labyrinth copyright B.DeLouiseWe’ve had a seismic shock here in Washington, DC. What can be learned from Eric Cantor’s historic loss of his seat and his position as Majority Leader?

Inside the Beltway, everyone thinks this is the first upset of its kind. Maybe in the annals of politics. But this kind of stuff happens every day to consumer brands. It happened when Tropicana tried to roll out a new look, and outraged its base consumers.  It happened when New Coke forgot what Old Coke had done for the world.  On the successful side of brands expanding their base, Miley Cyrus has been doing a pretty good job of transitioning from Disney Good Girl into a grown-up singer, MTV Awards twerking and all.  Not that I would recommend this approach to Members of Congress.

So what lessons can a brand draw?

  1. Know who your “grassroots” supporters are. Even when you have dreams of national expansion, or a re-brand, be sure you are not straying too far from your core competencies.
  2. It’s OK to try to shift your niche or broaden your appeal, but then you have to be sure your core constituencies—whether they are voters or stockholders or parents of a school or donors and volunteers of a nonprofit—will come along for the ride. OR, that you can do without them.
  3. And don’t attend a big-ticket fundraiser while your volunteers and supporters are sweating in the trenches, as Eric Cantor did on election day.  Your rank and file supporters/volunteers/consumers are actually part of your brand, so don’t diss them.

Amy DeLouise is a digital media producer and brand strategist.

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