Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana with a hard-to-pronounce last name (according to his Twitter profile, it’s pronounced “BOOT-edge-edge”) is running for president of the United States. “Mayor Pete” has been getting lots of media attention and his campaign is raising significant money. Even a few months ago, Buttigieg was virtually unknown outside of Indiana, and most people assumed that a small-town mayor would be a long shot candidate, but he’s quickly rising to the top tier of contenders for the Democratic nomination for president.
What are the secrets to Mayor Pete’s success? Here are a few marketing lessons that business owners can learn from the ways that Mayor Pete Buttigieg has so successfully introduced himself to the political world and is breaking out from a highly competitive, crowded, saturated market:
1. Embrace Your Differences
Mayor Pete is an unconventional choice for president in a few ways: he’s 37 years old, he’s never held statewide office (South Bend isn’t even the biggest city in Indiana) and he’s openly gay. There hasn’t been another candidate like him who has gotten this sort of serious fundraising numbers or national media attention.
But here’s the thing: Buttigieg has embraced and amplified everything about him that is different. He’s actively pointing out the things that make him different from the other candidates, and he’s turning his own potential weaknesses into strengths.
For example, he believes that his youth is a selling point – because he appeals to younger people who have to pay taxes and fight wars and deal with the long-term consequences of the decisions made in D.C. everyday.
He sees being a small city mayor as an advantage because he deals with real issues every day in how people interact with their government.
He speaks candidly about his journey to living openly as a gay man, finding the love of his life in his husband Chaste and how it has made him a better person with more empathy for others and a better connection to his spiritual life.
Aspects of Mayor Pete’s brand that his opponents might try to describe as too unconventional or too risky are what he is embracing to promote his candidacy.
What does this mean for your business? Embrace what makes you different. It’s OK to be unconventional, it’s OK if you’re not right for every customer; not every customer will want what you offer. Don’t apologize for what makes you different and you will be more likely to connect with the right customers for you.
2. Draw upon your diverse expertise.
Pete Buttigieg served in Afghanistan as a Navy intelligence officer, played piano onstage with Ben Folds, was a McKinsey consultant and speaks seven languages. He brings all of that to his campaign.
What does this mean for your business: Not everyone has the same interests or talents, but most business owners have something about them that is a unique extracurricular activity. Draw upon this passion to drive your marketing. If you’re an artist, put up original artwork at your office and share images on Instagram. If you’re a musician, tell your customers about your next show. People who like your business will often be interested in the various facets of who you are and what you care about. Help them remember you and care about you: “Oh yeah, that’s the business run by that cool musician we saw last weekend!”
3. Confidence, confidence, confidence!
Pete Buttigieg is smart and unflappable under pressure. He believes in himself and his potential as a leader but never comes across as arrogant. He seems earnestly interested in making a bigger difference by acting out of a sense of patriotism. As he says, “We’re living in a moment that is calling for newcomers, and it’s calling for underdogs.”
What does this mean for your business: Never lose sight of your sense of mission, your core self-belief in why your business matters and why it’s important. What difference are you trying to make in the world? Why do you do what you do? There is often a core of idealism at the heart of entrepreneurship. Business owners need to make money and pay the bills, but there is often a positive difference that they are trying to create with their business and with their life’s work. Stay focused on your mission and your coolness under pressure will not waver.
4. It’s OK to be vulnerable and real.
Pete Buttigieg gave a speech at the LGBT Victory Fund that was widely shared on social media. He talked about how he had struggled during his early years as a young person to come to terms with his sexuality, and how he finally reached the point of being able to live openly as a gay man. Anyone who’s ever had emotional struggles in their life of wondering about their identity, anyone who’s wanted to live a more authentic life, can relate to this story.
What does this mean for your business: It’s good to be vulnerable and authentically human in your marketing. Share your struggles and doubts as well as your successes. You don’t have to put on a façade of being perfect all the time; people often want to buy from people that they like and can relate to, and a good way to be likable and relatable is to be honest about who you are – the good times as well as the struggles.
No matter what happens from here with Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, it’s a positive sign for America that an openly gay person can run for office at such a high level with such a positive reception for their candidacy. No matter who you vote for in 2020, I hope we can all agree that Mayor Pete is setting an inspiring example for marketers of all kinds. Be like Pete in your business marketing: confident, authentic, and proud of the things that make you “different.”