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’t 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?