Category Archives: Politics

Ron Paul: Can He Digg Out of This Hole?

Jason Tanz wrote an excellent column in this month’s Wired magazine summarizing the great job the Ron Paul campaign is doing leveraging social media to raise money, and, more important, votes. In his words . . . .,

All that buzz might be easy to dismiss but for the fact that Paul — unlike mostRon Paul other Web 2.0 phenoms — has managed to convert eyeballs into dollars. On Guy Fawkes Day, he set a record for one-day fundraising by a Republican, pulling in $4.2 million in online contributions. He outdid himself just six weeks later, tapping the Internet for more than $6 million in a single day.

The Ron Paul candidacy is a lot like the first wave of Facebook apps: thrilling as a notion, disappointing as content.

Tanz captures an idea that’s as relevant to marketing and business as it is to politics. Flawless execution of marketing tactics is hugely important. Leveraging new communication tools is hugely important. Raising venture capital is hugely important. But if the product itself fails to deliver, fails to be remarkable, then everything else can only take you so far.

I’m not completely anti-Paul; I think some of his ideas are really good, and I think it would be wise for the next President to give him a cabinet position for both his support and the support of his supporters. My problem with him, similar to Tanz’, is he just doesn’t seem presidential, and some of his ideas are simply too far out there to be practical.

The lesson? Buzz is crucial, fans/evangelists are a product’s lifeblood, but if what you’re selling has issues, it will catch up to you.

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So What IS the State of the Union?

There’s something fundamentally wrong with any State of the Union address: the expectations for it are way, way off.

And it’s unfair to pinpoint only the President’s annual address. It’s as bad, or worse, with a corporate “state of the company” presentation. Annual meetings with stockholders can blow away the disappointments that are often produced in one of these speeches.

The problem with the expectations is this: the speaker (be it President, CEO, etc.) is expected to a) justify his strategy, and b) make the equivalent of New Year’s Resolutions. Just read this article from the Heath brothers in this month’s Fast Company magazine to see what resolutions will get you. The other problem is what the audience is expected to do. Mostly, clap. Nod. Smile. Shake hands. Mingle. In a phrase, make everyone feel like it’s all OK.

State of the UnionOf course, in the case of politics, those are the same people scrutinizing the President’s every move. They armchair quarterback, jockey for position and play the game to suit their own gain the most. We see Nancy Pelosi in the background yuck-monkeying it up for a person she’s clearly made known she really can’t stand at the end of the day, and definitely doesn’t agree with.

Again, this applies to business just the same. When times are good, the speaker is rolling. When times are bad, the speaker guesses at why that’s happened, and promises that there is a plan in place to combat it. Employees stand and applaud when the pauses prompt them, and stakeholders do the same, until they can split up into their little groups and discuss what they really think over cognac and cigars.

What we rarely get is a real state of things. Calling it like it is. Defining reality.

Which is why most companies/governments have a hard time moving forward – they can’t accurately describe where they’re at.

Similar posts on Brett’s Blog:

  1. Honesty and Politics Can Mix
  2. Intention is Powerless

Obama’s New Christian Angle for South Carolina

Barack Obama is getting in on the religion card aspect of this year’s presidential race. Be sure to click the post and read through Barack’s new brochure for yourself.  A few random observations that I haven’t completely made sense of yet, but thought I would share anyway:

  1. I am not comfortable questioning anyone’s faith, but it’s hard for me to not second-guess the timing and sincerity of this latest tactic. Could it be to offset rumors of Obama being a Muslim? Probably. Could it be that the Deep South is going to appreciate the Christian angle more than the other primaries? Probably. Either way, it appears to be an add-on, or a response to the latest straw poll or focus group. He’s flipping on his “Christian switch;” let’s see when he turns it back off.
  2. What’s he got against Muslims? Granted, there is a good mix of cautious observation and all-out prejudice against Muslims in this country right now, but there are still plenty of American citizens who are Muslim. So why is it bad that he’s rumored to be a Muslim? (I’m being a little sarcastic here, but I do think this is a bit of a no-win situation for him).
  3. I hate the thought of “playing the religion card.” Your faith isn’t something your dealt every once in a while. It’s a constant. You can’t downplay its significance to your campaign and your leadership in New Hampshire and then make it a centerpiece in South Carolina. It’s not an ace up your sleeve, or a wild card you can play as needed. It should be the backdrop. The foundation.
  4. I hate that we feel religion is a private matter. We as citizens have every right in the world to know what religion our potential President’s follow. It can heavily affect how they lead.
  5. I hate when candidates say they would not let their faith affect their leadership and their judgment. I appreciate that Romney is not going to impose his Mormon views on all of America, but at the same time, I wonder why one should bother having a faith if it DOESN’T influence every part of moral character. At the end of the day, Presidents will lean on their morals as they make decisions, and faith is what most affects morals (even a lack of faith). So to say you are worthy of making Presidentially moral decisions while denying your faith really means you have a weak or nonexistent faith to begin with.

Told you that might not make any sense. Comments?

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).

Impressions of the YouTube Republican Debate

I only saw parts of the debate last night. Other than fielding questions via video, the debate’s big gimmick was showing the real-time response of the audience. This has been used earlier this year, but I haven’t seen one that show the entire time over the screen like you saw last night.

My take on it:

  1. The feedback is pretty amazing, and you can pinpoint thoughts, ideas, and more often inflections that seem to spike the responses. And that’s good to know. Unfortunately, it will know doubt lead to advisors just suggesting that the candidate use that inflection more often, or say that line more times, until the whole thing is more like a Broadway play than it is a campaign.
  2. I’m glad I got to see the results in real-time on TV, but you can’t help but be biased by knowing “what everyone else thinks.” If I see that men really like something that McCain said, I am no doubt swayed to at least think I should be thinking that way, too. So, in a way, it might be forging the impressions of the viewing public more than it’s giving feedback on the live audience.


P.S. Of the small cuts I saw, I was most impressed with Huckabee. Forget that he and I share the same faith; I love his style of answering questions and not being afraid to take a position and stand by it, which he did several times last night. Romney certainly looks and acts the most presidential, and that’s probably going to win him the nomination.

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).