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Insurgent Leadership in the Age of Trump

December 2, 2016

How the Seven Principles That Won the White House Can Help You Win in Today’s Hypercompetitive Business Environment Most people around the world—probably including Donald John Trump—were shocked by the outcome of the 2016 general election. We were not. What happened in November was the product of an insurgent candidate in an insurgent campaign led by insurgents. We have been studying, preaching, and practicing insurgent leadership for years. We saw the opportunity—better call it the overwhelming certainty—that an outsider could run and win the presidency. Full disclosure: everybody should have seen it. Hillary Clinton ran her experience-and- the-status-quo value proposition against Obama’s “hope and change” in 2008 and lost, only to try the very same combination against Trump’s “revolt and change” in 2016. Well, if at first you don’t succeed, you might consider try, try, trying something different. The unavoidable truth is that the Information Revolution is well advanced upon…

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How People Decide.

August 30, 2016

Let’s face it, marketing can’t make people do anything.  And though we are swimming in marketing 24/7/365, we usually choose to do nothing that marketing tells us to do.  In a way that’s been good for the advertising business.  If advertising were more effective, half the agencies in the world would go out of business in a hurry.  Most ads just don’t work.  Still, people do stuff and choose stuff and buy stuff all day long.  Why?  How do they decide what stuff and which stuff to buy? A while ago, I aggregated a lot of learning done through years of market and political research.  The result is a kind of map of the six key components that shape almost every commercial decision.  I call it “The Six C’s.”  Okay, I admit that sounds a lot like consultant talk.  The snappy name should make it easier to remember.  Still, 99%…

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The Rise of the Insurgent Brand

July 8, 2016

In every marketplace insurgent brands are kicking ass. And right now you have a choice: learn to think, plan and act like an insurgent brand, or learn to get used to watching them pass you in the marketplace. Our company got its start in politics. In the mid-1980’s Steven Jobs called on us: “You guys understand something we don’t really get. It’s the finality of Election Day. You have to get 50.1% or go home. You have sharper strategies and sharper elbows in politics than we do in business.” That’s how we began developing the insurgent political model for business. Our political consulting company, Sawyer/Miller Group, had done many insurgent political campaigns in the US, and abroad — underdogs versus hard line incumbents, often dictators: Corazon Aquino, Kim Dae Jung, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and many others. For Apple, we created an insurgent political model to use as a competitive strategy against the tech industry incumbents. It worked. That insurgent strategy, transferred from politics…

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The Myth of Angry White Men

July 8, 2016

Two years ago, Pat Caddell of The Smith Project predicted the rise of a Donald Trump in American politics (you can see that projection from early 2014 here: At the time, none of us at knew it would be Trump himself. We did, however, know it would be someone from outside politics. We knew then that the force of the frustration and alienation of the American people would push this person forward to the front of the political pack. We created “Citizen Smith” and The Smith Project to understand the depth of the alienation of American voters and the strength of this tide of frustration. Caddell called the mood of the voters at that time “pre-revolutionary.” As we’ve continued to study voter attitudes over the past two years, that mood has moved even farther toward true insurgency. This overwhelming number of citizens certainly includes angry white men. It…

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Why Your Company is Whining, Not Winning

May 18, 2016

Stand up tall! You’re a winner! You’re a leader! You’re empowered! Welcome to the annual sales conference! Okay, now, welcome back to reality. Your company is limping along, stuck on “okay.” And you’ve got this burning itch under the back label of your underpants that says you should be doing a lot better with your career, too. Here’s the view from the Goodyear Blimp: Problem #1: We’ve got boatloads of bosses in American business, but very few leaders (in our experience and research about 92% to 8% in favor of bosses). How about your company? Problem #2: According to Gallup, only about 30% of corporate employees are “engaged.” That means nearly 70% come to work, sign in, play Candy Crush, go to a couple of pointless meetings, eat lunch, complain and go home. How about your employees? The sum of Problem #1, Problem #2 equals the failure of the traditional…

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