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Political Strategy

Repairing Damaged Brands… And Damaged Political Parties

Damaged brands can recover. So can damaged political parties. Companies and individuals ranging from Dell, Michael Vick, to Tylenol have made amends or reinvented themselves in such a manner that has rebuilt their trust with the public.

So how do you do it? How does a political party do it?

It’s the same prescription for both: Stop ignoring your customers’ needs and pretending that they don’t matter. Show some compassion and demonstrate that you are suffering the same maladies as your voters. Prove to them that you really care and that you are willing to make things right. Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain” was incredibly effective for a reason.

Voters, like customers, are connected. If you lose one, you lose their friends, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.

Every candidate is an extension of a brand and is acting on behalf of their party. It only takes one stupid/careless/ignorant statement by a down-ticket candidate to wreck every other candidate with an R by their name.

Voters never forget. But they might be persuaded to forgive you if given a reason to.

Welcome change and outside help. Reach out to voters and ask them to help you improve. Identify what voters need and want from you and try to deliver. Give them something to rally around, something that is relevant to their needs.

Don’t be desperate and don’t pander. Be genuine. Voters can smell a con job. They also can smell fear. They will not jump on the squishy crisis train. Be confident about who you are and why you can make a difference in their lives. You also have to show them how it will make a difference in a language they can understand.

Constantly ask voters for advice on how you’re doing and make them part of the rebranding effort.  Create a community online and offline who can be part of the process and keep them up to date with your progress, where you are headed, and how their contributions are part of the path. If they are involved with the process they will be committed to ensuring that their efforts will be successful.

Ignore Your Customer (or Voters) At Your Own Peril

Marketers who have been around the block know that business interests often trump consumer needs. Yes, shocking. Who knew that businesses would expect customers to conform to their processes rather than creating products and services that fit the customer’s needs?

While there are many frustrations for market researchers, one particularly bothersome item that occasionally arises is hearing executives say that they need to educate their customers on why their (insert product or service here) is better than the requested needs of the consumer. Yes, we know better and we will be successful if we can just improve our communications. We don’t have a product problem, it is a communications problem. Ignore the research. Our customers don’t know what they want and we have to tell them what they need.

The current healthcare debate is a great case study of this problem. Instead of providing a solution that most Americans would find of interest, the current proponents of the plan are trying to convince a larger number of Americans that they know better and their way is the only solution.

On the other side of the fence, health insurance companies have consistently failed over the years to take care of their customers, and they’ve created processes only an actuary could love. Insurance companies deserve to be forced into change. If they had made changes and innovated along the way, consumers would not be demanding reform.

With these two sides failing to listen to their customers/constituents...is it any wonder that people are fervently protesting?

What should be worrying the proponents of healthcare reform are not the people protesting the plan, it is the silent consumers/voters watching and complaining quietly. For every customer who calls to complain, there is a far larger number who do not call and will defect at the first opportunity.

There is not a communications plan or strategy that can successfully force consumers into a program they don’t want. The consumer or voter will always win out in the end with their wallets or their votes. He who ignores his customers/voters, does so at their own peril.