Why Romney Lost
Conservatives instinctively ground all of their ideas and policies in time-tested philosophies of man and of government. Most successful Republican candidates also paint a picture of what they can do and how their ideas are better than their opponents. This is why people evoke the memory of Ronald Reagan so often; because he is the last Republican candidate for president to conduct his campaign explicitly and consistently within this framework.
During the presidential campaign, Romney did talk about what he could do and what he would do as president, but he never presented his ideas and policies in the context of conservative principles. Nor did he paint a picture of how his ideas and policies would work better than what Obama has done and will do.
Secondly, he almost never drew a conclusion about how his ideas and policies would make a difference in voters' lives. Much the same as a carpenter needs to take a punch and set the nail into the wood so it will sink below the surface, a speaker must set his point in granite by drawing a conclusion that matters to the listeners and to their lives and connects with them clearly and explicitly on an emotional level.
For example, Romney repeatedly promised that he would repeal ObamaCare, but he did not say WHY he would do so. He did not talk about what is wrong with what Obama and the Democrats did when they passed the bill, nor did he explain how the voters' lives would be better with ObamaCare repealed.
The explanation of how these mistakes led to Romney's defeat is the result of an objective analysis, because it is based on an understanding of the universal rules of marketing and communication that are rooted in the laws of branding and positioning. The laws always work because they are based on neuroscience, the way the mind works. And when these laws are violated, there is always a failure to communicate.
Simply put, when one is trying to persuade people to buy a brand, it is necessary to follow these principles or you will fail. Whether in the consumer arena or in politics, the laws work equally well.
In order to demonstrate just how badly the Romney campaign missed the mark, we present the nine Laws of Positioning. They have been developed over time to apply to consumers, but of course they apply to people in general, anywhere they are making decisions of any kind. So, we replace the words "consumers," "management" and "brand" with the words "voters," "campaign" and "politician."
These laws hold the key to every successful marketing campaign and every successful election campaign. Some people may object and say that an election is not a marketing campaign. But an election is nothing if it is not a marketing campaign. The only difference is that there is not as much time for a candidate in an election as there is for a consumer or business brand after a launch. And with less time, it is even more vital to be aware of the Laws of Positioning and to follow them. Here are the nine Laws of Positioning:
• The battle during the election takes place within the voters' minds.
• A position is a place in the voters' minds -- literally a territorial claim made by the candidate.
• Two politicians cannot occupy the same territory or position in the voters' minds.
• To qualify as a true position, it must differentiate the politician in terms of something meaningful to the voter; in other words, a benefit.
• The benefit must have an emotional root or touchstone in the voters' minds.
• Once established, this touchstone prevents the competition from usurping the politician's territorial claim.
• The position applies to virtually every voter in the marketplace. Not every voter will be moved by the politician's position, but every voter must know what the position is (e.g., lower taxes) even if they do not buy into it.
• A position can be influenced by the campaign at any given time, but cannot be changed arbitrarily by the campaign.
• A politician cannot be repositioned easily or at all once a campaign begins unless he or she is so weak that the politician's brand has never been established.
When politicians fail to connect with voters by communicating a key emotional benefit according to these principles, they fail.
On July 3 of 2012, the Rasmussen poll showed Romney in the lead nationally by four percentage points. Unfortunately for the Romney campaign, the good news in the national poll did not translate into a lead in the Electoral College. According to the projections that morning there were 100 Electoral College votes in play and Obama was leading in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia.
If the trend continued, all Obama needed was Wisconsin and Virginia and he would be president again.
The numbers at that time in the campaign told us that the campaign was missing something, something vital, in at least several ways. Romney was missing a position that connects on an emotional level with the voters. It was clear that the Romney people lacked the vital insights needed to frame a strategy that could win the White House for their client.
Our analysis of the Rasmussen data led us directly to the inescapable conclusion that the campaign desperately needed to turn over the stones that were covering up the secrets to victory. Unfortunately, the Romney campaign management ignored our warnings and rejected the help we offered.
Romney lost the presidency because he failed to connect emotionally with the voters. He and his advisors failed to realize that they had to present Romney as uniquely able to deliver an emotional benefit that Obama could not. They talked about what he had done in his career, but seldom talked about what he would do for the people and for the country. Presidential elections in America are won by candidates who successfully persuade the people that they are able to create the conditions that will improve the voters' lives. This is the quintessential way to deliver a powerful emotional benefit.
The supreme irony of the campaign is that neither candidate accomplished the goal of connecting the emotional benefit of a better life for the voters to his candidacy.
Romney did try to connect himself to a better life for the voters, but he waited too long. It was too late in the campaign by the time he finally addressed this bedrock claim of nearly all successful campaigns. But even when he did try, he left out too many pieces.
He left out the context, the first principles. And he left out the conclusion. He never connected his ideas to the benefit of a better life for all. He never set the nail.