The GOP and the Art of the Sale in 2018
People often vote the same way they buy cars.
After being a conservative writer and also in car sales for years, one key observation resonates louder every day. The Republican Party and the Conservative movement overall does a poor job in selling, marketing and justifying policy ideas outside their core base. Democrats and Liberals have been much better at it. The art of the deal largely depends on the art of the sale. This will become even more important for the GOP going into the mid-term elections after landing a major legislative victory in tax reform.
Having the best product or deal alone is not enough to make the sale. In most cases absent devout loyalty, the most powerful attribute that influences if someone will even consider your brand is perception. The best way to overcome that challenge is how a brands product is presented, or put into the crucial sales context of “ what this means to you as a benefit is ”. This is will often be the most powerful determining factor in the outcome of a sales/marketing process.
Perceptions and marketing are not only powerful and integral tools in selling tangible items, but also play the similar roles in why people vote the same way they buy cars.
The GOP is the vehicle to political power for conservative ideas. However a problem for the Party is that too often people who run as Republicans try to make their personalities ‘the’ brand, rather than represent or bear the standards of the brand itself. This has been the case with President Trump and so was the case of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Populism may help to win elections as in the case of President Trump, but it is no substitute for the brand of principles that deliver results. Just as with a car brand, there has to be unity to represent the principles of the brand. Otherwise the brand recognition and identity will be blurred to the point where it is less attractive or turn people away. Many people will not be inclined to even visit your ‘showroom’.
President Trump’s wins in his first year have always been when he stuck to promoting the core principles of the conservative brand as benefits rather than injecting his personality or insults to opponents on Twitter. His appointment of Neil Gorsuch represented the conservative brand of limited government and rule of law. So too when he focuses on the economic growth aspects of reducing bureaucracy, regulatory burdens and taxes. If President current low approval ratings of 39% remains or get worse, it will be a significant liability to both his agenda and the GOP's ability hold on to majorities in Congress. If President Trump intends to keep winning in 2018 he has stop the losing strategy of inflammatory tweets, and being baited into confrontations that distract from policy successes. 2018 must be the year that both Mr. Trump and the GOP aggressively sell their achievements and ideas.
In selling the tax reform bill the President and the GOP should concentrate their efforts around a key tenet of the conservative brand that many Americans will resonate with. That is, economic freedom, the free movement of capital to where they are most productive. They must also justify the economic freedom aspect of the brand by using examples from the past, and currently in states where conservative policies have elevated economic freedom to enhance the prospects of Americans at all stages of the income ladder. It must be reinforced that capital has been more productive when individuals and entrepreneurs control their own than when it is controlled by politicians and unelected bureaucrats.
Over a year since Donald Trump won the presidency and the GOP gained majorities in both chambers of Congress, the conversation continues to explain how Hillary Clinton lost. A telling but often overlooked explanation lies with how the conservative and progressive brands have played out in the states. An analysis by economist Stephen Moore of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2016 edition of ‘Rich States, Poor States’ points out that the 10 blue states that Hillary Clinton won by the largest margins also loss domestic migration (excluding immigration) over 10 years. All have been states where the progressive brands of high taxes, high regulation, big government and environmental extremism have permeated. People, taxpayers and capital are leaving blue states in droves.
Mr. Moore also observed that the 10 states that had the largest percentage vote for Donald Trump were net population gainers. He continued by noting that between 2004 and 2014 the two largest conservative states in terms of population size, Florida and Texas gained almost one million new residents each while the two populous liberal states California and New York saw an equal-sized exodus.
After the tax reform bill was passed liberal NY state governor and possible 2020 presidential candidate contender Andrew Cuomo said that this policy was intended to pillage blue states. Expect to see such rhetoric from liberals going to the mid-term election season as they try to portray a negative perception of the GOP brand. However the real pillaging of residents in blue states have been progressive policies that make it even more expensive for residents to afford to live, work, start businesses. These include residents with the political identities that liberals purport to be the champions for such as the, poor, middle class, minorities, women, young people and the elderly. Almost every day I have a client who tells me they cannot afford to retire in NY even if they own their homes outright because of the high taxes. They were high before there was a President Trump or the GOP majorities in Congress.
This is more reason why the GOP has to make 2018 the year when it sells, defines and enhance the brand perception of conservative ideas and wrestle away the advantage liberals have had in redefining it in negative caricatures. It will need an aggressive counter attack campaign to debunk the common liberal talking points that Republicans are racist, favor the rich and are hurting the middle class. Republicans have missed the opportunity many times to reinforce that Hillary Clinton's majority in the popular vote largely came from the most elitist and wealthy counties in NY and CA. This should be the year when the GOP aggressively puts the progressive brand model exemplified in blue states on defense, on how it has failed the supposed groups it claims to help. If the GOP can make 2018 the epic year of the clash of the political brands in how each have fared in delivering economic growth and upward mobility to Americans, it will have a successful year.
President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan have spoken about the record number of bills that have been passed, and the number of regulations cut during the first year of Mr. Trump’s presidency. However more efforts should be spent to concisely communicate to Americans how these actions are specifically benefiting them, to meet the sales criteria of “ What this means to you as a benefit is…” No matter how advanced a car is with features, benefits and value, if the salesperson’s presentation does not meet the aforementioned sales criteria, it’s a lot more difficult to make the sale. The same principle applies even more to President Trump and the GOP in 2018.