Opinion

Being boring is one of Mitt Romney’s strengths

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John Tantillo
Marketing and Branding Expert
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      John Tantillo

      John Tantillo is the host of the popular radio show BrandTalk heard on WVOX radio, New Rochelle, NY and the author of the book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."

Despite facing withering attacks from other GOP contenders, Mitt Romney emerged victorious from Iowa and New Hampshire — something no other non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has done since 1976. Now he’s opening a robust lead in South Carolina.

Why is Mitt doing so well even though he’s — let’s face it — boring?

Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with boring. In fact, boring is good. After years of war, economic dislocation and a series of controversial presidents, America is hungry for boring.

Why? Boring means competent, dependable and predictable. Boring means smart and sound. That’s why when the banks began to teeter from their hypertrophic derivatives binge over three years ago, I argued that a return to their boring roots made sense for their brands.

Boring is politically mature. Mature countries, like mature companies and mature brands, typically fare best with mature leaders. Eisenhower presided over what was arguably a terrific decade for America, even an exciting one in some respects, but he himself wasn’t exciting.

People “liked Ike,” but they didn’t swoon for him. He didn’t electrify crowds, he assured them. Ike, a Republican, built the national highway system, which created the infrastructure for a prolonged post-war boom that we are still benefiting from, though it might not seem that way — like all good government, as with all solid, boring things, it underpins our prosperity.

Still not convinced of the virtue of boring? Look at the third world. Its most exciting political figures have usually been the ones who have driven their countries into the ground. Failed nations and banana republics are filled to the brim with exciting politicos who promise great things but deliver only woe. When the Italians needed to assure creditors, they showed flamboyant Berlusconi the door and welcomed Mario Monti, the paragon of boring.

The economist and commentator Larry Kudlow recently wrote that Romney’s Bain Capital experience might be exactly what “U.S. Government Inc.” needs today. I couldn’t agree more. Romney’s brand is that of the CEO. He’s the guy you turn to when you want to turn things around without turning things upside down. If he’s smart — which he is (top 5% at Harvard Business School has to count for something) — you’ll see him stick to those core messages that highlight his experience at turning around and managing organizations.

Boring has another virtue: it sticks to the essentials and repeats them until they start sinking in. Boring reminds us of what matters. That’s what we are seeing with Romney. His consistency reminds the nation that there is something consistent in our system and our nation worth standing up for no matter how tumultuous the times.

Boring means that Romney will repeat the virtues of capitalism even if speaking those virtues might at first not please the crowd, as with his much-criticized “corporations are people too” line. After all, he was right then and he will be right when he expands on this theme and, in any case, was only echoing the inspiring words of one of the founders of modern venture capital, Georges Doriot, who said, “The study of a company is not an autopsy; it is the study of men’s hope and aspirations.”

Yes, boring means sticking to something until the world recognizes the value in it and follows. Boring means opting to be a servant of the people rather than a king. George Washington was that kind of boring and that kind of boring helped build our nation — and can help rebuild it now.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He writes frequently for the American Marketing Association and is the author of the book People Buy Brands, Not Companies.