Barack Obama has won the South Carolina primary by a big margin and trounced Hillary Clinton among voters under 30. The battle between Obama and Hillary has been positioned as a battle of race and gender, but I think there is something else at play. The real showdown between Obama and Hillary Clinton is generational. Hillary is the classic boomer, 60 years old, highlighting her 35 years of experience. Obama is of the next generation – only 46, and looking forward. Newsweek recently wrote a cover story declaring that this election will be all about 1968 and reliving those old battles. I could not disagree more. This contest symbolizes the generational change and will have major implications for media and marketing strategy.
Generational conflict has been much discussed over the years. I would consider the classic boomer generation as 1946-1959. They are now between 62 and 49, and their earliest influences are from the 60’s and early 70s. Generation X (1960-1975) is now between 48 and 33 strongly influenced by the 70 and 80’s. Let’s put generation Y at 1976 and 1998. These are 90’s internet generation. The millennials are 1998-present.
For the past 20 years the boomers have dominated and the Xers have been the kids and up and comers. Now the boomers are heading into their 60s and retirement. There is a major shift as the Xers move into leadership positions in government, business and academia. This is instructive because each generation’s early experience forms the way they view the world and interact with media.
Like Barack Obama, I am a Xer and just turned 44, which coincidently is the median age of current voters. That means 50% of the people voting in 2008 are younger than 44. Do you think they care about 1968? Let me be so bold to speak for my generation: we are so done with the 60’s. Thanks for all the protests, but we are worn out hearing about Woodstock, sit-ins, burning draft cards, ERA marches, the Beatles, Haight Ashbury, and free love. Enough already, it is time for change (maybe Obama is on to something). Reliving these tired battles has given us 16 years of gridlock and partisanship with our two boomer Presidents – Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and their counterparts in Congress. Future historians will likely look back at boomer-rule and see missed opportunities and failed leadership.
Here is a brief review of the early years of my generation’s memories: The end of the Vietnam War which we essentially lost, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, a 12 year bear market, skyrocketing crime rates, double digit inflation and mortgage rates, and two Presidents (Ford and Carter) who were more famous for being made fun of than their accomplishments. Oh, and when we got to college – AIDS. That sure put a damper on free love. If it was not for bad news we wouldn’t have had any news at all.
This timeline of bad times led up to the turning point election of 1980 which brought us Ronald Reagan. He was the first President I voted for and campaigned for in 1984. He was enormously popular among young people in the 80s – today’s thirty and forty-somethings. It is easy to forget the job he did restoring confidence and strength in America. While the boomers continue to cling to the memories of JFK and RFK, we will always have Reagan. Our collective image is of Reagan staring down the Soviets, cutting taxes, joking after being shot, and comforting the county after the Challenger accident. He was a strong leader who projected honesty and optimism.
Barack Obama is a very skilled politician and as the first Xer to run for president, he is modeling himself more on Reagan than he may let on. His campaign brand symbol is an O that looks like a rising sun over a field – Morning in America. He also cleverly mentioned how Reagan was a transforming figure while dissing Bill Clinton at the same time. His target audiences for those comments are those 60% or so of voters under 50. The last few years have been tough; you could almost make an analogy to the late 70’s. The time is right to restore confidence, bring hope and change. Sounds like an Obama campaign speech - and one from Ronald Reagan in 1980.
I will counter Newsweek’s argument. Forget the 60’s, they are heading to the cut out bin of history. Whoever captures the mantel of Ronald Reagan will be our next President. This week on Meet the Press, John McCain sounded like a latter day Reagan, preaching a strong foreign policy and mentioning Reagan’s name several times. He reminds me of him with his genial manor and self depreciating humor. After winning in Florida last night, he is the front runner, and may be endorsed by former Reagan justice department official Rudy Giuliani at the Reagan Library.
We are down to the final four – will it be a turning point election with the Reagan-like change of Obama and McCain or more of the same with either Mrs. Bill Clinton or George Bush’s Harvard Business School classmate, Mitt Romney? If I am right about branding and generational shift, it will be Morning in America again. If I am wrong, wait til 2012.
Generation X may not take control of the White House in 2008, but, Xer’s are now settling into control of major corporations and of course of both mainstream and new media. And right behind them will be the even more tech savvy, online centric generations. Youth culture defines American culture – we are looking at a group of people who have declining loyalty to the mainstream media world and refer to print as dead tree media. These are not people who will respond to old fashioned traditional advertising and branding messages. How are you going to get by their texting, IPODS and TiVOs? The next generation just may be known as the Private Media generation.
On Super Bowl Sunday, Fox will run 42 30 second spots taking in $2.7 million a pop. Marketers will spend almost $115 million in renting the Fox Super Bowl media channel. Add in production costs and agency fees, and we are looking at nearly $150 million spent on traditional broadcast ads during a three hour period. Here is my marketing prediction (game prediction below): The vast majority of this money will be wasted and it will be a poor choice of marketing tactic.
Next week we will look at some of the specific ads and discuss how that investment could have been better spent by creating a Private Media channel rather than renting the most expensive channel available.
To be fair, there is significant brand value in running these ads. You get tons of free press as wiseasses like me will be reviewing them the next day. Also, unlike the old days, you can now create a viral campaign around them with online video and other Web 2.0 tactics. However, the total cost of over 3 million for 30 seconds is insane considering what else you can do with that money.
Super Bowl Sunday has become a national holiday and many people watch the game with a group of friends who they really want to be with as opposed to other holidays when you are trapped with your relatives. Commercial breaks are used for eating, drinking, bathroom runs and socializing. You really don’t have the rapt attention of a room full a buzzed people, and they not in a shopping/buying mode.
Most of the ads are over-produced “branding” ads that do little to tell potential buyers the benefits of the product or service. Sometimes you can’t even tell who is sponsoring the ad until the end. This is when agencies pull out the stops to win awards and stroke egos.
Check back next week and the Think Tank team will let you know which ads we liked, which were a waste of money, and more importantly, how a Private Media Channel implementing any number of custom media solutions would have been a stronger, more measurable media investment.
As someone who has spent the past 20 years moving back and forth between NY and Boston I look at this game with an eye toward the fierce rivalry between the two cities. The personalities and cultures between the two areas are very different for places so physically close. It really is Athens (Boston) vs. Sparta (New York).
The usual psychic balance between the two cites is out of whack. NY usually has the upper hand, but now it is all Boston. Between the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics, it has been no contest; even Mitt Romney has put a beat-down on Rudy Giuliani. It is a bleak time in the Apple with the Mets collapse, the Knicks a laughingstock, and the Yankees embroiled in the steroid scandal. Wall Street has taken a beating and rumor has it that annual bonuses have dipped below seven figures. Gucci belts are tightening and the Hamptons real estate market is suffering. The horror of it all.
Bostonians are enjoying their time on top, and they should. The usual New England reserve and passive-aggressiveness has given way to front running, gloating and self praise. Those fine qualities are usually the province of New Yorkers, not the descendents of Cotton Mather and the Puritans. For the past year, I have had the pleasure of watching the Boston media glorify the Red Sox and Patriots in ways you can’t comprehend. Sports lead the newscasts more often than not. The first 20 minutes of Sunday night’s Channel 7 News was devoted to video of the Patriots boarding buses in Massachusetts, and deplaning in Arizona—gripping journalism. It is just a matter of time before major roads and landmarks are renamed after the holy trinity of Jonathan Papelbon, Tom Brady and David Ortiz.
To follow up on the Athens vs. Sparta theme, hubris has set in. The Boston fans are treating the Super Bowl as a formality on the way to crowning the Patriots as the greatest team of all time. This attitude set in around October when they were running up the score on opponents and the rest as been a coronation. Could Tom Brady’s injury be a symbolic Achilles heel? His ankle has received more media scrutiny than any body part since Janet Jackson’s exposed breast.
Just a feeling that this hubris will may come back to haunt New England. New Yorkers are ready for some Karmic payback and what would be better than ruining the perfect season? There is something cosmic about facing Eli Manning, whose brother Peyton ended the Patriots season last year in the AFC championship game.
I have seen every Patriots game this year, and I think they are wearing down from the pressure and grind of the season. Their offense has had trouble with aggressive, blitzing defenses which the Giants feature and the Giants’ offense put up 35 points on the Pats defense a few weeks ago. The Giants are on a mission, have nothing to lose and know they can play with them. The Patriots, who are the far better team, go into the game knowing that if they lose, they will go down in history as failures to some extent. That’s not fair, but the unfortunate truth in today’s all or nothing media culture.
I’ll take a lot of grief for this prediction, but I have a premonition about the ongoing Greek tragedy between New York and Boston.
Sparta 27 - Athens 21
Read the January 11th WSJ article entitled “The Car That Got Away” and you’ll get a sense of what my wife puts up with fairly regularly. The timing of this article was perfect: after 60 days of online hunting on enthusiast Web sites and associations for one of my favorite cars from my youth (a 1979 Toyota Land Cruiser), I found it, about 2,600 miles away from my garage in Boston. But I found it, and it’s on a truck heading east as we speak.
What was truly interesting about this process were the people I spoke with along the way. No fewer than 45, either on the phone or through email. And every one of them was as excited as I was to talk about their cars. One of them sent a pound of gourmet coffee from Seattle as a thank you for considering his ride. Many poured over our company’s Web site, and asked me very insightful questions about our business. My favorite was a couple who sent voice-over samples of some of their client work, inviting me to learn more about their studio business – and I did. That was completely cool. Others sent videos of their cars in action off road, and made sure to customize them with brief cameos, saying, “Hey Cam, hope you liked the tape – we had fun making it for you.”
Our community was quickly built, private in scope and incorporated the following media channels:
Web sites – enthusiast sites with classified advertising that sold hard
Web-based Original Video – the product in action
Email to send photos and mechanical reviews
Telephone for one-to-one Q&A
Magazines and Newsletters which invigorated the category, and brought all of us together
A customized communication approach to a unique community – at King Fish, we call that creating a Private Media channel – where buyers and sellers create dialogue with one another in trusted environments. It is efficient, it is highly measurable, and it helped me bring home an old family friend.
The contrast between Romney and McCain is equally dramatic in their approach to media. Sen. McCain, who has limited dollars, created ads where he just looked into the camera, told the voter who he is, why he is qualified and what he would do as President. Simple, on message and benefit-oriented to the voter. Because he didn’t have much money, he went directly to the voters in a Private Media strategy. He could not afford a media channel, so he built is own. He went from town to town and sat down with voters who asked him questions. No big speech, just an honest dialog between candidate and voter. He also took advantage of free media, making himself available for any and all who wanted to interview him. All the while, he stays right on brand message. He also comes across as warm and human.
On the other hand, Gov. Romney, who has and raised tons of money, started advertising in NH almost a year ago – and ads never really told you who he was and what he believed. They were a recording of him running off a laundry list a shop worn items he would do as president – lower taxes, cut spending, stop illegal immigration, stop terrorism, etc. Stop me if you heard this before. It was the ultimate in marketing campaigns created by consultants and committees, who conducted a big media assault, and spent tens of millions of dollars renting media channels - to little effect.
When it became clear McCain was gaining on him in the NH polls, he went negative in a big way. Here in the Boston market we get all the ads aimed at southern New Hampshire, and I am not exaggerating to say you could not get way from the barrage of negative advertising Romney aimed at McCain both on TV and radio. They were dreadful ads – the old school “man/woman in the street” fake interviews. Mock serious profiles of local NH voters telling us how McCain’s positions will ruin the country and make it hard on plain ol’ folks to raise a family. They made McCain out to be a cross between Karl Marx and Abbie Hoffman. Does anyone fall for this? Is there anyone who does not look at these types of ads and think they are not scripted Romney supporters or actors? These ads did not contain a single reason why you should vote FOR Romney, rather than just against McCain. The Romney campaign spent all this money and didn’t tell the voter anything about their man’s positions, who he is or why he should be President.
As we know now, they did not work. In fact, exit polling clearly told us that voters felt Romney ran an “unfair” campaign. Whether it is politics or business – comparative negative advertising just does not work. I don’t think people respond well to negative messaging. However, the real reason it does not work is that you are not giving the buyer a clear, benefit-oriented message of what you can do for them. In any type of marketing messaging you must create a dialog of affinity and trust to lead to action. In this case a vote. John McCain’s Private Media strategy and brand proposition led to a win, and maybe the Presidency.
There are some interesting marketing lessons to be learned from this week’s Republican New Hampshire primary. It is ironic that the Harvard MBA and businessman, Mitt Romney, may be conducting the worst political branding and advertising campaign seen in some time. He has all the advantages – especially money – and lost to Sen. McCain by five points. Comparing the marketing strategies of these two candidates illustrates a few fundamental marketing and media truths.
What is a Brand? Brand is a promise of what the consumer gets when they purchase your product or service (or vote). The brand proposition is the foundation for any product, service or candidate. The McCain brand is clear and consistent - he is the war hero turned Senator who is both a maverick and straight shooter. He tells it like it is, and fights for what he believes in - even at political costs. McCain has taken positions on Iraq, campaign financing, immigration and taxes that often puts him at odds with mainstream Republicans. And he does not care. His primary goal is to do what he thinks is the right for the American people. He has no trouble telling voters what they may not want to hear, and does not pander to interest groups. McCain’s brand scores high on measures of likeability, authenticity, compassion, honesty and foreign policy experience. Like him or not, you know what he stands for and what you are going to get.
Contrast that to the Romney brand. Is he the moderate Republican (pro choice, pro gay rights, pro gun control) who ran and won the Governorship in Massachusetts, the bluest of blue states, in 2002? Or, is he the hard right conservative who is now running for President in 2008? Like the businessperson he was, he changes his sales pitch based on the prospect he is trying to sell. Because he has changed many of his positions and seems to pander to the right, he loses in the authenticity category, which does not help him in the honesty department either. There have been a few examples of when he got caught stretching the truth about his past (he exaggerated his hunting background, and there was a sketchy claim about his father marching with Martin Luther King).
The bottom line is no one really knows who he is, and what they could expect from a President Romney. What is the brand promise? I get the sense he is running as someone who he not, but rather as a conglomeration of focus group-tested themes. My hunch: he is not as hard line as he comes across, but feels he must project that image to win the Republican nomination.
Here is some free and unsolicited marketing advice to Mitt Romney to repair his brand: toss the consultants and ad agencies and just tell the American people what you really believe and how you will make their lives better and safer if you are President. Keep the message clear and consistent.
Additionally, try and show some empathy and compassion. Nobody likes a good-looking rich guy who demonizes immigrants while they are mowing his lawn. By all accounts you’re a nice person and good dad. Let people see that side of you, and make some jokes at your own expense – loosen up.
You are running to be President of the United States - all of them. Don’t worry about the approval of the religious right, Fox News, Rush, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. Americans are anxious to move past the 16 years of red state/blue state bickering we have had. Be the guy/brand that can bridge the gap and get people talking to each other. Time to take a hard look at your brand, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire have and opted elsewhere. The clock is ticking; you only have 30 days left if you want to be President.
My 9 year old daughter is really coming of age. She is eagerly paying attention to the events that take place around her each day. Much to my chagrin, the television has become a new source of information for her. Last week while watching the morning news, a segment was done on Hillary Clinton and highlighted a key turning point in her life. Evidently when Hillary was young she wrote a letter to NASA asking what exactly she should do to prepare herself to become an astronaut. Their response was to “become a man, there are no female astronauts”. This was clearly a pivotal moment in her life and she swore she would not let having the wrong plumbing get in her way. Ever.
Upon hearing of this great injustice, my daughter decides to pummel me with questions:
“How do you get to be the President? Why is it such a big deal for a girl to be President? Why hasn’t there been a girl President? Are you going to vote for her because she is a girl? Are you going to vote for her at all? (And totally unrelated but due to the follow up story on the news) Why is Britney Spears in the hospital and how did her little sister get a baby in her belly?”
This was all before coffee!
I realized at that moment that the reception to marketing messages begins at home. Marketing especially to women, is wrapped in so many more communications that just magazine ads and TV commercials. It smacked me in the head that my daughters, my friends, my mom, every female out there is being bombarded by news and politics and that even in the best of objective journalism, there is always the “spin”.
For the record, I addressed my daughters concerns in order:
1. We elect a president by voting, it’s called an election and the one with the most votes wins. 2. It’s a big deal for a girl to be President because there hasn’t been one yet and I have no good explanation why there hasn’t been one yet! 3. I am going to vote for the best candidate not because of their gender but because they are the most qualified and I haven’t made up my mind yet. 4. Britney clearly doesn’t have a Mom as wonderful as you do and if she did, neither of the girls would be where they are now! (My own personal marketing effort with a target market of 3: two girls, one boy).
Hillary is a brand. So is Britney. We don’t even have to use their last names. They are catapulted into our lives on TV, in tabloid headlines and on entertainment Web sites. We watch every move they make, their stumbles and triumphs replayed for us over and over. If you miss it on the news, catch it on YouTube. It is symbolic of our times that two such different women share opening headline status on the Today Show.
Hillary has thrown herself into the boys’ club house. She is showing us what the potential leader of the free world looks like in lipstick and heels. She needs to be careful that her skirt isn’t too short or her blouse too low. She mustn’t be too sensitive or she’ll be accused of playing the “girl” card. She has to find the perfect balance between diplomat and bitch, “first lady” and “first lady President”. She wants to be seen as capable and tough and yet wins market share when she is moved to tears in a public forum. Positioning her is one of the most delicate marketing challenges ever seen in politics.
Britney is a brand too. Here is what women learn from her message: This is what you don’t want to become; this is what you don’t want your daughters to become; this is what happens when it all goes wrong. Her life, a bizarre combination of soap opera and reality-series, illustrates for us what happens when the fairy tale goes awry. Sweet child turned child-star: makes it big in a success story that could only happen in America, and then implodes with the same super-sized fanfare she received during her well documented rise to fame.
Two American Dream stories as told by the media on all fronts: two women who have left their own unique mark on this moment in history. The woman who would be President and the Pop Princess who would fall from grace. Watching the contrast between these two brands illustrates how complex is it to raise kids, especially girls in this age of media saturation.
I hope my daughters turn out more like Hillary than Britney, but mostly I am hoping that they will build their own American Girl Story and they will turn out to be just really good women.
We often talk about Private Media in terms of for-profit corporations directly talking to customers and prospects by owning their media channel rather than renting time and space from large media companies. One of the many benefits of the private media approach is that the owner of the media channel gets to control the message – both the content and distribution.
We now see a rapidly growing movement where individuals are also creating private media channels – pretty easy with today’s Web 2.0 technologies. Between social networking sites and video sharing, anyone can create a private media channel with minimal effort. All of the Presidential candidates are well down this road, and almost every rock star, actor and athlete worth their salt has their own Web site, myspace page, and has posted videos on YouTube for an interactive dialog with fans. While the primary motivation is promotion, it can also be used to communicate directly with fans, enabling the personality to control the message and environment while getting their message out there as fast as possible. One of the key rules of crisis management is getting the word out quickly and framing the conversation.
How many times on TV have we seen someone yell at their lackeys in anger, saying: “the press will have a field day”. (By the way, a field day is an opportunity for unrestrained activity, not a day of sports competition at school – thanks Encarta.) In the past, celebrities and companies were dependent on their PR machines pitching and spinning stories to the press and having no input as the press edits and positions the story. Once a negative story gets into the 24/7 news cycle it is well out of your hands, and indeed a field day ensues.
We are now seeing famous people taking their message directly to the people. When Rosie O’Donnell was battling ABC and Barbra Walters over her job on the View, she posted video blogs on her site for her fans and the media to pick up and replay. Rosie’s private media channel told her side of the story quicker than the Disney/ABC PR team could tell theirs. Baseball’s Roger Clemens did the same thing when responding to reports he used steroids. After a few days of silence he posted a video on his site and on YouTube to deny the allegations. He will appear on 60 Minutes this weekend, but he has already gotten his message directly to the public bypassing the 60 Minutes film editing room.
The newest private media channel took me by surprise – The British Royal Family has premiered their own royal channel on YouTube. This is where they posted the Queen’s annual Christmas message and other clips and archive footage. When one of the oldest and most traditional intuitions in the world embraces private media, it is clearly an idea whose time has come.
Consumers of media and information need to watch these videos with an attitude of buyer beware. This is an unfiltered message, which does not have the benefit of a journalistic screen – no fact checking or follow up questions. On the other hand, there also no agenda or bias from the journalist or media company. This is especially attractive to polarizing and controversial figures such as Queen Elizabeth II and Roger Clemens. It bears watching how this trend will develop – as we can assume that more and more notable people and companies create their own private media channels.
How will the traditional media companies adapt? Will consumers put as much faith in messages directly from the sources, rather than through journalists? My guess is that we will come to expect the direct message from our actors, singers, athletes, politicians and corporations. It will be incumbent on corporations and others using private media to keep the content benefit-oriented and information rich when speaking to their customers and prospects rather than a sales pitch. With the right content, a private media channel can be more powerful than any ad or PR effort will ever be.
I like my dry cleaning strong. Strong colors, strong creases, strong chemical smells. I want to peel my ultra-heavy starched shirts right off the hanger and feel as though I’m wearing a brand-new shirt. I want to lift up that plastic veil and marvel at the sight of my born-again wool coats. I want to be sure that my linen pants were dipped in pool of industrial-strength Oxy Clean and then lovingly hand-creased by a strong and meticulous Russian woman.
After a recent move, I decided to frequent a nearby location of the Zoots chain. “They have a delivery service, shoe repair AND in-store tailoring!” I salivated. “Boy, I bet they’ll crease my pants with pride. I’m there.”
And so began my year-long lukewarm affair with Zoots. At first, I was just vaguely dissatisfied with the fact that when I dropped clothes off, it was at least four days before I could pick them up. Then, I began to notice that the receipt they gave me for pick-up never had the cost on it. And the clothes just never…felt clean. More than anything, I just couldn’t shake the thought that they were trying to dupe me into paying more for what was truly some mediocre cleaning and even more mediocre service.
So, my recent decision to try another dry cleaner was indeed premeditated. I packed up my silk shirts and tailored pants and headed to another local chain called Anton’s. I dropped my clothes off with ease, was told they’d be ready in two days, and received a pick-up receipt that had the cost of the cleaning prominently displayed. I was already off to a better start, I mused as I left the store.
About three days later, I reached into my mailbox to find a mysterious package with a hand-applied label and a stamp. I took a closer look and discovered it was a cheery, beautifully designed welcome package from Anton’s. I eagerly tore the package open and saw it included a welcome letter highlighting store locations, a bevy of coupons and a card with dry-cleaning tips, among other items.
Anton’s chose the precise media channel, direct mail, to reach me, and right after I had a very positive experience with them. The excellent timing, the variety of useful materials enclosed and the attractive, welcoming packaging all worked together to make me feel like they truly cared about serving me. They noticed I was a new customer, and they sent me a package to show they appreciated it. That’s perhaps one of the most simple, yet most important keys of customer retention – just showing you care. And no matter what people say about the death of direct mail, if it’s as well-executed as my package from Anton’ was, a simple $1 or $2 mailing might just earn you a customer for life.
Zoots may have cared about my business, but they certainly never showed it. And now that I have Anton’s to re-fresh my creases, I’m one happy customer.