unimportant. It can extend your reach (according to studies) and generate a dialogue with target-customers. (Keep in mind that George Bush won Florida, and with it the more than 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the Presidency in 2000, by 537 votes, despite Al Gore receiving 543,895 more votes nationally. Social media could potentially work to get your brand over the hump to win with customers.) But if it’s mass you need you’re not likely to get it with social media alone.
- Certainly, you need to have to something of interest to attract and engage viewers (with is apropos regardless of the medium). For this first GOP debate, the high level of interest may be attributed to: people’s fascination with celebrity Donald Trump and his combative, take no prisoners, bombastic personality; the American people’s disaffection with the direction the country has and/or appears to be heading; politics and professional politicians; and, perhaps, Fox’s selection criteria.
2. The ten candidates appeal to different segments of the population – While all are Republicans (however, there was a question regarding whether Mr. Trump is truly a “Republican”) the 10-candidates come from 4-walks of professional life. There are 5 governors (or former governors), 3 U.S. senators, a neurosurgeon and businessman. These different walks of life appeal to different segments of the voting population. Governors are part of the executive branch and are charged with running states. On the other hand, senators come from the legislative branch, which is focused on developing regulations. The legislative branch is not tasked with running anything other than, at best, their committees. (For example candidate Rand Paul, U.S. Senator, may help create legislation to ensure protection of people’s privacy while Governor Chris Christie is responsible for protecting the people of New Jersey from a terrorist attack.) Legislators are perceived to have more of a worldview while governors have the know how to run and balance things. Those people who are more concerned with the need for more legislation and/or are more concerned with international affairs may be more likely to favor the experience of a senator whereas those who feel the need to get the government running effectively and/or the need to address pressing domestic issues may be more likely to favor the governors. Ah, yes, then there’s Mr. Trump. Those who feel the need to bolster the economy are likely to favor the business(wo)man, Mr. Trump or Ms. Carly Fiorina (who was a standout in the debate among the smaller group of 7-candidates).
The segmentation goes beyond demography, who does what. It also includes psychographics. There are those candidates whom we perceive as “combaters” for the American people, such as Messrs. Trump and New Jersey governor Christie, who we feel will fight to restore the American Dream for everyone. Then there are “statesmen” such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who appear “presidential” based upon their even-keeled, highly rational and measured personalities. Additionally this group of 10 (17 for that matter) may be segmented by other factors such as geographic appeal and ideology (e.g., tea party conservatives, moderates, compassionate conservatives, religious right, etc.), among others.
PICs for marketers: Be creative in segmenting the market and reach out to those customers for whom you can best serve (physically and/or emotionally).
- Get beyond mere demographic segmentation to include other factors such as psychographics.
- Be creative in segmenting the market. Don’t fall into standard segmentation or competitors’ segmentation of you, particularly when you can’t win with that segmentation. Think out of the box in redefining the market segments and your place in it.
- Make sure your segment is large enough, or is capable of growing large enough, to enable you to achieve victory whether you define it as achieving the leadership market share, highest margins, more profitability, etc.
- Play to your segment. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
3. There is a need to standout if you are going to distinguish yourself from and rise above the pack – While every category and field has segments there will be significant overlap amongst offerings within a given segment. So, it’s important to find a way to stand out and demonstrate that you are different from others in your segment. While all the candidates looked and dressed pretty much the same, Mr. Donald Trump stood out from the start, when he confirmed he is not part of the establishment, by being the only one who raised his hand refusing to pledge to support the eventual GOP candidate for president and not run as an independent. He also stood out by being the only businessman, with his combative and bombastic nature and responses, and even the type of personalized questions that came his way from the moderators. His was not a show. He was being consistent with who he is as a businessman and person. He stirred controversy and was the focus of the moderators and other candidates, scoring the most minutes of talk and airtime. Moreover, he commanded a disproportionate amount of airtime post debate among the media and pundits.
PICs for marketers: In this age of sameness it’s critically important to find ways to meaningfully differentiate your brand from competition in a way that is relevant to your target-customer.
- Differentiation will help your offering get noticed and will give target-customers something to talk about.
- If we don’t differentiate our offering we will have difficulty driving customer preference and creating brand loyalty.
- However, it is not about differentiation for the sake of being different. The differentiation must be relevant to the target-customer and meaningfully differentiated to offer a clear contrast versus competitors.
- Your differentiation will not appeal universally to everyone. It is highly like to drive bi-polarity with some target-customers perceiving it as highly appealing with others not finding it appealing. This is not necessarily a negative. In fact, it is more of a positive. Those that find it highly appealing will support your offering. In other words, they provide the basis for building a franchise.
- Certainly those who find your differentiation highly appealing must be of sufficient size and/or commitment to support a profitable business.
4. It takes more than numbers and talking points to win over people – People understand numbers and hear the talking points but they just don’t internalize them. They don’t feel what’s being communicated in their hearts and souls and therefore are not moved by them to take action on behalf of a candidate. Numbers? All the current and former governors have numbers regarding how they turned their state’s fortunes around. Okay, we get it. These are features or, at best, lead to product benefits. They don’t tend to differentiate. And they don’t get at what's in it for the electorate. Talking points? “Blah, blah, blah.” Seems everyone has them. Okay, you can check off having provided information and maybe some sell. But they clearly haven’t compelled behaviors.
PICs for marketers: Get beyond features and product benefits to clearly communicate what’s in it for the customer.
- Numbers are not benefits. They are reasons-why to support benefits.
- There’s a great deal of distrust in numbers. In our pharmaceutical practice we’re seeing health care practitioners and providers discount the numbers by suggesting they’re a function of how the clinical studies were conducted or analyzed.
- Be guided by WIFFM. “What’s In It For Me.” But replace the “me” with “you” – the target-customer. It’s not about your offering or company. It’s about the customer.
- Be customer-centric. We can’t get to WIFFM unless we truly understand the target-customer and make it our mission to better serve her/him than the competition. Our duty is to serve them not vice versa.
- Avoid “corporate speak,” euphemisms. Instead, speak the language of your customers.
- Speak from and to the heart. People may understand rational arguments. But don’t necessarily respond rationally or to rationality. We have to speak to the heart and can only do so if we feel it in our hearts.
- Use ideas to capture the imagination of target-customers. Ideas help people internalize the meaning of our message and take it to heart.
5. This record setting televised GOP debate only one of many steps to the nomination – This is merely one step, albeit a critical one, of many to winning the nomination. It’s one part of a campaign. Each candidate will need to checkout the polls, reflect on their performance, adapt as needed and get back into the race. They will undoubtedly prepare to address weaknesses and build on their strengths as they go around the country to talk with the American public/voters. Part of achieving success is to listen, learn and iterate. This isn’t about hearing what people want to hear and regurgitating it back to them but how to stay true to your message and deliver it in a way that is more persuasive and compelling.
PICs for marketers:
- Remember, a campaign is more than one in a row.
- A campaign needs to build around an idea and all activities need to be consistent with and reinforce that idea.
- It’s important to have a feedback loop, inspecting what you expect.
- Measure, listen, learn and adapt to iterate your way to success.
- Treat your marketing campaign as a journey, not one isolated event.
- Enjoy the journey or you won’t be able to make it over the finish line.
6. Be true to thy self – We tend to have little trust for politicians. That may why Donald Trump, who at the time of the interview, led all candidates with voters. Despite not being “politically correct” (interesting term which, today, as we write these words sounds “false”) he appears to be striking a nerve with Americans fed-up with professional/career politicians. Whether he will remain standing at the time of nomination remains to be seen. However, we may expect that other candidates, from both the GOP and Democratic Party, will attempt to tap into this discontent regarding the handling of the economy, international affairs, immigrations, taxes (both individual and corporate) and growing regulations, among others.
PICs for marketers: Market with integrity.
- Stay true to your Brand Idea and Positioning Strategy. These go beyond what you say to direct everything you do.
- Keep your promises. Do what you say you are going to do, say what you plan to do! Marketing is about creating brand loyalty. It is transformational not transactional. You may fool a customer with a false promise into making a transaction but it will not engender a positive relationship with them. In today’s digital age a wronged customer could market against you on the Internet through the use of social media, YouTube, tweets and any number of digital vehicles. But then we get what we deserve.
There are so many more observations and learnings from the first GOP debate. Unfortunately, we have already gone long in this issue of DISPATCHES (with more than 2,000-words). Perhaps, you might be willing to share your observations and insights with us. We’d enjoy hearing from you and sharing your thoughts in future issues of DISPATCHES regarding this event, or other developments along the journey to the U.S. Presidency in 2016, to help make our marketing matter more.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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