5 Marketing Lessons From 2012 Presidential Elections

It will go down in history as the night me and the rest of the angry old white guys lost power. The official night that campaign spending on slick Madison Avenue advertisements could not overwhelm the power of the people. The night that broadcast networks were overpowered by the voices of millions on Twitter and Facebook. The night that kids and anyone with an iPhone had as much power as Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch.

Before the rise of social media, just a few information channels controlled the message. In those days Reality was not Reality. Perception was Reality.

Today the key to influencing people is to have a solid core. To have your words be consistent with your actions and more importantly to have your words be consistent with your words. Authenticity resonates,

This year money was overpowered by the voice of the people. Hype was overpowered by easy access to historical records. This year perception was shaped by facts instead of Ad Men.

In no other year has money had a more clear path to political victory than in 2012. The Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the door for unlimited anonymous donations to political campaigns. The wealthy Koch Brothers reportedly spent over $400 million and Sheldon Adelson $100 million to defeat President Obama. Democratic Supporter George Soros by contrast reportedly donated under $1.5M. You can thank Citizens United for allowing political advertisements to wipe Viagra and Cialis advertisements from the airwaves for the past couple of weeks.

Yet all that money could not overpower the effect of Governor Romney’s video phone-recorded speech where he expressed his disdain for the 47%. Zero-cost viral YouTube, Twitter and Facebook posts defeated Adelson and the Kochs 1/2 billion dollars.

The lesson here. Money can amplify your message but it can’t etch-a-sketch out history. You can buy a billion dollars of inspirational adds. You can attack your opponent until the cows come home. But you can’t hide from the truth. Because the truth is no longer perception as shaped by Madison Avenue. Truth is based on the breadcrumbs of facts left along the way. It is your body of work recorded and reported for posterity on the internet. It is Al Gore’s revenge.

The lesson. Product Management beats Public Relations. You want people to believe you represent all the people. You want 100% of the people in America to believe you care for them……. than care for them. You want people to believe you have a Tax Plan that will lower taxes and be revenue neutral, then share it. The excuse, “if I announce the plan I will be attacked,” is pure bull. False attacks in this instant information world don’t stick.  Brilliant tax plans will prevail and win the day. Silence and a lack of transparency will indict you.

Political or business leaders must have a solid consistent core. A consistent authentic core is the very definition of integrity. A strong core, a strong base, empowers one to be consistent in word and action. Develop your core. Be true to your core and there will be no conflicting evidence to your current words. There will be no flip-flopping. Because last night in America, Barack Obama won 50% of the popular vote to Mitt Romney’s 48%. It would appear the 47% who were previously the butt of Mitt’s scorn rallied 3% of their friends to send the message to Governor Romney that the feeling was mutual.

5 Lessons

  1. Strong Core – Develop a strong enduring vision
  2. Authenticity – Be consistent and true to the core
  3. Integrity – Don’t say anything in private that you wouldn’t say in public
  4. Transparency – Share the gory details
  5. Consistency – It will need to prove yourself with confirming actions over a long period of time when your vision changes
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