Getting Things Wrong — Election Edition

Why are we so worried about getting things wrong?

I got the 2016 election completely wrong and I wasn’t alone. Trump’s own biography called it “miraculous”. I was also surprised Barack Obama won in 2008. I covered that campaign from a bunker-basement at Fox News, and a TV-free desk at The New York Times, when Facebook was about friends who didn’t talk about life off the island of Manhattan.

The pattern here isn’t (arguably) my stupidity but rather the context; where I was sitting at the time, with whom, and for which target audience.

Fox News sells burgers to fat people, so do advertising agencies. They use data that is mostly qualitative to create content but depend on quantitative results to prove it works.

How does any brand gauge the mood in the third most populous nation on earth, where a baby is born every nine seconds, voting is not compulsory and even registered voters lie on the census?

Just because it has scientific survey on the label doesn’t mean it’s right. Some surveys are only marginally better than a clairvoyant. Most election polling sample sizes are less than 2,000 likely or registered voters. They’re a solid guide, not an answer. Still, we act surprised when they’re wrong.

Being wrong is totally fine sometimes.

It is easier to talk about Donald Trump as if he were a brand rather than a politician. I’m sure we all did at some point during the last two election campaigns. He does it himself, with less emphasis on the critique. Trump — the human brand — leveraged his fame at the right moment to enter a new category, i.e., the US government.

Donald Trump approached the 2016 race like a challenger brand while Hillary Clinton was a just for women brand extension.

Trump is a personality nobody in polite company admits to admiring. He has something every fast food-loving, gas guzzling, or budget conscious CMO understands; he does not care for vegetables, humanity, or paid advertising.

Donald Trump approached the 2016 race like a challenger brand with a “go viral” brief. Hillary Clinton was a just for women product extension in an established brand portfolio with a super bowl media budget.

Continuing my bastardization of brand theory, Trump maintained loyalty and picked up voters from new audiences. People who omnibus surveys would never reach. His voting consumers included all demographics, including nine per cent of Democrats and many, many white women. The story was all about the psychographics.

Donald Trump won the popularity Olympics, even if he didn’t win the popular vote.