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Romney shows us: Not Everyone is Like Us

12 November 2012 BY

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Last week I reported on how Mitt Romney’s presidential website accidentally came online and how it was indexed by Google. A classic mistake for those working with websites, I suspect there are few readers who have set websites live in the past did not run into a similar issue once in their professional lives.

In this case however it was the classic mistake made by the company in combination with the losing elections from Romney and the fact that it involved a ‘big name’ which made it interesting. The post did really well, lots of views and lots of shares, most of them with added texts like “hehe” or “Oops”.

The mistake was covered by many websites, from tech sites to political sites to newspaper websites. All over the world. Looking at these articles around the globe about this relatively small mistake gives a nice insight in how different people from different backgrounds can look at this.

Here in the Netherlands one of the leading newspapers wrote about the mistake on their website with the title ‘Oops an then Romney’s presidential site accidentally got online’. The content of the article was fine, it told the story and nothing really more than that. Where it got interesting was the comments. Here you could see the difference between how people respond to this kind of news.

Now most of the people in the digital industry probably think this was funny either because they recognized it or because they knew it could’ve been be easily avoided by the company responsible for developing the website. Most of the people responding to the article on the newspaper site however did not find this news funny at all. They didn’t understand why this was considered ‘news’.

Some of the commenters made the assumption that the ‘news’ here was that Romney had been premature in declaring his victory, like a cyclist putting up his arms before the line while being beaten by his fellow cyclist. Others actually saw it as a ‘good thing’. At least Romney was prepared for when he did win.

The essence of most comments was that this wasn’t news and it was nothing special at all. They completely ‘missed’ why ‘we’ liked it, why ‘we’ are interested in this.

It made me chuckle at first, they didn’t get it, and I was tempted to comment myself explaining why they got it wrong. But then it struck me: what if they were right? The commenters thought this was non-news, and maybe it was. Because what really happened? Somebody made a mistake, but not a bigger mistake than a store owner showing what he might be selling to a few people.

The site wasn’t actually live, it was a development server which was ‘open’ to both the public and Google. And they fixed it relatively quickly. Yet ‘we’ thought this was hilarious and stupid. For us it was news.

Don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. And it shows something which should be on the mind of marketers all the time: everybody is different and everyone can respond differently.

As marketers we tend to work for different industries all the time. Yet we in many cases use the same strategies and the same tactics. And to a certain level, that is good and that will work. But we will always have to keep looking at the audience: what  do they want, what is news to them. We always have to sit, not on the driving seat, but on the seat where the audience we are targeting is sitting.

So the Romney hick up was a nice reminder of just that: think about your audience and give them what they want and need.

AUTHORED BY:
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Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
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