Having detractors is one thing —
but don’t make the “kick me” sign YOURSELF.
(Image by Fred Gates, click through to see more)

By now you have probably seen something on Team Romney’s misspelling of “America” in their mobile app.

This was quickly ridiculed and became a legitimate news story, and rightly so. It is a BIG screw-up, especially by a campaign that is trying to float the nonsense that Obama “doesn’t understand America.” Well, at least he can SPELL it.

While this was making the rounds from news shows to The Colbert Report, it seemed to me that another story was being missed: that there were serious issues with the app that had little to do with an outsourced and/or rushed headline.

In fact, these problems had nothing to do with technology at all — and everything to do with strategy.

What happened next confirmed my thinking: late-comers to the party (like myself) started using the corrected app to make (what we hoped was) pithy satire. The #withmitt hashtag on twitter was crowded with “Amercia” jokes and anti-Romney images generated from the app, rendering it basically useless to the campaign. (The hashtag was created by Mitt’s team so that people could see the images people made with the app.)

A fair question to ask here would be “what the hell did you think would happen?”

The truth is this is truly bad management: Romney’s pitch to America is that his way of running businesses can right the economy — yet his campaign decisions so far are questionable at best (and we aren’t even discussing Donald Trump).

Just as any schmuck running for dog catcher would know to forcefully distance himself from Trump’s birther insanity, any blogger with more than three readers knows that they should moderate comments.

Strangely, the Romney campaign thought that “crowdsourcing” their message with a handy app that lets you sabotage the campaign merge any picture you like with their slogans is somehow a good idea for them. More likely, they didn’t think about it at all.

Is it fair to critique the Romney campaign based on their app?

Regarding the “Amercia” gaff, Andrea Saul, a campaign team member said: “Mistakes happen. I don’t think any voter cares about a typo at the end of the day.” Maybe, but shouldn’t we ask why the “With Mitt” app only does one thing — take photos with campaign slogans on them?

This was done on the cheap, and I’m talking about strategic thinking, not dollars spent.

Team Obama isn’t making these mistakes. The far less mischief-inviting “Obama 2012” app is better in other ways as well: it offers supporters real information: news updates, campaign videos, curated pictures of campaign volunteers, and text messages from the campaign. This may not be reinventing the wheel, but it does engage Obama supporters rather than just trying to hang a sign on them. In short, it is smart. More specifically, it was based on a discussion of what an app might actually provide to supporters, not some vague impulse to “have something out there.”

Whether the Romney campaign was sold a bad idea by “experts,” under-budgeted the app, or just has a hands-off style of management, none bode well for the campaign’s central argument.

If Mitt Romney can’t manage this without screwing it up royally, can he really make the “superior manager” argument to the American voter?

Postscript:

It’s not just detractors that can take a campaign off message.

If you think this is isolated, you might want to read my next post. I’ll discuss Romney’s FaceBook “design a campaign t-shirt” contest. Yes, they are really doing THAT.

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