Sorry for the long hiatus from the blog. We needed a break… but now we are back, smack dab in the middle of the political campaign season. At this point we are mid way through the primary season, which often serve up best and worst practices in marketing positioning by candidates in either party. There is so much to learn from and consider, but today let’s look at Mitt Romney and his campaign through the marketing lens as a classic worst practice.
“Front runner” Romney is one of the most disciplined candidates ever. He looks the part, is extremely successful, well-financed, a proven business entity, and with the economy having suffered the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, a clear shoe-in for the Republican nomination. Right?
A Train Wreck in the Making from a Marketing Point of View
But as yet, especially with his recent loses to Rick Santorum in Mississippi and Alabama just a few days ago, Mitt is unable to “close the deal” with party activists of all stripes and get on the with the business of running a presidential campaign.
It is easy to see why he is having trouble, when looked at from a marketing/positioning lens. This is not inspiring to anyone. In fact its depressing. Who is responsible for this train wreck?
Winning Minds is Half the Battle…
Effective positioning requires two clear vectors of differentiation if we are to create the much-needed “compelling reason to buy.” Let’s see what we can do to untangle this mess and get Mitt his mojo back.
We know and he has defined the first vector as being a successful, problem solving business person who would be a capable steward of the economy and getting America to work again. The message… Obama and the Democrats blew it, the American Economy is in a shambles, and he is the most qualified to turn it around. Strong indeed.
Ready to cast your vote for Romney yet?
Winning Hearts is the Other
As the graph indicates, this does not give us as the electorate enough information to get a real “bead” on him. This gives us the mind or mental piece, but where is the heart, the emotional center that is lacking in this “message”?
This is why Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Santorum have been able to gain so much traction and capture the support of the conservative base of the party, where the passions of morality and social conservatism lay. In fact, just a couple of days ago in an article in Slate entitled Stop, Right Now! You’re Making a Scene!, by John Dickerson, the first sentence reads “The Mitt Romney campaign would like Republican voters to stop and think like Mitt Romney for a moment: rationally and without getting overly emotional about things.” Ouch! And this response is by no means unusual.
Romney gets none of it and has created a dangerous (for him) vacuum filled by the other republican candidates, hence his dilemma today.
So we get it. Pundits proclaim Romney has no message. In fact he has half a message, which in this case may be worse than no message at all.
The Marketing Solution…
Mitt is not like most of us. He is not just successful, he is incredibly so. He knows how to make money for himself and his investors. He is cool and calculating. He also holds to religious beliefs that many appear foreign to many voters. Where then can an emotional connection be made?
Our positioning model again shows us a clear path… a path if taken will lead to a certain and swift victory for the nomination, and the ability to compete and perhaps defeat a sitting president who gets stronger every day.
Create the Emotional Connection
I will argue it’s the American Dream itself. For the first time in many years, people feel afraid that opportunities to create wealth and success are closed to them. Mitt himself is a living embodiment of the Dream. He has done it!
To win, the marketing view says he needs to embrace his success in this context and therefore position himself as the embodiment of and protector of the Dream in a way that no other candidate can. The man who can fan, as some have categorized, the “dying embers” of the American Dream and bring it roaring back to life, so the rest of us mere mortals can have a crack at it too.
The last step is to roll the two, the head message of the proven steward of the economy and heart message of the defender of American Dream together.
Romney = The Caretaker of the American Dream
This is what the Head and Heart position would look like.
Add it up this way and Mitt Romney in this case is the “Proven Businessman and Candidate Who, As President Will Preserve and Protect the American Dream for All.” This is a far cry from the screed on the home page that urges voters to support his current, “not to spend more than take in” rallying cry and would give him a direct, powerful argument that is capable of connecting to the aspirations of conservatives and moderates, and the independents he will need to reach the goal.