5 Lessons From The McCain-Obama Presidential Race

31 10 2008

Politics is brass-knuckle marketing in the rawest imaginable form.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. The time to generate awareness and preference is tiny.There’s one winner, and one loser. And, the future of a nation rides on the decision.

No matter what your political preferences are, there’s a lot we can learn as marketers from this election. Here are 5 critical lessons from the 2008 Presidential race.

1. Welcome To The Desktop Democracy

Look at this user-generated video of “Palin as President: A Heartbeat Away”. Attack ads can (and do) now come from anywhere. The mouse is mightier than the sword, and can be tougher and smarter than Washington-insiders. And remember, it’s now as easy for an average consumer to skewer your brand as it is to skewer a politician.

2. The Desktop Democracy Is Both Blue and Red

There are plenty of pro-McCain/Palin videos online, too. Here’s one.

3. Plain Vanilla TV Still Matters

For all the talk about Obama’s digital efforts in mobile and on Facebook, his thirty-minute “infomercial” acknowledges an important truth: millions upon millions of heartland undecideds still watch plain old TV. And sight, sound and motion are still the best way to win hearts and minds.

4. Be Careful How Much You Stretch The Truth

You may be able to get your legal department and the networks to agree to let you stretch the truth of your claims. But, you soon may have to watch out for the watchdogs.

FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan, non profit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. Will this come to CPG marketing as well? Maybe, if marketers continue to stretch the truth too far.

5. Mobile Mobilizes.

Obama’s campaign has made brilliant use of mobile apps, especially for the iPhone.

This may not mean much if you’re hawking softer toilet tissue or peddling whitening and brightening toothpaste.

But, if you’re doing a cause-related marketing campaign, you may find there’s no stronger tool in any medium.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, I strongly suggest you get the Obama app and study what it does well.

Lastly, if you care about America, please vote for the candidate of your choice.

It’s even more important than marketing ūüôā

Post-Vacation Linkfest

29 10 2008

Just flew back from a great vacation in Spain (Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada).

This morning, I’m struggling with the mountain of email in my inbox and juggling assorted crises.

You won’t find any thoughtful commentary or actual ideas today.

But, here are some links that reflect my state of mind.

I’m partly interested in work again, and partly really, really wishing I was back in Spain.

Unplugging For A Bit

17 10 2008

It’s time to unplug for awhile: go on vacation with my wife and relax.

I’m taking DaVinci’s advice:

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”

Will be back soon, rested, happier and (hopefully) more interesting.

Photo credit: Darren Hester

How I Could Have Optimized This Page For Search

16 10 2008

This looks like a useful resource for search.

I haven’t dug through it yet, which is why this page isn’t ranked as highly as it could have been.

Maybe this page needs something about Lindsay Lohan ūüôā

Jeremiah Owyang’s Rx For Newspapers

13 10 2008

If you’re not reading Jeremiah Owyang, you should be.

He’s a prolific reader and writer and Tweeter of what matters.

This morning, he Twittered a painfully acid-moment link about the trouble in the newspaper biz trickling even into digital. 

And, this very useful link to his blog with some great ideas about monetization options for newspapers.

I’ve got some ideas of my own here.

These are rough times for the newspaper business and for newsweeklies.

Digital is faster, and a day or even a week isn’t long enough to provide true longer-term perspective.

Can The iPhone Kill CPG Copy Testing?

13 10 2008

Last week I spent three days in a dark room in Philly at one-on-ones. 

They were OK, but still: is this any way to learn how consumers will really act? Or is there a marketing variant of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that somehow renders all of our learning uncertain?

Maybe CPG marketers should borrow an idea from the researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center.¬† According to WIRED’s Blog Network, Almaden is:

“seeding Apple’s iPhone Applications Store with research projects in a bid to see how users in the real world take to them. (…) ”

“In the first 24 hours of the program’s release on the App Store it bagged about 60 reviews from real users. Now more than 500 reviews have been written of it,” he says.

“You can never have a total sense of user experience by doing lab studies.”¬†

According to¬†Tim Bajarin, president of consulting firm Creative Strategies,¬† “Researchers as well as software developers often come up with great ideas but don’t have ways to test them, especially from the standpoint of getting them to a lot of people. So this could be invaluable.”

It would be just as fair to say, “marketers as well as¬†their agencies often come up with great ideas but don’t have reality-based ways to test them”. How can the iPhone and other interactive media help?

Three Ways To Turn Digital Marketing Into A Lab

If we’re paying attention, digital offers us all brand new opportunities to¬†trade market research theory for a deep dive straight into reality.¬† If we’re wrong, we can learn and adjust quickly. If we’re on to something, we have the chance to learn while we earn.

Here are three ideas to consider:

  • Use Google To Test Ad Copy. Paid search is¬†a dirt-cheap way¬†to find a set of consumers who are in the market for your product and find out what words and ideas are motivating.¬† Direct marketers do this today. There’s no reason why brand marketers can’t learn here too.
  • Use YouTube To Get Feedback On TV Commercials. Every marketer I’ve ever worked with has had ideas that they love, but are so far outside of the box that they can’t figure out how to test them. Why not do some cheap production of these ideas and put them on YouTube and see if the idea has any traction? Obviously, you can’t do that if you’re announcing major news that you don’t want competition to know about. But, let’s be honest: most of the time, our brands don’t have major news.
  • Pay Attention To How Your Users Are Talking About You. People who like your product may be talking about it in a fresher, more imaginative, clearer way than you are.¬† The atmosphere at corporate HQ is unavoidably polluted with corporate lore, personalities, and competing egos. Your users are free of all that. There’s an excellent chance that they’re more free to get your communication right than you are. Same goes for product images on Flickr. Look at how people shoot photos of products in your category. I’ll bet those shots are a lot more exciting and a lot less constipated than what most of us have been shooting.If you have the budget, you can do what General Mills and Kraft have recently done: start their own word-of-mouth networks. General Mills’ “Pssst” gives members the inside skinny on the latest product news. Members can also test new sample kits via snail mail. Kraftfirsttaste.com¬†similarly shares news,¬†coupons and sampling offers. (Hat-tip to Prophet, who picked up the Brandweek article before I did.)

I appalud both companies for not falling prey to the notion that¬†“marketers are not in control of their brands anymore”.¬† These marketing execs are doing exactly what they should do.

They’re learning¬†to move as fast as their consumers do, and to operate in the same reality. That reality does not exist in sterile conference rooms, or thick binders, or behind two-way glass in Philly.

It’s where reality has always been: out there. General Mills and Kraft are out there.

Has your company been there lately? You may be surprised how different it looks lately.

Interactive TV: How Tweet It Is

8 10 2008

I’ve been interested in interactive TV approximately forever. (If you remember QUBE, you know exactly how long forever has been).

My company, Combe, is running our first ever interactive TV campaign for a genuinely great new product for guys called Touch of Gray. We’ve been working with Brightline, who have been a terrific partner for us in every respect: highly recommended.

I can’t offer details about results because they’re confidential, but suffice it to say that I’m very happy with our results. It’s entirely anecdotal, but it was also cool to get this message on Twitter from my friend Brad Waller. Fun to see that this stuff actually works.

The “Don’t Vote” Viral Video

6 10 2008

Very smart, well-produced viral video with Hollywood stars urging people to register to vote.

I believe cause-related marketing is one of the very best uses of social media. Whether you agree, or not, please pass this along to five friends ūüôā

VP Debate Transcript (Or, How To Save Newspapers From Extinction)

4 10 2008

In an age when people are debating the debate on Twitter in real-time (see my previous post), the next morning’s paper is yesterday’s news.

Unless you’re the digital group at The New York Times.

The New York Times today features an interactive video and transcript¬†of last night’s vice-presidential debate that is EVERYTHING a modern digital newspaper should be: smarter, faster, more dynamic and more thoroughly fact-checked than any other medium.

This is absolute genius, and a triumph for The New York Times. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about it.

You need to go look at this immediately, if you publish anything online (including advertising).

Or if you’re a marketer who wonders how good digital media can really be.

Or if you haven’t seen anything brilliant in a very long while and have been secretly despairing that maybe, just maybe, you have already seen everything that can possibly excite you.

It’s that good.

Here’s the link: New York Times Interactive VP Debate Transcript

The Twitter Election: Three Lessons For Marketers

3 10 2008

If you listen carefully these days, you can hear the subtle sounds of something very fundamental shifting.

It’s the sound of keyboards clicking, iPhones beeping, TweetDecks purring. Welcome to the Twitter Election.

The political debates are happening in real time, both on the stage and around the world. Opinions are being shifted on a Tweet by Tweet basis.

The Digital Back Fence and The Mainstream Media Are Merging

How it impacts your marketing depends a lot on whether your brand says “Hi, I’m A McCain” or “Hi, I’m an Obama” (more on that soon, I’m still thinking through exactly what I want to say on the subject.)

There was a time when print or TV pundits told us who won or lost a debate. Today, the Digital Back Fence (social media like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube etc) and readily available digital editing tools have made the gap between event and analysis, between gaffe and parody, disappear.

As Brandon from Octane Interactive notes:

“In 2004 Facebook had just launched and was open to college students only, and YouTube didn‚Äôt even exist! These two sites alone have totally changed the game…”

The Power Of Instant Political Parody

On September 25, Katie Couric interviewed Sarah Palin. 10 days later, this devastatingly funny political parody video mashing up Palin’s voice and video of Miss Teen USA’s famous flop answer hit YouTube.

Social Media, Meet TV.

And it’s not just online. Have you seen what’s happening with Hack The Debate? Current and Twitter are putting TV and social media together in an entirely new way. This radically alters expectations: we no longer expect to watch debates. We expect to be IN debates.

CPG Marketers: Watch Closely. But Don’t Draw The Wrong Conclusions.

John McClain and Mr. Clean may look alike. But from a new marketing perspective, they’re not exactly the same commodity.

People are more passionate about politics than cleaning products. And, the stakes are higher.

Still, I think 3 lessons can be learned:

  1. People’s expectations about participating with media are fundamentally changing. What do our customers care about? How can we get them involved with our products? What conversations do our consumers think we belong in, and which should we steer clear of?
  2. The split in how we consume media is widening daily. McCain voters largely get their news from TV. Obama voters largely get their news from new media sources. How a consumer thinks the world works is radically impacted by where they get their news. Which mass medium — TV or digital? — does your consumer live in?
  3. The people at your company and your agencies need to live in both worlds. If you have a young creative team and a product with an older consumer, how well can they understand the worldview of that consumer? Conversely, if you have an older creative team for a product aimed at younger consumers, how good will their understanding be? As a professional duty, I believe that people at all parts of the process on both the marketer and agency sides need to spend a little time in both media worlds every day. Left to my own devices, I would watch a whole lot less TV than I do. The reason I watch is because I need to understand what that’s like, and how different the world looks from that POV.

It’s a new world. Very exciting stuff. How are you dealing with it?