11/20/2012 10:57 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

Why Romney Lost the Woman Vote

All throughout the U.S. election, you heard that women were critical to the candidates' success. It didn't matter if the topic was contraception or employment; most folks agreed that if a candidate wanted to win, he/she must win women over.

In some ways, it is a classic case of which salesman will make the best pitch or, arguably, which will seem the least risky choice. Marketers from all around the world know this scenario very well. We decided to look at the election through the eyes of brand marketing. We were very surprised by what we saw.

To begin with we all know that President Obama won reelection for a second term. He kept the seat with both the electoral votes (margin of 126 points) and popular vote (margin of just three points). And, for those of us who have followed the narrative on women in the election, the most profound outcome is that President Obama's (Brand Obama) win was bolstered by support from women.

According to the exit polling released last week, Brand Obama garnered more votes than Brand Romney (11 points more), and women accounted for 53 percent of all the votes cast. Arguments can be made that women choose Brand Obama because since 1998, women have typically voted Democrat.

We wondered why that was. We were curious to see if an understanding of women's motivations, personalities and needs would provide insight into why Brand Obama did so much better than Brand Romney when it came to women.

The Strong Presence of Female Independents

An Insights in Marketing study of 1,300 women found that 33 percent of U.S. women (substantially more than the 21 percent of men) describe themselves as neither conservative nor liberal. This is slightly less than the number of women who would describe themselves as conservative (35 percent) and slightly more than the number that would describe themselves as liberal (32 percent).

So, it is possible that as much as one-third of women were waiting for one candidate to connect with them more than the other and capture their vote. (This assumes that self-identified liberal women chose Brand Obama and self-identified conservative women chose Romney.) Both are fair assumptions given that 93 percent of registered Democrats voted for Brand Obama and 94 percent of registered Republicans voted for Brand Romney (Source: Gallup). What might have driven more of these neither conservative nor liberal women to choose Brand Obama vs. Brand Romney? Here are a few thoughts:

The Values of Caring for Others and Treating them Equally

The research also suggests women highly value caring for and treating others equally. In fact, 66 percent of women (vs. 50 percent of men) say they agree that they "believe in caring for the well-being of absolutely all others." Additionally, 77 percent of women (vs. 73 percent of men) agree that "absolutely everyone should be treated equally."

· Is it possible that marketing efforts of Brand Obama were successful at labeling Brand Romney as an elitist? Thus, driving a wedge between the values of these voters and tainting these voters' impressions of Brand Romney.

· Or, is it possible that Brand Romney's strong pledge to repeal "Obamacare" was an issue for women? Perhaps the stance against a law that seemingly promises 'to care for the well-being of absolutely all others equally' flies in the face of what really matters to women... caring for others.

Avoidance of Danger and Risk

The study also found that 42 percent of women (vs. 27 percent of men) do not enjoy taking risks and 58 percent say they avoid "all things that put them in danger" (vs. 50 percent of men).

· Is it possible that more women were willing to stick with Brand Obama even if they are not happy with his performance simply because he is a 'known' entity? Essentially, rather than voting for Brand Obama some women actually voted against the unknown of Brand Romney.

· Or perhaps, Brand Obama successfully used opinions on contraception and abortion to characterize Brand Romney as risky and potentially dangerous to women -- specifically related to their rights with their bodies.

Either way what is clear is that there are many areas both campaigns could have used to better connect with and appeal to women. Our study of women suggests that 91 percent of women do not feel like companies of goods and services market effectively to them. Seemingly this translates to the political world. Companies and political candidates alike need to better understand how to market to women in a way that deeply and profoundly resonates with them in order to win. The stakes are big and are up for grabs.

For information on Insights in Marketing's research visit their website at