What better time to focus on what unites conservative and liberal customers? Uniting the two groups, after all, creates the largest possible market for your products. Unity unlocks scale.
Uniting the two markets is not a question of avoiding what gets the attention of liberal or conservative customers to remain “neutral.” It’s about tapping into attributes that make your brand, products, or communications resonate powerfully with both groups simultaneously. It’s intentional and proactive.
There are two ways to do this: Tapping into American individualism or achieving superposition.
As detailed in an earlier article, individualism is a strong common attribute of both conservative and liberal customers. Individualism is the foundation of the American Dream; if you try hard enough, you can succeed. American customers, liberal or conservative, want products that either fuel the American Dream or reflect it. Certainly, this may not be true for all of them, but it is for a strong majority.
The Ford F-150 pickup truck is an excellent example of a massively successful product that taps directly into American individualism. It ranks in the top ten automobiles for conservative and liberal customers and is number one in overall vehicle sales in the United States. It is the most successful automobile in the country, achieving the number one position for 45 straight years.
The Ford F-150 brand and truck embody individualism - hard work and striving to create a better life. It’s not particularly fancy - it’s the base model in the F-Series trucks. Yet it continues to compete successfully with many other pickup trucks year after year.
You can’t achieve this success unless you have a brand and product that strongly appeals to conservative and liberal customers. Yes, you have to start with a great product, but you need an impression of that product that immediately appeals to both groups to achieve massive scale. The Ford F-150 has for decades leaned into being a vehicle for achieving the American Dream.
Your business can appeal to individualism to unite the two markets if it’s an appealing strategy. You can tap into this universal American attribute by focusing on themes of hard work leading to success, the positive aspects of competition, and how your product enables customers to achieve a better life. No politics are necessary, and a strong majority of Americans will appreciate the theme.
Superposition is the second scenario for unifying the two markets to create more significant scale potential. It’s the more interesting of the two strategies because it can act like magic. It also offers a more multi-dimensional strategy for unifying markets when compared to tapping into individualism.
Superposition involves creating an impression on the market that simultaneously appeals to the unique preferences of both groups rather than appealing to a single, foundational attribute. It’s a fusion of strengths that are inseparable.
The idea of superposition is borrowed from quantum computing, which promises higher performance than today’s digital computing. Whereas digital computing involves processing 1’s and 0’s individually, quantum computing processes information simultaneously. A recent Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists for work in quantum computing.
Below are three examples of superposition applied to markets. Not all examples have traditional “products,” but they reveal how superposition can take place to help create massive success. All three involve great talent, but the superposition of conservative and liberal attributes helps propel them into the stratosphere. Superposition amplifies success by activating a far larger market.
Superposition Example #1: The Singer
When Whitney Houston passed away in 2012, the world stopped. As detailed in a previous article, all three cable news networks - CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News - halted programming and devoted hours of coverage to her. It was clear that her appeal was powerful with liberals and conservatives alike.
Of course, Whitney Houston had enormous talent - she remains in the top fifteen best-selling music artists of all time. Yet she also bridged the worldview divide between conservative and liberal customers in a way that simultaneously resonated with both groups.
Popular culture, which is in constant motion, tends to emerge in liberal markets. Liberal customers are the ones who more actively seek new experiences, as detailed in the article about Change Boundaries. Conservative customers tend to come on board only when something new becomes more familiar. When they do, the market becomes huge.
Whitney Houston was able to tap into conservative markets quickly. She was a pop culture icon but also learned to sing in churches with gospel music. Her mother was a notable gospel singer. One of her biggest fans was Ronald Reagan when she recorded a song for Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug efforts. She also sang a famous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl during the Gulf War. This didn’t make her a conservative singer - it enabled her to expand her market from more liberal pop culture to a far bigger national audience.
People who listened to her music or saw her performances didn’t hear or see something liberal or conservative. Her impression on the market simultaneously attracted both groups in a manner that could not be separated. They are fused.
Superposition Example #2: The Vacuum Cleaner
James Dyson created a breakthrough vacuum cleaner that employed “cyclonic separation,” so there is no loss of suction as dirt is picked up. It’s another excellent product that would undoubtedly achieve success due to innovation. The success was amplified, however, when James Dyson designed the vacuum in a way that simultaneously appealed to conservative and liberal customers. It’s not a coincidence that his education was in industrial design.
As detailed in a previous article, the Dyson vacuum cleaner combines modern and traditional design elements in a manner that are hard to separate. The design can be considered postmodern in the way it combines these elements, which is similar to the idea of superposition. Dyson’s vacuum cleaners infuse modern materials and innovation, attracting liberal customers while incorporating a clear structure and hierarchy in the design, which attracts conservative customers. The larger models look almost like a modernist cathedral.
Postmodern design, as a form of superposition, often layers playfulness, bright colors, and a touch of whimsy. You can employ this type of design for your business rather than defaulting to something strictly modern, for example, which appeals more to liberal customers. The Royal Institute of British Architects offers interesting examples of postmodern design that you can use for inspiration in brand, product, and communications design.
Superposition Example #3: The War Memorial
October 2022 marked the fortieth anniversary of the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial, the second most popular memorial in Washington, D.C. Only the Lincoln Memorial is more popular. The Viet Nam memorial is ranked second in Trip Advisor reviews and, according to the National Park Service, is second in annual visits.
Philip Kennicott, the art and architecture critic for the Washington Post, says in his retrospective of the monument, “It was the most consequential monument of the 20th century, and it reinvigorated the making of monuments and memorials in Washington.”
The city has more than 160 monuments competing for attention, so why is this one so successful? Some will point to the monument's inscription of all the fallen soldiers as the source of its strength. Yet other monuments have the same feature, such as the Korean War Memorial.
As Kennicott points out, the Viet Nam Memorial is the only modernist war memorial - it simultaneously looks forward and backward. The idea of a modernist war memorial seems contradictory, yet it’s a key source of power in drawing such a broad audience. It simultaneously captures the imagination of both liberal and conservative visitors.
As with other examples, there is great talent involved. In this case, it’s Maya Lin, who, at the age of twenty-one, was selected as the winner of a blind design competition for the monument. Notably, the unveiling met with immediate controversy. Its modernity stood in stark contrast to all other memorials, and Lin was of Asian American descent. Ronald Reagan famously did not attend the monument’s opening. Yet the public - the market - embraced it, making it more successful than all other monuments but one.
Like the previous examples, you can’t easily untangle the conservative and liberal attributes of the Viet Nam War Memorial when you experience it. The impression is simultaneous in evoking conservative and liberal themes. And like the earlier examples, the results are remarkable.
In all cases - Whitney Houston, James Dyson, and Maya Lin, you have incredible talent to start with. Yet success is fueled by the magic of superposition. This doesn’t put the idea of superposition out of reach for any business that wants to unite the market. It just takes an intentional effort to consider the possibilities. Leaning into individualism offers a different option. There’s no better time to start exploring this as we head into the New Year.
This article originally appeared in the newsletter, Red and Blue Customers.