It’s been said that Democrats believe they are intellectually superior, while Republicans lead with their moral superiority.
So it’s not too much to conclude that with the rise of the two Democratic candidates — one a Harvard professor, and the other Harvard graduate who is multilingual (Warren and Buttigieg) — that braininess is just what Democrats are looking for in their candidates. But is this what the country wants?
You don’t have to go very far to discover that others in the chattering class are pondering the idea that “Democratic activists have an attraction for the intellectually inclined.” A recent column in The Atlantic, “Braininess Is Now the Brand,” addressed this very issue. The column why Warren and Buttigieg have an appeal in Democratic Party precincts because of their common brand attribute — their smarts.
The problem for Democrats is that the attribute they seem to favor for their presidential candidates simply doesn’t have the same kind of appeal for the general election voter. Most voters want it in their candidates. But intelligence isn’t the it that they are looking for. This is truly a problem when it comes to winning.
One reason for the inability of this group — “intelligentsia candidatus” — to resonate with the hoi polloi is the perception that they are never wrong. It’s worse than that. Candidates on their intellectual high-horse seemingly feel that anyone who disagrees with them has a room temperature IQ and could not possibly comprehend what is being proposed. They possess the A Factor — arrogance. It’s never a good thing for people in general to have, and even worse for a politician running for office.
And for the group they are trying to persuade — average voters — they see these august group of thinkers as being “seldom right but never in doubt.” At this time in our history, that’s not a winning perception for successful election outcomes.
The savvy political consultant understands that the political game has changed thanks to Presidents Trump and Obama. These advisers are lost as to what works best in this atypical election cycle. Trump and Obama have changed the contest from a messaging and communications battle to a branding and marketing one.
To understand this branding and marketing approach, one must view the electorate not from the candidates’ perspective, but rather, from that of the voter. This means recognizing that a certain attribute such as intelligence, previously successful in elections, may not be as important as the ability to connect. And Trump knows how to connect. His Democratic opponents — not so much. As average voters see it, Trump is real, even with his warts, and the Democrats? Well they are simply politicians who do what they do — nothing!
This is the reason for President Trump’s success and which led to his ultimate victory in 2016.
A great example of the “Trump Touch” is best seen in contrasting the Hillary slogan, “I’m with her.” Candidate Trump retorted by saying “I’m with you.” For all “intents and purposes” the election was over at that moment because voters felt for the first time in a long time a presidential candidate was talking to them.
This makes so much sense to Trump supporters and no sense to Trump detractors. It’s why marketing and branding are changing our politics because Trump critics don’t realize what the other side really wants in their candidate — someone who cares about them. They don’t want some theoretical construct such as presidential demeanor to disqualify a candidate from doing the work of the people — cleaning up Washington.
If these two candidates want to win the hearts and minds of America, they need to speak to them — not at them. And when they do that, and they remember that it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind, they just may achieve their presidential ambitions.
But they may be just too smart for that!
Dr. John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert, known as The Marketing Doctor. JT utilizes his doctoral skills in applied research psychology to analyze the issues and personalities of the day utilizing his marketing and branding lens. This provides his readers with additional insight needed to understand the “new normal” in politics, news, and culture. Dr. Tantillo is the OpEd writer for Political Vanguard. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies,” and the Udemy course "Go Brand Yourself!" You can follow him on Twitter @marketingdoctor and at Facebook.com/dr.johntantillo. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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