I’m Chris Houchens and I approved this message


Flickr image from shenghunglin

Two years ago, I wrote an article for a marketing publication about the politics of marketing…or the marketing of politics…whatever. There are some relevant points in the article to this election cycle I want to expand on and there are some new ones.

Just as with all things it touches, the new social nature of the web causes ideas and philosophies to be spread more quickly and to a more targeted audience. But as I say time and again, the web is not the whole banana…yet. You have to remember that the population that’s on the web and the population that will stand behind the curtain on November 7th are not the exact same group. There still has to be some traditional marketing done to those voters who are not on the net-train yet.

And in a larger sense (or maybe a smaller sense), is the new nature of the web helping or hurting the way that politics are marketed? Sure, the Long Tail is great for picking out people who like the 2,987,535th most popular book on Amazon and “creating a community” around it. But is sure is hard to get 51% of the vote with a niche.

So is traditional marketing the way to win an election? You wouldn’t think so by seeing what the campaign ads look like the last two weeks of October. It’s a ton of wasted money. If there was a campaign strategy, it’s thrown out as political ads start having conversations with each other…….(“Abe Lincoln splits logs. He kills trees”…..”My opponent says I split logs. Well, those trees were already dead”…..”Abe doesn’t know that someone had to kill those trees”….etc….etc.)

It’s the same thing I see happen all the time with corporate marketing. They create a solid well-researched marketing plan…and they stick to it until the competition sticks his head up and says “Boo!”. The company throws the plan out the window and starts marketing re-actively…which is the single worst way to market.

And could we possibly get some better creative pieces? It would help since the spot is on every commercial break. EVERY political ad uses the same voiceover people, the same graphic look, and the same generic stock footage. Way to stand out in the crowd.

And these are the national campaigns with people who supposedly know what they’re doing. It gets progressively worse as you get more local. The local campaign strategy is to litter the roadway with tacky signs. Here locally, there’s a candidate who’s using the signs from the last campaign he lost….to run for a completely different office. He’s saving money and confusing the voter.

In the end, what is the purpose of all this? Even after seeing 300 signs in people’s yards and a commercial every 15 minutes, can you tell me the political positions of most of these candidates? I can’t. And isn’t that the message they’re supposed to be marketing to us? They’ve failed.

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I wonder what they call it in Hawaii

“We want to be a household name.”

That may be the wish of some businesses. But be careful what you wish for. Ask the folks at Kleenex, Xerox, Google, Reynolds Wrap, Windex…who became “household names” and the brand became a verb/noun for a generic item.

That’s bad. And sometimes it gets worse.

Hormel Foods has lost a bid to trademark the the name of it’s own product. It seems Spam is no longer spam.

Perhaps Hormel Foods could develop a email marketing campaign to educate the public that the gelatinous meat was first. They could send it un-solicited. It would be Spam spam.

(sing it with Monty Python’s vikings…)

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Experiences in the Mens Room

I took a trip to Cincinnati for a meeting over the weekend. While on the trip, I had two experiences in drying my hands that made me “FEEL” differently. Let’s explore those feelings. (and of course, tie them to marketing. )

Situation #1 –
We ate here on Saturday night. When I went to the restroom and washed my hands, I had a close encounter with the attendant. She (yes, she, the sinks were in a separate area) turned the faucet on for me…squirted soap in my hands….and pulled a paper towel out and dried my hands. Obviously, she’s doing it for the tips…but the restaurant is smart to have her there with the mints and hair tonic. It makes you think differently about the restaurant. (“Hey…this is a nice place”) It may negate the negative feelings you may have about the fact that they’re draining peoples’ wallets with the $68 surf/turf, $12 salads, $4 mashed potatoes, and $6 bowls of lobster and corn chowder.

Now, the restroom attendant trick doesn’t work everywhere. I wasn’t expecting attendants or valets when I had my usual 5-way at Skyline Chili earlier in the day for lunch. (I always eat chili at least once when I’m in Cincinnati.) Both the chili and the chowder were good. But vastly different expectations and marketing methods allow for vastly different pricing. (and the way you feel about paying those prices)

Situation #2 –
We stopped in Munfordville at the Dairy Queen on the way back home Sunday night. While in the restroom, I saw the hand dryer had my favorite brainwashing marketing message that is a bold-faced lie.

Yes…you’re not killing trees…but you’re destroying the land to pull the coal out of the earth…and polluting the air when you burn that coal to get the electricity to run the dryer.

But, just as long as you don’t think too hard…it makes you feel good that “you’re part of the solution” while the warm air hits your hands. As you actually dry your hands on your pants as you exit the restroom, it may hit you that the feeling is as useless as the dryer.

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Leaving Kansas City

My life as a telephone resident of Kansas City, MO is over.

As you may remember, Sprint thought I was enough of an influencer that they made me a Sprint Ambassador back in March. [catch up on the story here and here.] Earlier this week, I started to make a call and the recording told me that I was no longer in the network.

My 6 month ambassadorship almost ran 8 months and it was a good experience except for one thing. The number. I have repeatedly said and blogged that it was ridiculous for someone in Kentucky to have a Kansas City phone number. The number limited the “influencing power” that I could have had with the phone locally. I really didn’t give out the number much except for here on the blog. Several blog readers called me which was interesting. And I used the phone almost exclusively for all my business and personal long-distance. But it would freak out the good folks here in the 270 area code when I would roll off 816-352-2009. One woman I called locally here thought I was a telemarketer when she saw my number on the caller ID.

But I will miss the phonee. It was a good run. I’ll really miss the wrong numbers from people in Kansas City. I had some good conversations with them.

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Various and Sundry

There was an episode of the short-lived sitcom, Just the Ten of us when Coach Lubbock built a homemade skateboard for his son. The coach thought that something he built would be cool to all of his son’s friends. The kid lashed out right before the tender caring lesson portion of the episode with “Don’t you get it?! A wooden homemade skateboard is just LAME!”

That’s kind of like Wal-mart building a social networking site for teens with limited capabilities and the expectations that the youngsters were going to talk about how cool Wally-world is.

Oh wait, Walmart did do that. And it flopped last week. Hard.

They should have listened to the smart marketing bloggers right before and during the launch.

I’m still waiting for the part of the show when the bloggers sit down on the bed next to Walmart and have the tender caring lesson portion of the episode.

“You know, Wally. It’s not about just having the tech tool to “connect” with the community and going out and trying to be something you’re not. You’re not MySpace and you’re never going to be. You just be yourself. A monopoly that destroys small towns and is slowly unraveling the American economy and your Mom and I will love you just the same. OK?”

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