(Authors note: It’s no secret among my friends and family that I have a preference between the two candidates in this election. However, I have tried to keep politics out of my business communications, and this blog will NOT try to be a case for voting for either of what I consider the worst pair of major party candidates I have seen in my lifetime. Instead, I want to focus on what the current campaign can teach us about B2B marketing, so here goes nothing, wish me luck)
The 2016 Presidential campaign is something different than we have ever seen in my lifetime of voting, which dates back to the Reagan Era. The cover story of the most recent September 10th edition of the Economist is entitled, “Art of the Lie: Post Truth Politics in the Age of Social Media”. The economist observes of Mr. Trump, “He inhabits a world where Barack Obama’s birth certificate is faked, the Clintons are killers, the President founded the Islamic State, and the father of a rival was with Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot John F Kennedy” . The article goes on to observe that Mr. Trump is not alone in his “Post-truth politics”, witness everything from the claims of the Brexit campaigners, to the justification of the massive “purge” of enemies in Turkey, and Putin’s post-truth that the people of Crimea were begging for the Russian annexation.
Facts, it seems in today’s political environment, mean little compared to what Stephen Colbert so elegantly coined in 2005 as “Truthiness”. Colbert in an interview with the esteemed satire site The Onion, defined Truthiness as “What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.’ It’s not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There’s not only an emotional quality, but there’s a selfish quality.”
Without getting too political focused, we certainly need to ask, if Truth is so subjective, and Truthiness can sway voters, what then, about the facts. Well, as Mark Twain popularized, there are 3 kinds of lies, lies, damn lies, and statistics. We have seen both sides of every argument use statistics to support their case. Traditionally, a fair and unbiased media would sort fact from fiction, truth from lies. Today’s highly bifurcated media, seems for the most part, to be talking to the converted, not fairly reporting the facts and exposing the lies. And while fact checking sites expose mis-statements, it seems for many in the media, truthiness is more important than facts. Time will tell how the American voters judge this.
So, then, what can B2B marketers learn? In my book, Launching to Leading, I argue that B2B marketers must tell their story with consistency, ferocity, and veracity. In many ways, consistency and ferocity are dimensions of believe-ability. If I say things enough, and with conviction, they become believable, or even dare I say, “truthie”. However, truthiness without veracity is short lived in B2B markets. Buyers, voting with the investment of money and time, are far more discerning than voters in the voting booth. They will demand facts and proof, not just truthiness. In B2B markets, claims without factual backing will be a fantasy claim that buyers will, after time, dismiss and ignore.
On the flip side, facts without conviction and ferocity, will sound like statistics and even lies. Secretary Clinton is fabulous with facts. She can go deep on policy and is a self described wonk. And while she may well have the facts on her side, she often lacks “truthiness” , the conviction and ferocity that delivers not only facts, but connects with the listener. Mrs. Clinton reminds me of many of the technical CEOs and finders I know. They have the facts on their side, but lack the ferocity and boldness of claims to convince the market.
In less than 2 months, we will know the result of the US election. Truthiness may win the day. Facts may not matter. Time will tell. But B2B markets are much harsher judges. You must have facts AND truthiness behind your claims. In politics, we may see that consistency and ferocity, without veracity, will be enough. In B2B markets, you need all three.
See you in the voting booth and in the marketplace!