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What It Takes To Win For Your Liberal and Conservative Customers
If winning is the only thing, you may need two strategies
This issue continues with attributes that reveal distinctions between American liberal and conservative customers. If you are among the many new subscribers, you’ll find more articles like this in past issues, including how customers think differently about the future, change boundaries, self-moderation, self-image, success, thought styles, and more.
Your products and services enable your customers to win in some shape or form, but how? Sure, you offer something unique that solves a problem for a particular market, but how does that translate into a customer feeling like they are winning? Make that connection, and you have a powerful lever for growth.
The desire to win is at the core of the American customer experience, which engenders perpetual self-improvement to “get ahead,” whatever the starting point. Your customers want to win and will look at your business as a way to help, whether you provide something practical or help reflect a sense of winning.
Conservative and liberal customers have different takes on what it takes to win, and like other attributes here, they are not mutually exclusive. Instead, they form themes that connect within liberal and conservative customer markets. Businesses of any size can use these themes to better fit into the lives of their customers. The solution is to look at winning from the customer’s worldview perspective.
American liberal customer culture is a fusion between egalitarian ideals and a foundation of individualism shared with conservative customers (See customer base customer model for background). Egalitarian cultures, with a de-emphasis on authority, require strong interdependence to thrive and succeed. That interdependence represents the essential ingredient for enabling a winning feeling among liberal customers. Interdependence creates interconnectedness that fuels winning through group effort. Contribute to a liberal customer’s sense of interdependence, and you connect your brand to the liberal market.
Conservative customers focus less on interdependence and more on personal responsibility to enable winning. This quality springs from the fusion of the common individualist foundation with a more positional culture where winning requires moving up the ranks due to individual effort. Conservative customers look more toward inner strength than group strength when thinking about what it takes to win.
Can a customer align with both interdependence and personal responsibility? Sure, but one trait will be more dominant than the other when you consider a market - a large number of people - that will tend to lean in one direction. Your business talks to groups, not individuals, unless you are engaged in some highly personalized customer communication. Even then, themes govern personalization.
Three psychology professors at Yale and Leiden Universities researched connections between liberalism and interdependence. They found strong correlations between a liberal worldview and interdependence and something interesting about both groups. They discovered that when interdependence is necessary for a group to function, the group members become more liberal. So the connection between liberal customers and interdependence raises an interesting chicken or egg argument - which comes first? Here’s one way to think about it.
While not part of this study, you can imagine population density as a driver for interdependence versus personal responsibility. Dense liberal urban environments force more interdependence on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting that cities are what make customers liberal, but they can be a contributing factor. The flip side of this argument is that more rural areas require less interdependency and more personal responsibility to carry on daily activities.
I try to source research mostly from social anthropology and psychology because it’s the worldview I’m interested in, not the politics. A primary objective is to remain dispassionate and focus on ideas for growth, given that the country is mostly split between the two groups. A collateral benefit of this approach is a potential reduction in personal divisiveness, not an amplification. When you study the “other side,” whichever side that is, that other group becomes more familiar, reducing tendencies to become divisive. Having said that, there is occasionally research in political science that can contribute to the arguments, such as the following.
Political science professors Mark Brewer and Jeffrey Stonecash from Syracuse University and the University of Maine examined the topic of personal responsibility in their book, Polarization and the Politics of Personal Responsibility. They state: “Liberals see many individuals as not completely responsible for the situation they are in. They see the opportunities of individuals limited by their class, race, and sex. The resulting distribution of outcomes is therefore seen as unjust, and the remedy is for government to help offset the limits people face. In contrast, conservatives believe individuals can and must live their lives with a presumption of personal responsibility for what happens.”
Your products can enable a sense of winning by either promoting interdependence or personal responsibility, or both. These qualities can be designed into your products, brand, and communications.
For example, if your business offers web design and hosting services, like Squarespace or GoDaddy, the market skews conservative because founders and self-employed professionals skew conservative. In this case, you can communicate how the services fuel personal responsibility and achievement with a focus on the business owner. On the other hand, if you wanted to sell these same services to the liberal segment of business owners in a complementary fashion, you could show how the hosting and design services fuel interdependence through teamwork and group effort beyond the owner.
Another example is delivery services like Uber or DoorDash. The market for these services is more liberal because these businesses operate more in inner suburban and urban environments. To resonate with this market, these services can emphasize how a customer is part of a larger team of drivers, restaurants, and customers who all win with the service because they are interdependent. A good example of this is a recent DoorDash television campaign, which focuses on supporting the delivery people:
Products as simple as soap can be framed to invoke healthy living within a group or as a necessary personal act. Likewise, electric automobiles can promote the interdependency of a group to better the environment or invoke personal responsibility to help take care of the environment. Any business can tap into these attributes - it just takes knowing the worldview makeup of your customers and market and asking how the business can support interdependence or personal responsibility in the product, brand, or communications.
When you put attributes of what it takes to win alongside others, you create a lens through which customers will see your business fitting into their world, increasing levels of consideration. Your business and products will feel right. That heightened consideration is the starting point for lowering customer acquisition costs and increasing customer value regardless of the market worldview.