Marketing Lessons From the Brown-Coakley Contest

Martha Coakley lost her Senate race for one simple reason – she didn’t inspire loyalty & passion. Full disclosure, I am a registered Democrat, and so are many of my friends and family. But I also know many Independents and Republicans.

During the short run of the Massachusetts special election, Scott Brown supporters displayed aggressive passion. They were actively soliciting votes on Twitter, disarming negative publicity on Facebook, even debating Brown’s strengths in lunch rooms everywhere. These were the actions of driven voters.

Contrast that to the “Coakley Supporters” I know. They were making statements like “don’t let Scott Brown win” and “Coakley is better than the alternative.” Did Coakley have her share of passionate supporters – of course. What she forgot was that core staff needed to inspire tens of thousands more Democrats to come to the polls. She took for granted the “blueness” of Massachusetts and underestimated Brown’s ability to rally the troops.

Convincing people not to like Scott Brown was not only ineffective for Coakley, but it is never enough. Coakley lost her Senate bid for the same reason John Kerry lost the Presidential race in 2004. Being Anti-Bush was not enough to bring Democrats to the polls, to call their friends and debate the merits of their candidate, to proudly tweet their endorsement.

Last night while I sat picturing Ted Kennedy rolling over in his grave as Scott Brown made his acceptance speech, I was shaken by the reality that marketing campaigns are much the same as political campaigns.

  • Tearing down your competitor isn’t enough. You must have a product or service people want to buy.
  • Good customer service & strong communications will go viral. So will bad service.
  • Your “customers” are the strongest testament you can offer. If you’re customers aren’t willing to endorse you, who will?
  • Don’t take your customers for granted -if you want them to attend an event, download an offer or buy more product, you need to convince them to act.

Not a believer – look at the almost cult-like following of Apple, Ben & Jerry’s and Coke benefit from. Across demographics, product & service categories and even geography – one principal holds true – customer loyalty drives bottom line results.

So when you go to build your 2010 marketing plans, don’t forget the lessons Martha Coakley & Scott Brown taught us well. Loyalty matters, and you have to work for it each and every day.