Of Coronavirus, Joe Biden and Donald Trump

First off, here’s hoping that you, your families and your co-workers are healthy and getting through such a difficult time in our country. It’s not an easy period.

Second off, before getting started on this month’s article, a disclaimer: 

The following article is written about politics (insert scary emoji-face of your choosing) – which tends to be a very smart thing to discuss when you’re a business in the midst of a potential recession. We’ll just say that a) We thought it was an interesting and challenging topic and b) We do not write this with political bias, or to try to convince you to vote one way or the other. We are solely looking at politics through an objective marketer’s lens, as we prepare for the Super Bowl of marketing and sales campaigns: the presidential election.

So without further adieu…

Of Coronavirus, Joe Biden and Donald Trump: A Marketer’s View

The recent coronavirus crisis has laid many things bare. Before it blossomed into a full-fledged pandemic, Americans were well-versed in many of the issues dogging our country. To name a few: An increasingly atomized society more interested in social media connections than personal ones, raging income inequality and the hollowing out of brick and mortar retail in favor of the convenience and ease of Amazon.

In all of its wicked irony, Covid-19 has exacerbated these very issues: Suddenly, we’re relegated to an all-digital world, the small businesses scattered throughout our neighborhoods are shut down and hoping to survive, and the utter lack of a safety-net for the average worker has forced Congress to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package.

In the midst of all this, we have a presidential election on our hands. While Bernie Sanders remains in the race to be the democratic nominee, many agree that Joe Biden has built up an insurmountable lead that makes him the frontrunner to take on Donald Trump.

Which got us thinking about a unique challenge: If you are Joe Biden and you become the presidential nominee, what’s the brand strategy that helps you beat the incumbent, Donald Trump? And more importantly, what do you do now that we’re in the midst of one of the most difficult and trying crises in modern history?

(Why don’t we give advice to Donald Trump in this piece? Frankly, he’s a good enough marketer already – he doesn’t need the help.)

Analyzing the Situation

Let’s pretend for a moment that we’re Joe Biden’s brand strategists. To start, let’s do a brief situational analysis:

The Context:

  • We are in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions. While all Americans have been hit hard, the “main street” American has been especially challenged. In addition, there is no news story right now (and for the foreseeable future) that is about something other than coronavirus and its economic fallout.

The Competition:

  • Like him or not, Donald Trump is a very good marketer. He generates drama by creating brand villains (the media, the deep state, etc.), he speaks with vivid language that people can understand, and he ties his messaging back to a master brand strategy (“Make America Great Again”). While coronavirus could ultimately be an albatross for Trump, for now, it has provided him with the kind of opportunity he loves: To be in front of the cameras and in the news, every single day.

The Campaigner (Joe Biden):

  • Thus far, Joe Biden has not been a very good marketer. Not only is he having trouble breaking through the noise, but watching him on the debate stage and his messaging in media, his “brand strategy” amounts to a hodge-podge of jumbled messages. He’s a highly experienced politician who was side-by-side with Barack Obama; a person who wants to promote “realistic” change; and the most likely person to take on and beat Donald Trump. What’s Joe’s one message? We couldn’t tell you.

The Approach: It’s Time to For Joe to Celebrate “Joe”

We would contend that one of Biden’s primary issues – at its core – is a lack of brand identity. His strongest message thus far is probably the fact that he’s ready to take on Trump, but this actually plays right into Trump’s hands: Once again, we’re right back to everything being all about Donald Trump.

Joe, quite simply, needs a message about Joe. What does that mean, exactly? Well, here’s a mini-narrative we scripted:

Joe Biden is a guy who was born in Scranton, PA and then moved to Wilmington, DE. A guy who didn’t go to an Ivy League college like Harvard or Yale – he went to the University of Delaware. Joe started his political career in the New Castle County Council, fighting to save Wilmington from massive construction projects. He didn’t commute by being chauffeured in black SUVs from meeting to meeting – he commuted by train, with the average American, just like everyone else. He’s a person who has endured massive tragedy, with his wife and daughter killed in a car accident, his son lost to cancer. He didn’t have a huge inheritance. He’s someone who went from humble roots to go on and become the Vice President of the United States.

In many ways, Joe is sort of an average Joe. But in this case, he proves that average is pretty far from average. Ordinary? It’s pretty extraordinary. And now, more than ever, with Main Street Americans fighting to overcome one of the deepest challenges they will ever face in a lifetime, Joe Biden is here to fight for his fellow
“Joes” from all walks of life.

As a simple strategy statement, the approach we’d advocate is to build a campaign “For Every Joe.” This is a campaign by an everyday American, for the everyday American. It’s about overcoming hardship, building a big-tent coalition of Joes from all walks of life. It’s about saving Main Street in the face of indisputable peril. It’s a rallying cry for every ordinary person out there to realize that they are extraordinary, when given the opportunity to prosper.

Why It Works

By building a campaign “For Every Joe”, Joe Biden has the opportunity to do a few things:

  • Play to his strengths. A moderate, Main Street American with humble beginnings who overcame adversity and grew to greatness.
  • Mitigate his weaknesses. Some argue that Joe isn’t exciting. Well, now the unexciting is actually energizing. Joe has a lot of trouble with “scripting”. Well, the average Joe? They’re not scripted. They speak from the heart, and tell it like it is.
  • Contrasts himself with Donald Trump. Without ever mentioning Donald Trump.
  • Positions himself right where he needs to be right now. At a time when the Joes of the world are getting hit harder than ever before, when they are forced to shutter their businesses and fend for themselves – here’s someone who’s started where they started; endured some of the tragedy they’ve endured; and is ready to heal, empathize and fight so that they can have the chance to overcome hardship and achieve real success.

How We’d Deliver It

Now comes the tricky part. How the heck do you deliver on this strategy when all the news cares about is Covid-19? Well:

  • Consistency matters now more than ever: You’re fighting a simple, insidious message: “Covid-19.” So you have to fight back with a simple message. In every media channel – advertising, social, speeches – Joe Biden has to be saying the same thing again, and again, and again.
  • Snap the strategy to the issue at hand: Joe Biden isn’t going to have an opportunity to speak about anything other than the pandemic. If that’s the case, use it – advocate over and over (and over) for “Main Street Joe”. And, speak to your own personal experience coping with loss – it’s resonant right now.
  • Go from digital tactics to a digital strategy: There’s tons of tactical things to do, which any digital media-maven can tell you – make sure you’re targeting “Joe”, build up your social presence and advocates, be nimble creatively, ramp up targeted digital spend, optimize. These are no-duh. But we’d advocate that the real way to win here is to have strategic and branded digital initiatives. An example: Instead of livestream “Happy Hours” on YouTube delivered every now and then, how about nightly brews with Joe over Zoom with ten everyday Americans? Have people enter their name and email on for a chance to be selected. Give people the chance to speak live with Joe and show that he’s just like them.
  • Policy: We’ll let the policy wonks figure it out. But it’s a slate of policies built for the everyday Joe.

At this moment in time, Joe Biden has a basic choice – he can be an average Joe running an average campaign, or he can make the ordinary into something extraordinary through dynamic, focused brand messaging. If we were his brand strategists, we’d recommend the latter.

Stay safe!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.