This week I talked about launching new products in my marketing strategy class at Kellogg. The students and I spent a lot of time discussing new product strategy in familiar categories including technology, FMCG, pharmaceuticals and financial services.
We didn’t spend a lot of time on the biggest new product battle taking place right now: the presidential election. We should have.
A political candidate challenging an incumbent is much like a new entrant challenging a product in an established category; there is a known player in the market and the new entrant has to find a way to get people to embrace the new option.
Entering an established category is not easy because the existing player has many advantages: relationships, a well-known brand and financial resources. In most cases the established player will take steps to defend and a good defensive effort can highly effective, as I explain in my new book, Defending Your Brand: How Smart Companies Use Defensive Strategy to Deal with Competitive Attacks.
Looking ahead to the election, I believe the final decision will come down to a simple question: how eager are voters for a change?
When assessing an established category it is critical to understand customer motivation to learn. In some markets, customers are actively looking for new alternatives. This makes it easier for a new entrant because people will seek out the new option. In other markets, customers are satisfied or uninterested and not looking for new things. This is much more difficult for the new player; the challenger has to work very hard to get people to pay attention.
Motivation to learn will drive the upcoming election. If people are looking for a change, then Romney becomes the obvious choice. If people are generally satisfied, then they will stick with Obama.
The debates mattered this year because Romney emerged looking like a viable option. He spoke well and said fairly reasonable things. He didn’t come off as extreme or reckless. Which means the election will come down to one thing: motivation for change.
Given the state of the economy I predict this will be a very close race and Romney may well emerge the victor.
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My new book is now available! Defending Your Brand: How Smart Companies Use Defensive Strategy to Deal with Competitive Attacks looks at the critically important but rarely discussed world of defensive strategy. The core question: how can you protect your business when competitors attack?
You can find it at B&N, Amazon and all the usual spots.
Here is the Amazon link: