Don’t Proclaim Change Too Fast

Barack Obama voters are only half your customers
55 million didn’t vote for him.

Marketers spend an incredible amount of time focusing on the changing world.  Pop culture, sports, politics — all are grist for the advertising mill.

Barack Obama’s election, while signaling a huge shift in American politics and society, is not the catalyst for you to start changing your campaigns and singing the praises of diversity and change, regardless of your political beliefs.  Here’s why: There is no doubt that John McCain was “thumped” as CNN so ungraciously described in its post-election coverage.  In a world where tenths of a percentage point can change the perception of a geographical area, it appears that Barack Obama triumphed by 5 or 6 points in the popular vote.

The effect of that size triumph is significant when most citizens lived through weeks of officials hand-counting ballots in Florida two election cycles ago.

But this was not a landslide, you marketer, you businessperson, you advertiser.  Don’t treat yesterday’s historic election as a landslide or a change in the world.  Most recent elections except for George W. Bush’s two elections were won by bigger electoral college margins.  Both of Clinton’s elections, as well as George H.W. Bush’s election were won with more electoral votes.  And let’s not even think about the Reagan re-election. In fact, you would have to go back to Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford in 1976 to see as tight a race in electoral votes.

About half of your customers, prospects and vendors are not happy with the results of the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

No matter your politics, don’t lose site of this issue.  About 55 million Americans over the age of 18 voted for the other candidate.  If you shift any of your messaging to celebrate the outcome rather than the event, you run a huge risk of alienating some portion of that group.  Frankly, almost any percentage of 55 million people is too big a percentage to upset.

Smart marketers know to celebrate the Super Bowl, not the Super Bowl champions, unless they are marketing locally to the market that produced the winning team.  You should follow their lead.  Celebrate the historic election of major party tickets being gender and race diverse.  Celebrate the massive voter turnout.  Celebrate both candidates’ eloquence after the election.

But leave the change messaging to mainstream media.  Your job is selling widgets, and 55 million people who voted for a losing candidate won’t be happy buyers if you remind them of who won.

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