Why Scott Brown Really Won (& how to leverage the lesson)

The Copy Bitch lives in Massachusetts, and like everyone else in the Bay State, our eyeballs were glued to the returns last night in the special election for the late Ted Kennedy’s senate seat. We’re the bluest of blue states, as the media likes to say, and we haven’t had a Republican Senator since long before the Copy Bitch entered this crazy world. Yet the relatively “unknown” former centerfold from Wrentham, Mass.–Scott Brown–won the election in what will go down as one of the biggest political upsets in recent memory and may be a harbinger of what’s to come in the mid-term elections.

Blah, blah, blah. Enough of the political poop. Let’s talk about why Scott Brown really won. I’m not talking issues, although those did play a role. I’m talking engagement. Quite simply, Scott Brown engaged his “customers” and prospective customers better than Martha Coakley did. And when it comes to selling the goods in this move-at-the-speed-of-light, everything-is-at-your-fingertips digital age, engagement trumps all else.

Brown knew he was the underdog, but he didn’t let that stop him. His mentality appeared to be “I’m going to convert just this one person into believing in me.” And he did, person by person, town to town. He was responsive to people. A friend of mine told me how he called Brown’s office a few months ago regarding a dire situation concerning one of Brown’s constituents. Brown himself called my friend back within two hours and hatched a workable plan to help the constituent. Think this sort of responsiveness doesn’t matter? Think about all the big companies developing a “responsiveness presence” on Twitter. @ComcastCares comes to mind. People demand a response. A fast one.

During his acceptance speech last night, Brown said he knew things had started cooking for him when he was driving one day in his now-infamous truck and he saw a handmade Scott Brown sign on someone’s lawn–and he hadn’t been the one to put it there. That’s called conversion, folks. A new member of the tribe. Someone hearing the message, liking the message, and telling the world about the message. For everything we do in business, large or small, that’s the ultimate goal.

On the flip side, Coakley was seen as aloof and unresponsive. It didn’t help when she called Curt Schilling (bloody sock, anyone?) a Yankee and insinuated that standing in the cold shaking hands outside Fenway Park was pointless–a remark that ended up in The Boston Globe during those critical two weeks prior to the election. If you know ANYTHING about this Boston audience, you know this: we worship at Fenway Park, and Schilling is one of our gods. Attack our house of worship, and you’ve essentially attacked all of us and have managed to look out of touch and even a little stupid, all in one fell swoop.
Some people are saying Brown’s “everyman” demeanor helped catapult him. I’d say that’s called “knowing your audience.” It’s no secret that many people (yes, even in this bluest of blue states), have become disillusioned by the Washington establishment and the rhetoric. The person taking the biggest hit right now is President Obama, which means everything about him is fair game, including his so-called “elitist” views and ways of speaking. Whether it was a conscious decision or not (and if I were a betting woman, I’d say it was pre-meditated), Brown responded to this Obama Fatigue by touting the values and ideals that most Americans–Republican and Democrat alike–can’t argue with. Another smart move, considering the Bay State is made up of a healthy number of “unenrolled” voters (myself included).

So what are the takeaways for you, dear reader, as you go about running your business today?

It begins with one person. Who cares if your competition has the edge? Go out and engage one person. Then another. Then another. Coakley had the edge, but Brown won.

Know your audience and adjust your message accordingly. Brown put the everyman message out there because that’s what this audience wanted and needed, at least at this moment in time. He didn’t lie or change who he was per se, but I doubt anyone could make the argument that Brown really is like the 50-year-old single woman who is divorced, out of work, and trying to put one kid through college and another through braces. Or the 40-something couple who lost their house to foreclosure last year. Or the family that had to declare bankruptcy due to mounting medical debt. Brown’s family (with his American Idol daughter, pre-med other daughter, and well-known news-anchor wife) is not like the “everyman family” we’ve been hearing about over the last two years. But he had enough “everyman” in him–the most tangible item being that darn truck–that he could deliver the message and people were willing to believe it. So dig deep and figure out how you relate to your customers…and talk about those commonalities.

Don’t underestimate the power of your one response to one person. One person has more power today than ever before, thanks to the fact this one person’s voice can be broadcast through so many channels–Facebook, Twitter, texts, YouTube, blogs–and heard by so many more people. You screw even one person, and you’ll hear about it. And so will the rest of us.

Don’t give up. The ol’ saying is true: it ain’t over ’til it’s over. The fat lady sang last night, but it wasn’t on the stage we’d all anticipated even one month ago.

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11 replies
  1. Gina
    Gina says:

    In the case of Mass, we voted for candidate – Brown came out superior to Coakley. He seems real and sincere. I liked what he said and how he said it. Coakley came out cold, superior and arrogant – which is how I view pres. Obama now. The hero worship is gone, reality has set in and many of us have a bad case of buyer’s remorse…

  2. robynbradley
    robynbradley says:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Gina. And I’d go a step further and say that Brown’s “realness” and sincerity came through because he was willing to engage people one-to-one and on a very human level. Genuine enagement is critical in almost all (if not all) endeavors, especially politics and business today.

  3. SadDem
    SadDem says:

    Mass. Go Fcuk yourself

    Also congratulations Republicans, although I don’t share many of your views I absolutely respect your comradery

  4. robynbradley
    robynbradley says:

    By the way, lest you think the Copy Bitch is 103, I need to clear up an error in math in my first paragraph. The last time Massachusetts elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate was 1972, a year before I was born. Now you know!

  5. Daniel Lamkin
    Daniel Lamkin says:

    When I went to my high school to cast my vote for the Dems, i noticed that there was at least 20 Brown supporters rallying. How many did Coakley have? A paltry three. That was a very ominous sign that we didn’t really have a chance to win this. Hopefully, Martha will be able to pull through and hold onto her AG seat in the upcoming election!

  6. Ross
    Ross says:

    I also think aside from making himself, he also guided the conversation and the issues in the direction that suited him and Martha had to follow. He made the Terrorists and the rights we are giving them one of the issues, He made the troops, Martha’s position on the war, and his view being a 30 year reservist an issue as well as several others, even when it was a media sweetheart issue (like healthcare) he selected the piece he was going to make an issue and stuck with it (1 trillion anyone), take a look at the last debate and you will see how single-mindedly he pushed his issues or parts thereof. You couldn’t help leaving the debate remembering the things he made sure you heard (sometimes over and over and over) He may not be the greatest orator of our time but he knew what to say and how to make us hear it.

  7. John Mc
    John Mc says:

    I think the unique chance MA voters had to spoil the health bills being pushed through Congress was more important to the outcome than anything Brown did.
    However you are right that without a good campaign that was able to create belief in the possibility of an incredible upset, it still would not have happened. Brown and his team do deserve credit for the win.
    I thought that I saw Brown using a tactic which worked well for Obama. He refused to get into negative ads about his opponent, but pointed out that his opponent had attacked him. I have not heard anyone talking about that but it seems significant. From a marketing perspective an obvious strategy of trashing your competition simply lacks leadership and often comes across as desperate.
    If it is going to work it has to be clever like the Verizon Maps campaign which is based on some type of verifiable data.


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