Marketing And The Republican Autopsy

The Republican’s recently issued an interesting competitive analysis of how the party’s marketing operations stack up. The Growth and Opportunity Project has been dubbed the “Republican Autopsy” for accepting that the 2012 national elections were a disaster for the party.

The major criticism of the report is that it excludes policy consideration. To critics the report is like cleaning your bathroom while someone is burning down your house. It focuses on the wrong thing. This criticism reflects wider tensions in marketing between product and presentation. The Marketing Concept is about serving voters and voters care about presentation. As such I’d argue you need both a good product (policy) and superior presentation. Thus I would say this project is like cleaning your bathroom while someone is traipsing mud through your front door, useful but not sufficient. I’d advise the Republicans to reconsider policy but they’d be stupid not to want to get their presentation and operations right too.

Interestingly policy and presentation aren’t entirely separable. The report’s authors avoid “policy” but make it clear that apppearing anti-Hispanic sets the wrong tone and isn’t in the party’s long term intere. They see policy change as necessary. The need for policy change reflects the marketing truism: it is a lot easier to persuade a consumer to buy a product they like than trick them into buying one they don’t.

The marketing operations of the Obama campaign which are admired by the Republicans have lessons for commercial marketers. Identifying your supporters and ensuring they turn out to vote isn’t totally different to securing consumer choice in the cereal aisle. Political marketing, as commercial marketing, can benefit from using big data effectively to, for example, understand changing populations.

As a marketing professor I’m puzzled by those who criticize the use of effective marketing tactics. If you believe your party has the best ideas then using the best marketing techniques available seems to me to be a civic duty. Anyone who decries the use of big data or persuasion techniques by their political party doesn’t seem to care about winning.  If you don’t care whether your party wins isn’t politics boring and pointless? At least when following celebrity gossip the people are more attractive.

To me Democrats are barking up the wrong tree when they complain about Frank Luntz, (who “renamed” the estate tax the “death tax”). They should instead aim to beat him at his own game. The Republicans shouldn’t complain about the Obama data operation they should, as the Republican autopsy advises, aim to improve their own data operation. Perhaps the Republican autopsy will help them improve the party’s election prospects, perhaps it won’t, but as a marketing professor I don’t blame them for trying.

All marketers can benefit from reading the Republican autopsy to see an interesting competitive analysis.

Read: Republican National Committee (RNC), The Growth and Opportunity Project (2013), available here.