Marketing lessons from Mitt and the $10,000 Bet

The big social media takeaway from last weekend’s Republican debate in Iowa was Mitt Romney offering Rick Perry a $10,000 bet on a policy position.  But the moment also provides 3 great lessons for marketers.

Context is critically important. One of the first lessons we learn is the importance of context – there is a time and place for every message.  Anyone caught passing a note to the cute girl in the front row in first grade and facing the embarrassment of having the note read aloud by your teacher can relate.  Mitt forgot that he was not only in front of millions of potential voters, but an army of social media pundits eager to pounce on any mistake.

For those of us who live on the internet, realize anything we post becomes part of the permanent record.  When running a promotion or committing anything to writing, think about the impact of your words in various contexts – from the front page of the New York Times to being rebroadcast by your least favorite political talk show host.  You can never assume a sentence will always be placed in context.

Consumers interpret moments in unexpected ways.  After the bet comment, the debate hall had moved on to the next question.  If you read the wire service or newspaper coverage that evening, the bet was not even mentioned.  But by Sunday morning it was the most talked about moment of the debate.

Again, when you make your living with words in public places, you have to think beyond your perspective before you post.  One of the most important lessons I am learning these days is the impact of culture on perception.  Take two people from different regions with different backgrounds, and they can see a message two totally different ways.  You know your audience, but you must also continually educate yourself on cultural impact on marketing.  Know your dominant culture, and experiment with writing in the voice of other cultures.  Work at reducing your risk of misinterpretation.

Don’t over commit.  (Or is it co-Mitt?).  Mitt was convinced he was right and Perry was wrong.  The bet proved he stood behind his opinion.  Naming any amount of money was unnecessary. Mitt is working to build a reputation as the trustworthy candidate, the non-fire bomb thrower.  He is working hard to make his word means something.  So he should have just offered Perry a bet.  Extend his hand to show he’s putting his word behind it.  Naming an amount of money, no matter the amount, was not required.

The risk to marketing people is over commitment.  To confuse truth with spin.  To go from selling the sizzle on your steak, to selling the sizzle on someone else’s steak.  And every time you cross that line, you run a risk.  In my career, I’ve learned to work hard to promote my product or service, squeeze every benefit and advantage out of the copy, but don’t overreach.  It seems to always cost more than $10,000.

This was a post by Rj.

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  1. Great article, i couldnt agree more. Lets see if those “Mitts” out there read it and learn.

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