4 Lessons from Coco Chanel on How To Win More Votes

Coco Chanel is arguably one of the most fascinating and controversial women of the 20th century.

I recently had the opportunity to read Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda L. Garelick.

I knew nothing about Coco Chanel and nothing about the fashion industry before picking up this book.

It is a great read with some very relevant lessons on political success.

After finishing the book five lessons quickly came to mind from Coco Chanel’s career and applied political campaigns jumped out at me immediately.

1) Chanel Networked and Built Alliances

Coco Chanel was an excellent networker and knew everyone.

She hung out with the likes of Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso, Winston Churchill, the British Royal family, Jewish industrialists, and the war time Nazi leadership.

For sure, some were people you certainly do not want to hang with.  The Nazis would on top of my list.

But it is fascinating how she built relationships with so many diverse people.

It is an unfortunate fact that Chanel literately worked with Jewish manufacturers in America while befriending the Nazi leadership in Paris.

Campaigns are about coalitions and alliances.  Any great success happens through the leadership of combined efforts.

Churchill saved her after the war when she was accused with collaborating with the Nazis.

Remember Reagan Democrats that help deliver to landslide national elections in the 1980s?

Senator Ted Kennedy worked with George W. Bush to pass cutting-edge education policy.

The Civil rights Act was passed largely because Lyndon Johnson reached across the isle to the Republicans in Congress and got them on board.

Nixon took a similar approach in developing the the Environmental Protection Agency and the first ever national treatment program for drug addicts.

Making relationships is vital to political success.

Don’t shut your door on anyone (there are a few exceptions) but not many.

Politics can and does make for strange bed fellows.

2)  Chanel was an Expert at Branding

Coco Chanel knew what she was selling and what people were buying.

Politicians need to know what voters want before they start selling.

That is why we always emphasize polling.

According to Simon Graj of Forbes Magazine, “Chanel maintained constant, unfiltered contact with the tastes of the public for which she designed.”

Always improve your brand.

Figure out who your brand appeals to and who it does not.   You can’t water down your brand by trying to appeal to everyone.

Trying to be all things to everyone leads being nothing to anyone.

Chanel’s brand for women clothing was simple, liberating, and chic.

She did not make formal dress wear for women and certainly did not design mens clothing.

She knew the market she was appealing to and that is where she worked for success.

As a candidate you need to know who you half to talk to to win.

Do your polling.  Do your research.  Learn your district.

Know your voters like Chanel knew her market and you can’t go wrong.

3) Chanel Kept Things Simple

Always keep it simple.

Don’t bore people with a bunch of academic and policy wonk explanations.

People want to be able to easily hear and understand what you are saying.

Everyone has busy lives. If they need to spend time figuring out what you are about, you’ll lose their attention and the election.

A simple message that speaks volumes and speaks to the heart always wins.

In the Winning Candidates Always Stays on Message, Brian Floyd shared three of the best simple but powerful messages in marketing today:

Remember Apple’s “Think Different.”  Very simple message.  Everybody instantly knows what it means.

Nike’s: Nike:  “Just do it.” Again, very simple.

McDonalds:   “You deserve a break today.” Simple and says a lot.

Chanel’s brands were simple and spoke to women something they were craving: liberation.

A simple message is always the best message.

4) Chanel Stayed Disciplined and Focused

Coco Chanel had a colorful personal life.

But rumors of drug addiction and solid love affairs aside, she stayed disciplined and focused on her business.

Coco Chanel was all about business and building her empire.

She made friends with those that could help her build her empire.

Chanel was always working an angle that would help her succeed.

As an alliance and coalition builder, Coco Chanel was always thinking and working on those relationships that would further her success.

She always hired the right people and had the discipline to not get bogged down in the daily grind of running her business.

Coco Chanel always let the seamstress do the work.  She did not run the stores herself and did not work in or directly run any of her many factories.

She was always focused on the end product and coming up with new ideas for future products.

When taking a walk in the country side she would examine the wildflowers, trees, and grasses for new ideas about color.

Chanel was about vision.  She was always focused on the win.

As a candidate you must always think like this.

You must be thinking big like Chanel to be a good candidate.

As a candidate must be thinking about what voters want from you.

If Chanel were running for political office she would not waste her time getting involved in the printing process of her latest mailer or hanging out at the mail house.

Chanel would hire the right people to do this work.

Chanel would hire people that know how to write, design, print and get mail though the post office.

Chanel would hire people that know how to build web sites.

Chanel would hire people that could take professional photos of her.

Chanel would hire people that know how to target voters.

Chanel would hire people that know how to organize precinct operations.

Coco Chanel would be talking to voters, thinking about her presentation, the important issues, and what voters wanted.

She would be building political coalitions, raising money, and obtaining endorsements.

Follow here lead.  Do the work and spend your time talking to voters, raising money, gathering endorsements and building coalitions.

If you do these things correctly you will be able to find the right talent that can get you to that election day victory.

Like Chanel, always stay disciplined and focused on winning.