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I want to talk about product design and positioning as it relates to Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the race. This is not about her politics (though I was a fan) but her brand as a candidate.
Promoting a political campaign is not unlike marketing a new piece of workout equipment or messaging app or podcast. How do you stand out and grow your audience?
Seth Godin (who we spoke about last time) talks about the idea of edge as “a free prize that has been shown to make a product or service remarkable”
His recommendation for marketers and makers is to go “all the way to that edge—as far from the center as the consumers you are trying to reach dare you to go.”
If this was a normal product, it might be a quality like speed, reliability, popularity, intensity.
For a presidential race, the edges were a little different:
- The most unique identity went to Mayor Pete, the gay military vet Rhodes scholar from the Midwest
- The most futuristic ideas went to Andrew Yang with his focus on robots, automation, and universal basic income
- The most focused on climate change were Govenor Inslee and Tom Steyer
- The most spiritual went to Marianne Williamson (remember her?)
- The most biggest spender went to Mayor Bloomberg
In a normal marketplace, each of those edges would do well among some group of the population and they could all succeed on some level. But a primary needs to collapse to a single winner, and that means that certain edges matter more than others.
Given its politics, it appears the edge that mattered was your position on the political spectrum. Bernie clearly owns one edge – there is no candidate who is further Left than he is. And Biden, ironically, owns the other edge, as the most well known moderate / centrist candidate.
Warren was more progressive than everyone except Bernie, but slightly more willing to compromise on implementing her big ideas. That’s like coming out with an electric car that’s not as cool as a Tesla but a little cheaper. That’s a bad position. The customer either wants the Tesla or they get the Prius or Civic.
Warren didn’t have a clear edge. She waffled between her fighter persona and her unifier message.
Look, I’m not a political pundit and there are probably a bunch of other reasons for why her campaign wasn’t able to punch through. Misogyny and sexism for one.
Despite being the most informed and prepared candidate in the race, it looks like this one wasn’t in the cards. It’s an important reminder that you have to have a sharp, distinct edge if you want to capture people’s attention and win their hearts and minds.
Find an edge for your product or suffer the consequences.