Have We Totally Lost Our Minds?

Author: Linda J. Popky

The one thing you can say with certainty about this year’s presidential election madness is that it is definitely not boring. Sensational, shocking, entertaining—yes. Boring—no.  For better or worse, we seem to have turned the page on how elections operate.

Regardless of your political leanings, there are important lessons here for business leaders.

The first is that we are in a brand new world.
Technology enables near instantaneous coverage of candidates on a level that far surpasses even the last election four years ago. This allows participation at a higher level than ever before. It means everything that anyone says or does is captured and remarked upon later. This brings a whole new meaning to the word transparency.

It’s all about entertainment.
From the debates to late night talk shows, it’s all about who can capture mindshare and attention by being the most entertaining and provocative. Last week, Republican candidates were comparing the sizes of key anatomical parts. Old standbys like Sarah Palin show up for their 15 seconds of fame…and add fodder to the reservoir of material for comedians and talk show hosts. Candidates seem to be focused on outdoing each other in terms of making outrageous (and often bigoted) comments.

Having the best product features doesn’t mean you win.
In fact, in this particular election, having the most experience and qualifications appears to work against a candidate. Being an outsider, with little or no prior political experience, is resonating with most people. There seems to be little or no focus on how the winner will actually figure out how to run the government, particularly if they are total outsiders.

Don’t bet on the favorites.
Candidates like Jeb Bush started with the biggest pool of money and were predicted to break away from the pack. But that didn’t happen. Newer, more interesting candidates have taken center stage and pushed the known quantities off the radar screen and out of the race.

Tailoring your product to your audience is critical.
Bernie Sanders has done a great job of tuning his message to an audience that was disenfranchised and not connected to any other candidate. Many of the other candidates have not been successful at identifying the key issues their constituent bases care about and tailoring their messages to meet these expectations.

Don’t discount the competition.
No one expected Donald Trump to go this far in the process. Many candidates discounted him from day one—yet he’s leading the Republican pack and they’ve folded up shop and gone home. In one sense, Trump is the Uber of the presidential race. Ask taxi drivers how that model has impacted them.

The noise level is higher than ever before.
Even when you’ve got something great to say, if you can’t find a way to be heard above all of the noise and commotion, your message will be lost. This is the first election that is not just social media focused, but mobile driven as well.

How will this all turn out? It’s too soon to tell. The key factors of marketing all apply here: having a good strategy, a quality product, knowing your customers, creating effective sales channels to reach them, building a strong brand and executing powerful communications programs to get the message out.

Remember this as you look for a way to avoid the ongoing madness between now and November.


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