The election is behind us and it holds many lessons for marketers. The results of the election are amazingly like what we started with. A Republican House. A Democratic Senate. Barack Obama staying at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Republicans picked up one or more governorships. What happened? Why? What does it teach us about marketing and messaging?
There will be punditry aplenty among the talking heads in the weeks and months to come. Here, we will take a unique look, blending factory built housing as part of our lens, but also using some political and marketing prisms to yield an insights to help us understand and that could help us professionally.
If you aren't into politics or are just worn out after 6 billion dollars of campaign spending, please hang with me, because there are interesting lessons to be learned. In fact, let me start with the executive summary, so that you will know you want to move 'forward,' pardon the pun.
1) Once you sell someone, if you keep giving them reasons to buy in – even if they are less that thrilled as a customer – they may continue to support you. But you must, must keep engaged, keep 'selling' and telling or you will lose them. This lesson held true for both Obama and for Romney. Both sides lined up behind their man, even though millions began as less than thrilled.
2) The Importance of the Messenger. What if Marco Rubio had been Romney's pick for Veep? In manufactured housing, we know that in a heavily Hispanic market, you might want to have some Spanish speaking housing professionals. It helps if they are Hispanics themselves. In an electorate that is increasingly minority, with a strong dose of Latinos, Rubio would arguably have made the difference in FL, CO, NV, VA and other states too. Besides, Rubio is a powerful, compelling speaker! He had that Scott Walker quality of saying and meaning what he said. Romney – Rubio would have kept the last R intact on the ticket, and would have likely made a difference in drawing Hispanics, other minorities – plus other groups – more to the R table.
Again, our take away for factory built home sellers is, mirror your market as much as possible. The messenger and his delivery are important.
Now, let's mix some marketing and political analysis, for fun and for possible profitable learning! Because all of this will impact the factory built housing industry, not to mention, our nation.
Not necessarily in order of importance; and certainly not being politically correct…
Campaign Strategy. The Obama campaign was better at it overall than Romney's team, the proof is self-evident. The Obama machine knew they couldn't run on a record of higher unemployment than the day he took office, a sluggish to poor economy and 16 trillion in debt. So they did what they thought they needed to in order to win, which was scare enough people into thinking that Romney would be more for the rich, a trigger happy cowboy with the military, who would take away 'binders filled with women's' contraceptives and would leave seniors without Medicare. Unfair? That's another subject, but it worked enough. That said, give Romney credit, he way outperformed John McCain. His campaign overall gets a B (was it a B-? Let's not argue that right now…). Romney shined in the first debate, and that may have carried him to a closer or even winning finish, if not for the following.
Optics1. Chris Christie's fawning over the president's speeches post-Sandy clearly helped Obama, exit polling shows as much. *
Optics2. Never mind that in hindsight, Sandy will end up looking more and more like FEMA and the Fed's cold Katrina, as opposed to some brilliant handling that the early speeches would have let us think. Why didn't the heavily negative optics of Sandy land on team Obama? See the next bullet. Note: Sandy could prove to be helpful for factory builders, which is an important subtext for our industry.
Optics3. When we talk about how something looks – Optics – what are we really saying? How the scenario looks through lens of the media. In a 6 billion dollar campaign, much of which lined the pockets of campaign (read, political marketing) professionals and the media itself, the bulk of the TV media was in the tank for the president. That reality meant that…
Optics4. Issues that ought to have been bigger issues, never crossed the threshold of – hey, what's up with that anyway? – that could have harmed and defeated the Obama campaign. Besides Sandy/Christie, these included, but were not limited to, the following:
Benghazi, which was carefully put on the back burner for 'investigation,' even though bits of information came leaking out that all looked bad for the President.
Unemployment. It is higher today than 4 years ago. Those 5 million 'new jobs?' What was never hit hard by journalists was the fact that we needed 6 million new jobs just to keep pace with population growth. No one since FDR won with unemployment so high, which tells us that Obama's campaign won the message war, even though the facts didn't support them. Take away: you can push a rock up hill!
Poverty and Food stamps explosions. 47 million on Food stamps and 15% of the population in poverty, unemployment among blacks at record levels in modern times, all of these and more are amazing facts that somehow didn't get covered enough to cause Obama supporters to switch.
The Fiscal Cliff and Sequestration. One of many possible time bombs the media elected to gloss over in favor of comparatively more trivial topics.
Energy. There is a war on coal, just ask the miners and their owners. There has been a war on coal-fired electricity, which will drive electric costs higher. We have seen fewer permits on federal lands, in spite of prominent denials. See Executive Summary point 1.
The self-inflicted lunacy of conservatives in debates being moderated by liberals. Enough said.
We could go on, but you get the point. Suffice it to say, that sans the mainstream media's significant tilt toward the D's, we'd be talking about president-elect Romney now rather than 4 more years of President Obama.
The lesson for manufactured housing? We need to craft and cultivate our media relationships too. For those who have not attended an Attracting More Customers with Cash or Good Credit presentation, if you are near Iowa, please attend and see how valuable good PR can be for our industry.
Romney and his campaign will get beat up and parsed to death, but let's be balanced and fair. They way outperformed the John McCain 2008 campaign. They deserves a campaign B. They happened to be up against shrewd campaigners in Team Obama, it's their specialty. Romney was right to say that records matter, and that his was one of delivering to his investors at Bain, on the Olympics and for Massachusetts as governor.
But those potentially powerful Romney messages certainly weren't picked up by the media at large.
Isn't this a little analogous to manufactured housing? Don't we have a solid, good product? Yes, we do! What's the problem? We as an industry don't message it as we ought to either! It will NOT fall into our laps!
We have to make it happen. We either define ourselves, or others will define us. In Romney's case, team Obama defined him early and often. We too often get defined by a less than loving media. But the fingers point back towards us industry pros.
Just as Romney missed opportunities to clarify early and often on the auto bail out (read the actual Romney NYTimes OpEd, it wasn't much like Obama or Biden painted it) or other issues that could have won him MI and Ohio, so too manufactured housing has missed early and often the chance to tell our message well.
Problems are Opportunities in Disguise
Jack Kennedy cited the Chinese maxim that their character for crisis also meant opportunity. That is true for us today professionally (and politically). We have 20,000,000 homes that need to be built between now and 2030. Factory building ought to be at the forefront of that effort. Having the right messenger and the right marketing does make a difference.
Let me close with the footnote that Madison Avenue, the 'professionals,' don't always have the best results. With 6 billion dollars spent this season on elections, there has been surprisingly little political shift. Crafting the right message, having the right messenger and delivery are critical in any promotional effort, business or politics. ##
* That is suggested by Chris Matthews of MSNBC "I'm so glad we had that storm last week," Matthews said. Somebody off-screen was saying "oooh" at that remark, but Matthews explained. "No, politically I should say — not in terms of hurting people. The storm brought in possibilities for good politics.” (Fox).
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