Tag Archives: GOP Debates

Marco Rubio’s Words That Don’t Work

14 Mar

Trump Rubio Header Pix                        

     The gloves have come off. Except this isn’t a fistfight, it’s more like a middle school food fight. Welcome to the 2016 GOP presidential race.

     It’s an election cycle where virtually every known rule about political campaigns has been run through the shredder—several times. But the sudden shift by Senator Marco Rubio to complete with Donald Trump in his own sandbox defies established strategic positioning and communication logic.

    The shift in Senator Rubio’s tactics that began with the debates on February 25th, saw him sharply attack Donald Trump by trading personal insults before a CNN audience of millions. The attacks have continued on the campaign trail with the Rubio campaign even posting videos on its YouTube feed.  

     What’s puzzling is why Senator Rubio would go there. Yes, he is trailing in both the polls and delegate count to both Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. And yes, he has to do something to spark his campaign and differentiate himself. But competing with Trump in the rhetoric of personal assaults only lowers himself to Trump’s level in an arena where he can’t win. It simply defies strategic thinking.

     Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter argues that effective strategy is not competing in the same race, but running a different race.

     “Competitive strategy is about being different,” says Porter. “It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” 

Trump Rubio Perceptual Map

Figure 1

      What applies to business strategy, also applies to strategic communication. For the moment, Sen. Rubio has a strategic communication problem that is in part creating his electoral problem. The perceptual map below shows how the remaining four republican candidates are positioned on axis of personal attacks verses conservative values and voter empathy. (Figure 1) By occupying with Trump a similar position on the perceptual branding map, Rubio cannot differentiate himself.   He somehow has to figure out how to re-position himself in the sweet spot in the mind of the voters—that is, outside of the blue curve on the map. 

Effective strategy is more than positioning.  Porter argues that it is also equal parts operational efficiencies and competencies.  For example, Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 not just because of where he positioned himself in the mind of the voter, but also because his campaign had a core competency in social media engagement.  In 2012, the Obama campaign won again in part with its strategic superiority in using big data to mine the voter rolls.

     Time is clearly running out for Sen. Rubio and it may be already too late to for strategic changes to have any immediate impact.  If anyone is running a different race, it’s clearly Trump. Where the race is going, we don’t yet know.  Buckle up.

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GOP Presidential Buzz — Who’s Got it, Who Doesn’t

10 Aug

GOP Debates 1  8-15

      It was reality TV at its best.  There was shouting, insults, bombastic rhetoric, and… Rosie O’Donnell.   Welcome to the first 2016 GOP presidential debates.  As one political scientist noted, it was Jerry Springer without Jerry.  No, this is not your father’s Republican Party anymore.  But television viewers ate it up.   They didn’t just watch, they tweeted, liked, searched, posted, and searched some more.

     This modern day media consumption phenomena creates real-time winners and losers.  Marketers call it “buzz.”  Google calls it “search.”  Whatever you call it, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina owned it during the debates and it will likely deliver a short term boost to their campaigns. 

Figure 1

Figure 1

     The data from Google Trends shows that during the prime time debates, Donald Trump dominated web searches of people looking for more information on him and his presidential campaign. (Figure 1)  It doesn’t hurt that Trump has transformed himself into what political scientist David Schultz would call a politainer.  None of his nine competitors on the stage came close to the internet interaction he drove throughout the evening debates. 

     During the early undercard event called the “happy hour” debates, former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina also dominated internet buzz. (Figure 2)  Arguably, she commanded the attention in a more credible way.  Fiorina’s presence and responses were articulate, commanding, and authoritative.  She wasn’t just a candidate, she was a one-person c-suite—who just happens to be a woman.  She clearly connected with the audience in ways her early evening cohort did not.   GOP Debates 3  8-15

     What both Trump and Fiorina accomplished is part of the modern day political calculus.  In reality, it’s not much different from consumer product campaigns.  Buzz is one of the seven essential marketing drivers that brands from Proctor & Gamble to Beyonce use to grow their business.  

     Four years ago, I conducted a similar analysis of how buzz predicted the top finishers in the Iowa Caucuses where Rick Santorum won by a handful of votes.  The key is to stay consistent in the messaging and deliver enough strategic product news (campaign stances/messaging) to lead the followers on a journey toward activation—that is, contributing money and voting.   Santorum wasn’t able to sustain that early momentum and later dropped out of the race.  The jury is still out on whether Trump can also sustain the momentum, especially given his public statements about women and his not-so-wise fight with Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

     Social media is also part of the new calculus and contributes significantly to buzz and search.  On Twitter alone, interactions with the GOP debate topped major sporting events.

     It’s also no coincidence that Facebook co-sponsored the GOP debates with Fox News.  Facebook reports that 7.5 million people had more than 20 million interactions on the broadcast—that includes posts, likes and shares.   This is the new modern-day political engagement.   The candidates answered questions from Facebook during the debates through the channel’s own engagement campaign that drew 5 million views and 40,000 responses.   On the day of the event, Trump’s staff used the new “live” on Facebook feature to stream his arrival in Cleveland.   As of this writing it has earned more than two million views and 10,000 shares.

 

     Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign.  As the first GOP debates showed, it will be a different kind of series of events with online engagement becoming increasing important drivers for securing funds and votes.

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