Marketing Boo Boos
No, I am not talking about Honey Boo Boo (God, help us) or a scratch on a little kid’s knee. Although it was reported that Honey Boo Boo stole the audience from the Republican Convention.
No, I’m talking about the critical marketing mistakes that may be the difference as to which candidate wins this election.
What is more interesting is these are the same marketing mistakes business owners make all the time. Which makes the point that good marketing isn’t about money (August estimates of a half a billion spent by candidates), its about thinking like a marketer and never forgetting the fundamentals.
But here’s the thing. It is easy to forget the fundamentals.
With the constant pressures to make instantaneous decisions, the growing list of fires that need our attention, we just overlook some of the basic marketing and advertising principles that are necessary to produce results.
I’ve reviewed a handful of marketing boo-boos from the Romney campaign along with a some of take aways you can use in your future marketing and communications efforts to avoid these same pitfalls. After all, you don’t have a half a billion to spend to get customers. Do you?
A couple of disclaimers before diving in:
1. This post is NOT a political statement. It is an individual marketer’s opinion about some marketing mistakes that could make a big difference in the outcome.
2. I am not a political pundit trying to sell a book or attempting to predict the outcome of the election. These are simple marketing observations based on over three decades of marketing experience. There is no hidden agenda other than to use this real life experience as a ‘teaching’ moment for readers.
3. I don’t live in a battle ground state so my impressions are of someone from the outside looking in. Those from the battle ground states may have an entirely different take on events. If you’re one of these, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would love to hear what you are seeing.
Boo-Boo #1: Lack of repetition
Initially, Romney’s campaign was all about the economy and jobs. Then Mitt criticized Obama’s foreign policy. Then it was “are you better off than 4 years ago”. With his refusal to release his taxes, came a discussion about tax rates, the haves and have-nots. The discussion moved to Medicare when he selected Paul Ryan as his VP choice. Then it was how Romney was going to ‘give it to China’. Most recently it was about the attacks in Libya.
Marketing Take Away: Sporadic and infrequent messaging makes it bloody impossible for communications messages to register with an audience. Yes, some might care more about one issue than another, but simply mentioning an issue once or twice doesn’t make it resonate with anyone.
For any message to get through and take hold, repetition is required. Just about the time you are sick of saying the same message over and over again or begin to wonder if anyone is hearing you is just about the time it begins to register with your audience. Once it is registered, is the time to drive it home so the audience doesn’t forget.
Boo Boo #2 – No single theme or focus
This boo boo is related to #1, but it was also demonstrated by the respective conventions. I watched both conventions, but don’t want to interject my biases. So I did a Google search to see what the themes were for each convention.
The Republican convention apparently had a unique theme for each evening of the convention. The first full night used the theme of “We built this”. Subsequent evening themes were “We can change it” and “We believe in America”.
The Democratic convention was reported to be more optimistic with a single overarching theme of “Forward” for all three nights.
The “Forward” theme allows Obama’s team a lot of wiggle room and it has legs. What can’t move forward? The economy. The middle class. Women. Vets. The future of America. It can also serve as a contrast to Republicans.
And “Forward” can be easily incorporated into all other forms of communications be it social media, TV, radio, newspapers, direct mail, etc. serving as a continuous reminder of the single idea with which Obama wants be identified.
In contrast, multiple themes for each convention evening and lacking an overall campaign theme, Republicans dilute their messaging efforts. There is no driver giving voters a clear reason why they should select this candidate over the one that wants to move forward.
The unspoken theme of Romney’s campaign may be simply to oust Obama. That may work for the party base, but not with Obama voters and independents. They need to hear a clear and articulated reason to cast their vote for Romney. So, far (pre-debates), Romney’s campaign hasn’t given it to them.
Marketing Take Aways: For marketing to work, there must be one clear, comprehensive and consistent message, regardless of the media used. Think rifle, not shotgun. Spraying messages around like confetti in attempts to win the hearts of many, ultimately produces few if any fans.
And the message must give the audience a reason to be FOR something by communicating clear benefits.
Boo Boo #3 – No targeting
Obama’s team has taken audience targeting to a new level of sophistication and is doing the hard and expensive work of micro-targeting tailoring their messages to very specific audiences (e.g. women, Latinos, auto workers, rural versus urban, etc.).
Romney’s campaign team doesn’t appear to be using micro-targeting in its advertising efforts. Rather, it seems to be sending multiple messages to everyone.
Marketing Take Away: Tailoring one’s message to a specific audience’s wants will always trump generic messaging to everyone. But it takes time, research, work and can, at times, be expensive to deliver effective messages to tiny niche audiences. When running for President or running one’s business, it would seem worth the investment.
Boo Boo #4 – Nature hates a void
Where there is a void, it will be filled. It is an old physics law first explain by the wise guy Aristotle.
What does this have to do with Romeny?
A smart marketer would have identified not only Romney’s strengths but also his weaknesses and possible threats. It’s what marketers refer to as a SWOT analysis.
In so doing, they would have been prepared for the negatives about his CEO experience, about his wealth, his taxes, about his Massachusetts Health Care act, etc. In fact, they would have ‘filled the void’ first and not allow Obama’s campaign to fill it for them consequently shaping a view of Romney as being a wealth, out-of-touch, heartless CEO.
Marketing Take Away: Everyone, every business has a weakness, maybe several. Weaknesses present marketers with significant opportunities to control the discussion, but one has to take the necessary action to fill the void before someone else does.
Boo Boo #5 – Slowww response to attacks
We live in a fast-paced world and news travels quickly. When a problem pops up, there needs to be an immediate AND effective response.
This wasn’t the case with Romney’s taxes. First, he wasn’t going to release any more taxes. The media kept pressing. Republican leaders kept talking about it. Even Ann said “no more taxes”.
Weeks later Romney’s campaign releases his average tax bill over the course of 20 years. The result is that what should’ve been a brief flurry of one or two weeks, went on for months and still isn’t dead.
Marketing Take Away: Don’t ignore attacks. Determine which carry weight and address them as quickly as possible. Don’t allow them to fester creating a negative impression.
I don’t know who will win this election, but I am interested to see if Romney is able to recover from the above marketing mistakes.
The bottom line is you can avoid these mistakes and that is exactly what you should do when crafting your marketing and communications efforts for your business.
You should share your thoughts below in the comments section. Let me know if you think I overlooked any obvious marketing mistakes with either candidate and, if you watch the debates, share your thoughts.
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