50.1% is ENOUGH
The year 2004 will go down in history – especially for Albertans – as a year of elections. With Federal, Provincial, Municipal as well as the American elections, we witnessed a transition to a new model for Canadian democracy, one that closely follows in the footsteps of our American neighbors. Apparently we did not learn from their example the divisive results of this new democracy. What Canadian politicians did learn is that they do not need to earn the entire vote, but just enough of the vote and within the right jurisdiction to win it all.
The original concept of democracy was to define and execute the will of the majority. Early expectations were that the people of a nation were naturally monolithic and could elect individuals and parties to carry out the agenda of their collective will. And always the expectation was that the majority would be something greater than 60% … unfortunately (or fortunately) Canadians, like our Southern neighbors, have evolved into a pluralistic society with differing views and a much more regional focus.
Under these circumstances, how does one win an election? One has to remain extremely focused on the “numbers” and understand how these numbers can all add up to an election win. In the United States, the popular vote does not have much bearing for the President. Rather it is the electoral votes which play the larger role. The electoral is complex, understanding how it works and where the base support is located has evolved to a science, one that employs as many data analysts and polling experts as individuals with other skills.
The absolute focus on the church leadership to help bring home the votes, understanding the key swing states and driving all the resources and energy within that focus enabled George Bush to be re-elected for another term. In maintaining this absolute focus, a hugely divided Nation has emerged which in the short term has delivered the Presidency, but over the long term will require considerable healing.
In Canada, the minority Liberal Government typified the same resolve … it was clear to Mr. Martin that the only way to survive this election was to scare the people of Ontario into thinking that the concepts Canadians value most, such as Health Care, would be at risk if a Westerner would take on the reigns of the country. And systematically and surgically he was able to retain power, while creating a divided country and further solidifying the mistrust between the various regions.
Of course, Mr. Klein did just enough to build a legacy … but as Mr. Chrétien has found out, a legacy can not be created when you introduce uncertainty by announcing retirement well in advance.
The 2004 elections provided lessons not only for politicians, but for businesses as well. Based on this new model, we can define where and how we invest our resources for maximum results.
Politicians have done a good job of understanding what it takes to win: use data and focus to drive success. It is no longer about issues and policies, but has been reduced to a numbers game. Businesses have the same opportunity to help drive their bottom line using the same concepts. This is highlighted exceptionally well in television advertising. The longstanding challenge of advertisers centers on reaching the target market. Common methods used to reach the target are structuring the message to appeal to the right group and understanding the demographics and patterns of television viewing to determine which shows and time slots are most relevant to the target market. This is an absolute science that again employs some of the finest data analysts to make the connection.
But as the cost of television advertising grows, advertisers are looking for a more focused way to reach out to their targets. Research is underway to emulate the customizability of Internet advertising in television. Using digital techniques, data collection and analysis, you will soon see TV advertising targeted to specific profiles not just based on television viewing patterns, but by individual household. You and your neighbor may be watching the same program, but will watch different commercials specifically – and automatically – determined for you based on your family profile. And as your personal lifestyle, family lifecycle stage and interests change, the advertising will automatically change to deliver real value for both the advertiser and the viewer. Whether this will reduce channel surfing during commercials or minimize family feuds over the control for the remote remains to be seen.
While this may be the advertising of the future, today’s marketing looks quite different. Companies tend to cast a wide net so they are able to capture as many opportunities as possible to increase their chances of success. The reality is that a wider net also captures a large number of useless opportunities that take a lot of time and resources to chase and eliminate. The ability to cast the net within the right area, with the right focus will result in the right opportunities to deliver business success. But this takes discipline and focus, especially for smaller companies looking to make a name for themselves. A restaurant in Edmonton does not need the entire city to know about them and their cuisine… they just need the right people at the right level with the right size wallet to know who they are.
Over the next decade, the model of democracy that is taking shape will be under close scrutiny. Democracy, as implemented today, is clearly unhealthy, divisive and limiting in terms of driving any agenda forward. It does not facilitate the prosperity or brotherhood that is essential for long term sustainability and a cohesive national identity. However, the concepts and tools used by politicians today to run a successful election campaign have value for businesses who understand and apply them.
Who said there is nothing we can learn from politicians?