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Marketing lessons from the presidential election

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives at his election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012.

David Goldman/AP

The U.S. presidential candidates, and their surrogates, had oodles of cash to spend on ads during the election, a marketer's dream. But sales columnist Geoffrey James says the results show that spamming your brand won't sell your product.

"Modern elections spend billions of dollars on broadcast advertising, to surprisingly little effect, only managing to change a small number of voters to switch sides. The problem is that in today's brand-laden world, most people have become experts at tuning out repetitive messages and, indeed, quickly find them annoying rather than interesting or informative," he writes.

A second lesson is that once you get angry, you have lost the argument. Conservative pundits, he notes, are in a constant state of rage and disgust. While that can stir the emotions of supporters, they are actually weak tools to bring others around to your viewpoint. "The most important rule of negotiating is 'never lose your temper' and the most important rule of selling is 'don't take it personally.' A quiet conversation always works better than a furious sales pitch," he advises.

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Another lesson: Many folks dislike and distrust CEOs. Mitt Romney's prime selling feature was that he had been a CEO, and could get things done. Linda McMahon, the ex-CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, had a similar pitch in her run for a Senate seat in Connecticut. But both candidates lost, in her case for the second time at the Senatorial level. After decades of downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring, Mr. James says the message that "I'm a CEO, trust me," doesn't work.

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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