As a Strategist, I am guilty of seeing most things through a Brand-Marketing filter.
As such, the McCampaign was painful to watch. To get it out of my system, here are my thoughts on why he lost and what Radio can learn from the election mistakes…
1 – McCain completely wasted all the time between his winning the nomination and the Democrat’s convention: 5 months.
He did nothing from March to August while Hillary and Obama bitterly argued and aired the party’s dirty laundry in public. He could have waltzed into the General Election with a 15 point lead. Talk about your afternoon nap.
When you have a leg up, take full advantage of it, and quickly. Second chances are very rare
2 – When Obama broke his pledge to use Public Financing, McCain should have done the same. The financial imbalance was impossible to overcome once Mickey, Minnie, Manny, Moe, & Jack were donating $199 to the Dems. from any- and everywhere on the planet. $573-million to $293-million. So, the GOP had a highly-principled loser. Nice.
Being a nice guy, in and of itself, gets you nothing good when you’re in a street fight.
3 – McCain’s Brand was/is: “Maverick.” But, he spent 90% of the campaign as a Panderer, instead. And, while McCain wandered all over the branding frontier, Obama’s message was consistent from Day #1: CHANGE.
Stick to your Brand or the other guy will stick it to you.
4 – Sarah Palin was a terrible mistake, making him seem just as conniving as the other side. Again, less Maverick and more Cynic. She brought him few Conservatives and zero Hillary women. What McCain may have thought would be a good move for a Maverick, turned out to be puzzling and smelled calculating.
Do all of your people and promotions fit your Brand?
5 – Naming Palin took away one of the chief advantages the McCain campaign had over Obama from the start: Experience. Once Palin came on board, McCain could never credibly say again, "…he’s not tested, not ready." "…what? And, your moose hunter is?"
Know your strengths and your competitor’s weaknesses. Reinforce the former and exploit the latter.
6 – The campaign had no theme; no easy-to-understand and repeat reason to vote for him.
If you have a great theme, stay with it long past when you are personally tired of it. Chances are, when you are bored with the theme, the Listeners are just beginning to understand and remember it.
7 – He never went for the jugular. McCain’s best marketing was too late and too timid.
There is winning and losing. You must always assume the other guy is trying beat your brains in and act accordingly. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.
8 – "…I’m running back to DC now to fix the economy!!!" Can you spell Alexander Haig? Then Bush calls them BOTH back to the White House and takes all the air out of McCain’s sails.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t control. Maximize the Cans, don’t sweat the Can’ts.
Being a Maverick doesn’t mean being reckless. It doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes think about what you are about to do.
9 – He was blindsided by the change in the economy and when things went south could not articulate a meaningful difference between himself and GWBush. Nor, did he ever get passed, "…he’s gonna raise your taxes!!" The kind of economic pain voters were feeling and fearing was not about Taxes. Their concern was much more urgent.
At the same time, the Obama campaign was in heavy saturation with their “John McCain IS George Bush” ads.
Expect surprises and reevaluate your strategy when they occur.
10 – Publicly closing down his Michigan operation took the passion and emotional petrol out of the campaign people. That’s when they knew he had given up. And, they did, too.
Do the people who work for you think your Radio station is a winner? Will they lay it on the line for you? Do they believe you are as committed to them as they are to you?
–Bob Harper www.BobHarper.com