What The Election Teaches Us About Marketing - InformationWeek

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11/4/2008
12:20 PM
Jim Manico
Jim Manico
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What The Election Teaches Us About Marketing

Seth Godin isn't waiting for the election to close to begin dissecting its marketing takeaways. Whether you believe his assessment is politically slanted is your call, but I personally don't think that's what his analysis is about.

Seth Godin isn't waiting for the election to close to begin dissecting its marketing takeaways. Whether you believe his assessment is politically slanted is your call, but I personally don't think that's what his analysis is about.Godin's abbreviated list follows; I encourage you to read his full blog for more election-based examples that illustrate his points.

1. Stories really matter: More than a billion dollars spent, two 'products' that have very different features, and yet, when people look back at the election they will remember mavericky winking. You can say that's trivial. I'll say that it's human nature. Your product doesn't have features that are more important than the 'features' being discussed in this election, yet, like most marketers, you're obsessed with them. Forget it. The story is what people respond to.

2. TV is over: You can't email a TV commercial to a friend, but you can definitely spread a YouTube video. The cycle of ads got shorter and shorter, and the most important ads were made for the web, not for TV. Your challenge isn't to scrape up enough money to buy TV time. Your challenge is to make video interesting enough that we'll choose to watch it and choose to share it.

3. Permission matters: The Republican party has a long tradition of smart direct mail tactics. Over the years, they've used them to aggressively outfundraise and outcampaign the Democrats. In this election cycle, smart marketers at the Obama campaign toned down the spam and turned up the permission. They worked relentlessly to build a list, and they took care of the list. They used metrics to track open rates and (at least until the end) appeared to avoid burning out the list with constant fundraising. Anticipated, personal and relevant messages will always outperform spam. Regardless of how it is delivered.

4. Marketing is tribal: Karl Rove and others before him were known for cultivating the 'base.' This was shorthand for a tribe of people with shared interests and vision...John McCain had a dilemma. He didn't particularly like the base nor did they like him. His initial strategy was not to lead this existing tribe, but to weave a new tribe...Barack Obama also had a challenge. He knew that the traditional base for Democratic candidates wouldn't be sufficient to get him elected. So he too set out to weave a new tribe...This is a real question for every marketer with an idea to sell: Do you find an existing tribe and try to co-opt them? Or do you try the more expensive and risky effort of building a brand new tribe? The good news is that if you succeed, you get a lot for your efforts. The bad news is that you're likely to fail.

5. Motivating the committed outperforms persuading the uncommitted: The unheralded success factor of Obama's campaign is the get out the vote effort. Every marketer can learn from this. It's easier (far easier) to motivate the slightly motivated than it is to argue with those that either ignore you or are predisposed to not like you.

6. Attack ads don't always work: There's a reason most product marketers don't use attack ads. All they do is suppress sales of your opponent, they don't help you. Since TV ads began, voter turnout has progressively decreased. That's because the goal of attack ads is to keep your opponent's voters from showing up.

7. We get what we deserve. The lesson that society should take away about all marketing is a simple one. When you buy a product, you're also buying the marketing. Buy something from a phone telemarketer, you get more phone telemarketers, guaranteed. Buy a gas guzzler and they'll build more. Marketers are simple people...they make what sells. Our culture has purchased (and voted) itself into the place we are today.

Click here for another five from Rogue Marketer Jeff Grill.

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