November 15, 2012
There are many things online businesses can learn from the recent American Presidential election and you don’t have to be an American to appreciate their significance. Presidential elections are exercises in marketing big ideas, and big ideas are the key to marketing success. After all is said and done, the 2012 US Presidential election boiled down to, is there a place in government for governing? Put that way it really doesn’t seem to make sense, but that was the big idea voters were asked to decide: should government be run by politicians looking out for ‘the people’ or should it be run by business executives looking out for the ‘bottom line?’
By the way, stay tuned to our upcoming posts because in the not too distant future we will have a lot more to say about big ideas and you will be made privy to a host of marketing concepts that you can use to blow the competition away, that is, if you have the nerve and patience, but more on that at a later time.
A Half-Truth Isn’t True No Matter How Many Times You Say It
In politics as in business repeating a lie numerous times doesn’t make it true, and the most dangerous lies are the ones that have some vague tantalizing relation to the truth, but in the end they are obfuscations; self-serving prevarications designed to play upon people’s naivety, ignorance, and insecurity.
The information age aided by the Internet has regurgitated a data-dump of gargantuan proportion into our laps, some of it relevant, some of it nonsense, and some of it contrived. It’s a problem the Intelligence community has always had to deal with; there is just so much data to sift through that the task becomes impossible to distinguish the significant from the irrelevant. There is just too much information to deal with, so people fall prey to charlatans selling each new magic cure-all. Politics, business, and life in general are far too complicated to be parsed into a superficial 140-character tweet or a 20-second out-of-context video clip, but a big idea can stand alone as a sign post of where you’re headed.
Belief and Action Are Often at Odds
Back in the 1950s Ford’s marketing department asked people what they wanted in a car and Ford gave it to them, the Edsel. Sure you could argue about various details and tactics, but in the end the big idea was people knew what they wanted, so Ford gave it to them, and we all know how that worked out. So having a big idea is not enough if the big idea is based on a faulty premise. What people say they want and what they really want are often very different.
When it comes to government, people want it to help them despite what they may say to the pollsters or even to themselves. Ask people if government should be smaller, spend less money, and lower taxes, and they’ll answer, ‘right-on brother, you bet.’ But ask them if they are willing to eliminate all the services and benefits they receive that are funded by taxes and delivered by government agencies, and they’ll scream like stuffed pigs.
You can poll the man-on-the-street about government spending from now until the next election and get the same “I hate government” answers, but people understand no amount of Noblesse Oblige can substitute for responsible government. Perhaps the lesson was finally learned by the good folks of New Jersey, and even their staunch Republican Governor, who collectively realized that, ‘Yes Virginia, it’s good to have government there when you need it.’
During the election more quasi statistics and pseudo facts were tossed around than the loose change Koch and Adelson spent to back a loser. We’re not saying all analytics and measuring methods are bogus. In fact the legitimate number nerds, like Nate Silver, who analyze these things without bias and predisposition, knew before the election that the numbers showed the election would most likely not be as close as the news media wanted you to think; and it would be an uphill battle for Romney to win the Presidency.
But no amount of number crunching, even from the likes of Nate Silver, is going to tell you what the next breakout mobile app, must-have service, or digital doohickey that shakes the shekels from the pockets of Joe Consumer will be. Much of what passes for statistical analysis has been corrupted, distorted, and abused by a cast of spin-doctors and pundits intent on selling their bag of cow pies to an audience that doesn’t understand what they are hearing or how to translate the jibber jabber into meaningful information.
Like many voters, Internet entrepreneurs are bombarded by an onslaught of irrelevance and misinformation. Many voters vote against their own best interests because they don’t understand how to interpret code language and instead rely on a media that is either corrupted by bias, or determined to make everything the same, as if fact and fiction were equal. As disturbing is the trend of the news media to instantly report glib 140-character tweets from know-nothing nincompoops as if they were meaningful analysis.
So too, many Internet entrepreneurs act in a manner contrary to their own best interests by falling victim to slickly presented numerical mumbo jumbo causing them to jump on the bandwagon of every new media hyped wunderkind or splashy online must-have marketing gimmick. If you fail to grasp the difference between customer loyalty and the FB ‘likes’ and twit ‘friends’ you amass, then you’re on the fast track to nowhere.
In The End
Romney’s big idea was running a government is like running a business, and in the end, the majority of American people didn’t buy it. Romney based his bona fides on his business experience, in and of itself an arguable notion backed by anyone who has ever had to deal with venture capitalists, the vultures of the business world. But even if you accept his credentials as a business expert, running a country is not like running a business.
More importantly, the strategies and tactics he employed alienated large segments of the electorate, and unlike business where you can choose the niche markets you want to serve, leaders of democratic countries must serve everyone. To quote, television producer Gary Marshall, “it’s okay to be out there, as long as someone else is out there with you,” and in the case of Romney, he was just too far out.
It really doesn’t matter which side of the political fence you sit on, what matters is, does your audience buy into what you’re selling, and for the Republicans, the answer was no. And the reason their big idea didn’t fly was that it failed to take into account the contradictory nature of fundamental human behavior: big ideas that work must be based on connecting to the basic human needs that determine behavior; and these innate action-driving forces are not always the ones people are prepared to share in a public forum.
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, an Internet media production, website design, and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit http://www.mrpwebmedia.com/ads, http://www.136words.com, and http://www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (905) 764-1246.