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Book Review: Applebee’s America – How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community by Ron Fournier, Douglas B. Sosnik, and Matthew J. Dowd

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What do you get when you mix an Applebee's® restaurant with base polling? You get a book about "competing good" in the neighborhood. Competing good was the very theme Ron Fournier (political author), Douglas Sosnik (advisor to Bill Clinton), and Matthew Dowd (advisor to G.W. Bush) had when they started to write their new blueprint about connecting with the modern American constituent, whether they are in voting booths, pews, or on main street.

A record number of Americans voted in the last election, U.S. consumer spending is up from years prior, and the Bible belt had to use a farther notch to let in new parishioners. But robust growth brings its own challenges, and Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community advertises the point that to compete well you have to connect well.

How does a leader connect well? After crunching tons of lifestyle targeting data and compiling some compelling interviews, the authors have discovered Machiavelli’s Principe commentary that the quality of character in a leader still applies. Character, integrity, and gut value connections with the public are more vital to leaders nowadays than presenting the audience a catalogue of policies. In complement to the expectation of character in leaders, the public has a growing sense of community that CEO’s should take heed of. Restaurants like Applebee’s portray their diners as meeting places as well as eating places, and, as the largest chain in America, it might be on to something.

The “third place” designation has been a boon for other community-styled businesses too – Starbucks anyone? Before 2003, MySpace was somewhere a person parked, now it is where around 80% of all online social networking traffic parks. Speaking of which, the net has proven to be an invaluable community for leaders to make connections. In case you haven’t heard, Senator Hilary Clinton (who has a Myspace.com page, by the way, and who also reviewed this book) made news appearing on the video-sharing community called You Tube asking voters to choose her campaign theme song. For future leaders, the net is another community location to make connections, increase their communicative bandwidth, and help mortar over those pesky post-boomer generation gaps with their message. 

Applebee’s America not only lays out some well researched constituent-building strategies, it provides some interesting findings on demographics. Do Democrats or Republicans watch more TV? Are megachurch attenders template right wingers? Is America really red or blue? Which is better for determining an individual or group’s political and consumer activity: lifestyle choices or voting history? What did the authors find? Read the book.

Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community is a graphic and cliché-shattering franchise that hums with insight and will surely enrich podia, boardrooms, and lecterns everywhere.

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About James O'Neil

  • Miss Sojanist

    I like how the book hinted at religion and business being equivalent when it talked about how they both were “selling.” Very tactful gentlemen, very tactful indeed.

  • lizzie

    Well maybe they should turn the other cheek.