According to the polls and opinions, Romney defeated Obama in the first debate.While Obama’s team conceded Romney’s victory, they explain it by saying Romney lied. Some who have checked Romney’s statements agree.
So what? Facts too often take a back seat to performance in a debate on television.
If team Obama wants to win, they need to win the performance by communicating better. To do that, they need to identify the problem and fix it. Here is why Obama lost.
Marketers know that if a point is communicated properly, 30% or more will believe it whether it is true or not. This is the placebo effect – named after the sugar pill half the audience is given during clinical drug tests. If Romney lied or distorted the truth, he did it convincingly – knowing most voters are not going to read the analyses that will follow.
Headlines versus body text
Romney talked in headlines and sound bites while Obama rambled and spoke in technical boring details that too many watching could not understand. While some could argue that they were both boring, Romney was more energetic, positive, and convincing than Obama. The comparison made Romney look better.
People expected that Obama would do better than Romney. Obama fell below expectations, while Romney exceeded expectations. In marketing, it is important to meet or exceed expectations, or sales and the stock price will fall.
After overcoming initial jitters, for the most part, Romney had positive body language – looking up, smiling, and delivering his points with force and energy. Obama on the other hand looked down a lot, smirked, and did not appear confident or in control. He allowed Romney to put him on the defensive. His stammering and stuttering combined with his body language did not inspire the confidence of voters.
Romney did a more effective job of repositioning Obama – hammering at his record on the economy and painting him as someone that wants to raise taxes and increase the size of Government. Obama tried to reposition Romney as someone who makes “pie in the sky” promises without showing how he will get there. However, viewers got lost in the details that their brains could not process. If executed properly, Repositioning is an effective tool for changing the brand image of a competitor. Romney executed better than Obama. He also borrowed a play from Karl Rove’s playbook on repositioning. Rove did this masterfully by attacking the strengths of opponents. Obama could have made the case that the Republicans tried tax cuts and trickle down economics, and it hasn’t worked. Unfortunately, he did not. On the other hand, Romney took the “trickle down” idea and turned it around on Obama by saying “trickle down” government doesn’t work. He may have forgotten his macroeconomics course at Harvard or what a Nobel prize-winning economist believes will get us out of the Great Recession.
Who will win?
The polls have had Obama and Romney neck and neck with each exchanging leads back and forth over the past several months. Obama had a bounce and the lead after the Democratic Convention and in the weeks leading up to the first debate. The debate win may give Romney the edge for the time being. Two more debates and the events of the next several weeks will perhaps reveal more clues. For now, it is anyone’s race, and it is clear that Obama lost the first debate because of Romney’s more effective marketing. Stay tuned. It will be interesting.
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