Category Archives: Election ’08

Charisma: The Only “Policy” That Matters

I’m in no way showing support for Obama, but there is no denying that the video of his speech in Iowa shows the power of public speaking. This is a speech that rallies the troops. Something about it makes you want to follow him, even when you’re not sure of his policies. He’s confident, articulate and focused.

Most of all, he’s soaked in charisma (at least in this example), which eventually becomes the most important characteristic for a President.  Most of us don’t learn enough about policies, or a candidate’s past, or who they’re likely to assign to their cabinet. We base our decision on charisma at the end of the day.

We as consumers are pretty much the same way.  How can you make your product or service more charismatic?

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What we’ve learned from Iowa and New Hampshire

This post supports my earlier post of how caucuses and focus groups are similar.

Here’s a look at the final results from Iowa and New Hampshire.

With the two major kickoff primaries now behind, here are the assumptions I guess we can make based on the amazing data we were able to reap:

  1. Giuliani’s not a strong candidate (which no one believes)
  2. The more of a hick you are, the more appealing Huckabee is (we already knew that).
  3. Hilary – you either love her or hate her (we definitely knew that). And, crying must be a profitable tactic.
  4. Obama – He’s a steady favorite with the Dems  (already  knew that).
  5. Mitt has some issues, but he’s stronger in New England since he’s from there (anyone could figure that out).
  6. Edwards is always gonna be the “5th wheel” democrat.
  7. Ron Paul attracts about 10% of the vote, cuz about 10% of all of us are crazy enough to think what the White House needs is wacky logic.
  8. McCain’s got a chance – this is really the only surprise to me.
  9. Thompson better not let his contract run out on Law & Order, or whatever TV show he’s on these days.

So, out of it all, I was surprised Giuliani didn’t show a little bit better, and I think it would be wrong for the Republicans to deny their gut on him being a strong nomination based on the primary feedback. And I’m surprised McCain did so well in New Hampshire.

Otherwise, the primaries pretty much just proved what we all already knew.

What Caucuses and Focus Groups Have in Common

Marketing and the Presidential CaucusesIn summary, EVERYTHING.

The similarities between a presidential campaign and a marketing campaign are staggeringly abundant, mainly because they are both marketing campaigns at the end of the day.

As we’ve entered caucus season for the ’08 election, the first glaring commonality is too easy to see: Caucuses are just focus groups with a more “presidential” name.

For years now, more and more marketers have shifted opinions on the importance of focus groups, mostly noting that they don’t work, they don’t reveal too much, and they’re a big waste of time and money.

So here are 6 ways the similarities are obvious, with examples from this year’s campaign to date:

  1. Both are used for risk-reduction. Executives love riding the fence on a strategic decision until they can be assured by a focus group that something’s gonna work. Political parties want to know which candidates are the most respected. The problem is that you only water something down when you reduce too much risk. And reducing too much risk is almost always the outcome of focus groups. Ron Paul has some pretty crazy ideas, but if you think about some of them, they make sense. Doesn’t matter. His crazy ideas that might work will always be overshadowed by more widely-accepted policies that please people but won’t really make that big a difference (or will be discussed and argued over in Congress for years). The same will happen to your product when you let a focus group direct product development.
  2. Demographics can be deceiving. All white people don’t think the same. All women don’t think the same. All white women who live in Houston don’t think the same. All white women who live in Houston with 2 kids, a cat and are part of a household income of $120,000 – $180,000 don’t think the same. Most importantly, however, is that any group of people locked up in a room and given the chance to give feedback are not going to think the same, regardless of what they have in common, AND regardless of what they say. Iowa doesn’t represent the rest of the nation, nor does New Hampshire. The bigger issue, though, is how the decision-making process if affected when Iowa and New Hampshire voters are placed in the spotlight and know they’re input is being massively amplified. The spotlight can cause stage fright for some, while others soak it up. In both cases, you won’t see the real person. Stages are for actors. Especially the national stage.
  3. Both are relied upon way too much. Million dollar decisions are often based on what 8 knuckleheads in a room think about your company. Potential presidents will be thrown aside due to what a few farmers and a few yuppies think of them. It’s not the knuckleheads’ fault – it’s the business owner’s fault. Focus groups are great for testing certain tactics; they suck at deciding on overall direction, simply because they don’t have the background to make such a decision. Mitt Romney is a strong candidate. So is Hilary Clinton. However, if they blow it in New Hampshire tonight, they could be finished. Because what the people in Iowa and New Hampshire think must be what the rest of the nation thinks, right?
  4. Both are too often cited. Once the focus group has exited the building, the decision has been made, the product has been launched and the plan has been executed, problems will inevitably arise. And, inevitably, research from the focus group will be cited. “The blue product isn’t selling like the green one, even though everyone in the focus group preferred it.” “The American people said they wanted change, but now they’re too scared to support it.” We all need someone other than ourselves to blame when things go wrong. Focus groups seem like the responsible option, given they count as “data” and are supposed to represent the masses. Obviously, 8 people can’t effectively represent 20 million people, and we marketers are the ones with the training and experience in knowing consumers, not the knuckleheads in the focus groups. Be sure any decision you make is the one you can stand by without blaming the focus group. Cuz the focus group can’t get fired, but you can.
  5. They both usually measure the wrong thing. Most people use focus groups to find out if someone likes their new product. We want to measure product acceptance, but focus groups can’t do that. Focus group participants are most often liars, for one reason or another. Either they don’t want to hurt any feelings, or they want their voice to be prominent. In both situations, they aren’t being accurate. Stores aren’t filled with tables where clerks talk about a product for an hour because shoppers don’t want to shop that way. Come Election Day in November, most voting booths won’t have the hoopla surrounding them and the exit polls awaiting us. The event itself has a huge effect on the outcome, and that’s why you can’t trust them for overall acceptance. But, that’s what they’re most often used for.
  6. They can’t measure what needs to be measured. This might sound a lot like #5, but it’s different. Not only do focus groups usually measure the wrong thing, but it’s impossible for them to measure the right thing. There are far too many intangibles that go into a successful product life cycle to expect a simple 4 hour focus group to unveil. Unknowns such as returns, effectiveness, retail availability, the economy and spreadability. Same goes for presidential candidates. We measure responses to debates, policies, attire, religion, their family, and much more. But at the end of the day, a president’s major characteristic must be the ability to lead. Which heavily relies on followers who are willing to follow. Most importantly, though, it relies on trust. And that takes a pretty long time to establish. Look at Rudy – his lifestyle and policies are often frowned upon, but I don’t think you can question his ability to lead. No one really remembers Lincoln’s policies, or FDR’s. But we do remember how well they led. Unfortunately, most voters at caucuses aren’t voting within that paradigm, which means we aren’t measuring what needs to be measured. (FYI, my Rudy example is not a sign of open endorsement – just an example).

Weekend Reading, July 13- July 15

Some nice links I ran across over the weekend. In no particular order, of course:

  • Will work for tattoos: The Happs has a nice set of links here, including an interesting read on tattoos and your job hunt. I wonder if it would help your chances to tattoo your potential boss’s name?
  • Lost producer making a movie: My man Frank seems a bit obsessed with JJ Abrams’ upcoming movie, apparently due out in January. I’m a little behind on all the buzz, but Frank’s not. Here are all the posts he’s written on it so far.
  • The most promising Presidential candidate yet: Have you heard of Ray Hopewood yet? You will. He’s got a lot of money and he’s making a beeline to the election polls, as you can see here on My 2 Cents.
  • Stop counting Page Views: Nielsen is scrapping page views as a key measurement for a website’s popularity and giving more weight to time spent on a site. Thanks to both Steve and Raesea for pointing the way here. If getting people to spend more time on your website is the new goal, how will that change design? I guess the first question to ask, though, is do you care what Nielsen thinks? What is has done is miraculously made AOL a bigger website than Google, which you can see here at the Marketing Hipster.
  • Homemade Light Saber: Good friend and frequent commenter John Harris has figured out how to make his own light-saber. Pretty dang impressive – and entertaining.
  • Great new design blog: Here’s a great designer who has started a new blog that I think is going to be pretty cool. The lead-off post contains “Maxi Pad” in it, so you know you’ve found something fresh (pun intended).