Romney’s Biggest Marketing Mistake

Tired of Presidential Politics? Let’s Talk Marketing Instead

This election was a classic lesson in understanding where your target is in the sales cycle. And if you ignore this fundamental, as the Romney campaign did, you will waste a ton of money.

That’s what I love about marketing. It looks simple from the outside. It is simple from the inside, but it’s counterintuitive and this makes it so easy to make mistakes. It’s not what you believe that’s important. It’s what your target believes.

Mistake #1 Not Segmenting Your Audience

The Republicans knew President Obama was vulnerable. His base was disappointed.

But they didn’t start talking to their most important market segment until the last two weeks. They spent the entire campaign preaching to their choir by relentlessly beating up on Obama.

What was the most important segment for Romney? The Undecideds. But he spent the whole campaign speaking to his base. By this I mean he was relentlessly negative. Every speech was filled with negativity about Obama.

His base certainly agreed with this, at least the Fox News crowd. But what did the moderate Republicans, the Independents and the Undecideds believe?

They accepted that Obama was a good man, sincere, hard working, principled, and a true patriot who loved this country. Liberal, but not insanely so.

The accepted belief was that Obama was moderate. Too moderate, in fact, in personality to drive change in the partisan politics of the day or to inspire change as they wanted a great leader to do.

That belief was what the Romney campaign should have targeted.

All my friends in Fox News nation choke on the above paragraphs, right? But very few of the Undecideds watched Fox News. Very few of the Undecideds agreed with the attacks on Obama. Big marketing mistake.

Obama was vulnerable, just not with an attack that claimed he was responsible for the lack of growth in the economy. Every survey I read said this very plainly. The majority of Americans did not hold Obama responsible for the recession.

Mistake #2 Not Understanding The Accepted Beliefs of Your Target

Every speech by Romney claimed “You’ve had enough time to fix the economy, Mr President.” Unfortunately for the campaign, the majority of Americans and especially the Undecideds, didn’t believe this.

First rule of good marketing: Start with the accepted beliefs of your target. If you do, you open the target’s mind to the rest of your argument. It is such a basic law of persuasion and rhetoric. Everyone schooled in leadership knows this.

If you don’t get your audience’s current beliefs correct, you lose them from the very beginning. They aren’t really listening to you no matter what you say after that.

This is so basic that every infomercial you see in TV advertising uses it to start their sales pitch: “Problem? Solution. Feel, felt, found.” How many millions of advertising dollars were wasted with ads that claimed that Obama was the reason for high unemployment and a weak economy?

Unfortunately, for the geniuses that ran Romney’s campaign, the Undecideds didn’t believe this.

The accepted beliefs of the Undecideds was the key to winning this campaign. Getting this wrong was the biggest mistake of the Rove, I mean Romney, presidential marketing campaign.

What do you think the Romney campaign did wrong? Leave a comment, thanks.

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