twitter gets (more) political

Twitter has announced that they will begin accepting political ads. While anyone who has spent any time on Twitter knows it can be a politically charged environment, political advertisers need to be cautious with a media buy like this.

Currently 85 senators, 360 house members, 42 governors and all major presidential candidates have a Twitter handle.

Those numbers immediately cause me to think of a question with other numbers. What are 15 senators, 75 representatives, and 8 governors waiting for?

Twitter and other forms of new media are a good way to communicate with constituents and potential voters.

But most politicians are used to one-way communication. As they venture out into social media because some consultant told them to, a disaster is in the making for many of them. Usually when politicians wade into new communication waters, there are gaffes like email spam  or telemarketing scams.

Political media buys on social networks, especially Twitter, will be hijacked by the opposition. The buyer should expect this and plan accordingly.

electing the best spammers

The people who seem to be the most clueless about communication are incumbent politicians.

And the area that they seems to be the most clueless about is opt-in/opt-out communication of any kind. Initiate any contact with them and you’re added to their snail and email mailing lists — whether you want to be added or not.

Today’s example: Take a look at the end of this e-survey form from a member of my state’s congressional delegation:

Politicians are the worst spammers.
Do or die. Opt in is not an option.

The cynic in me says that constiuent input is not really wanted here and it’s just an underhanded way to populate a database. After all, I’m used to members of Congress trying to scam me.

But I like this Congressman and think he’s a good guy. And he actually does a really good job getting out and making personal one-on-one connections with people in the district. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t know that opt-in communications are not only much more effective for the sender, but are also just the right thing to do.

It’s basic e-communication 101 and anyone with any common sense should know it, but politicians seem to be blissfully ignorant.

But think about this. These ham handed / bone headed moves are done by the same people who are making big decisions that affect every aspect of your life. Sleep well.

exposure does not equal success

I’ve often said (and blogged here) that politics is nothing more than marketing.

The district adjacent to my own just wrapped up a special election to fill a vacated state senate seat. The race was between an ambulance chasing lawyer who is a common fixture in media in the area — and another lawyer who may or may not chase ambulances but does not promote it if he does.

The ambulance chaser already had ultimate top-of-mind name awareness in the market. No matter where you live, you can probably name 2 or 3 lawyers in your market/city who have advertised their practice to this level with wall-to-wall TV spots, full page advertising, wasting money with big listings in the Yellow Pages, etc. They’ve marketed themselves to minor celebrity status. If you saw them in the mall, you’d poke the person next to you and say “hey, it’s that lawyer from the commercials”.

The ambulance chaser heavily advertised his candidacy for the senate seat with the same gusto that he marketed his law practice. I have no concrete proof, but it also seemed the frequency of his law practice ads increased during the campaign as well. All of his marketing (both campaign and law practice) was well produced and well designed by professional agencies.

The other lawyer was known in the area, but didn’t have the “minor celebrity” status of his opponent. He didn’t spend a lot of money on the campaign (in fact, he was massivley outspent by the other candidate). The marketing that he did wasn’t as well produced. He wasn’t as comfortable on camera as the other guy. And last night, he won the race.

As with all politics, there were other factors at work here (weather issues may have affected turnout, there were some skeletons in the loser’s political closet, etc), but there are two marketing thoughts that come out of this:
1)You can’t advertise your way to success
Marketing just points people to a product. It doesn’t make the sale. All the marketing in the world won’t sell a product that people don’t want to buy.

2)You can advertise too much
Those 2 or 3 lawyers in your market who are mall celebrities? You probably also see them as parodies. Market yourself enough that you keep top-of-mind awareness, but not so much that it becomes annoying.

last train to brandville

Long time readers of the Shotgun Marketing Blog know that I’m a big anti-fan of the idea of governments trying to “rebrand” a geographic area — (many past examples here)

City leaders of Clarksville, TN are tired of all the negative publicity their town is getting so they are looking for a new slogan.

Earlier this month, a citizen committed a Budd Dwyer style suicide during a city council meeting.

Yeah. A catchy slogan ought to do it. Maybe even a jingle.

(thanks to mvp for the tip)

congressional scam

A scam from Congress — imagine that!

I got a message this morning from a staffer of Congressman Tom Cole. It seemed that he wanted to present me with an award called the Congressional Order of Merit for my work with small businesses.

Frankly, I’ve gotten to the point where weird phone calls and emails don’t surprise me anymore. There’s always an interesting proposition in them. But this one seemed a little more odd than the others. I knew that Tom Cole was not in my state’s congressional delegation.

Something smelled bad. So I googled Tom Cole and from the first page of results it was apparent that he was a real congressman. But why would a congressman from Oklahoma want to present something to someone from Kentucky? So out of extreme curiosity, I returned the call.

Something automated picked up before I got the person, so I immediately went on guard. That’s when it hit me to google the phone number 888-383-4164.

As the “staffer” was talking to me, the google search found numerous blog posts about this scam that’s actually being run BY the Republican National Committee. For a “donation” of a few hundred dollars, you get this “award”. After the recorded message from the congressman was over, I told her to remove me from her list.

An issue that’s rotten with the Do-Not-Call list is the fact that things like this are legal. The politicians exempted themselves from the law. And it’s not just the Republicans. The Democrats are doing similar things as well.

The other rotten aspect here is the gathering of data from domain registrations. These scammers didn’t think I was with Shotgun Concepts. They thought I was with a company that I did a website for this summer. I registered their domain name on my domain account. I’m also getting business credit card junk mail addressed to my client. It’s the only place where my name and their name are conneceted. Shame on all registrars including mine, GoDaddy, for allowing this to happen and trying to make a buck by charging for protection against it.

I’m forwarding this blog post to my actual Kentucky congressional delegation and I urge you to contact yours as well.
Contact your Represenative
Contact your Senator

Who’s in control?

First off, this is an a-political post. I have no horse in the race. I’m just looking at the marketing/media issues of this situation.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a web video circulating that uses footage from the classic 1984 Apple spot. However, in this version, Hillary Clinton takes the place of “Big Brother”. And the tagline sends people to the Obama campaign site. See the spot here…

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about if the ad came from the Barack Obama camp. It turns out the answer was “kinda” as someone who worked for an internet strategy firm hired by the Obama campaign did it on their own. (and has been fired for it)

There’s lots of big thoughts here, and I could expand on each of these points, but here are some quick ponderings…

1) Welcome to the Tipping Point for user-generated content and politics. If candidates thought that bloggers were trouble in the last election cycle, they haven’t seen anything yet. Sure, this ad was created by a “professional”, but it could have just as easily been done by anyone else. And the line between professional and homemade with viral web video is miniscule.

2) Wake up. Everyone is now able to create their own political ad (or any kind of ad, for that matter). If you have a message and an internet connection, you have the world’s attention. This has been clear for some time now, but the mainstream has just picked up on it.

3) If you think you can control your marketing mesage, you’re wrong. If two tightly controlled soundbite driven political campaigns can’t control their messaging, what makes you think you can?

4) The thing that I’ve seen no one mention about all this is the fact that Apple’s message was corrupted. I’m sure the iPod generation doesn’t really know the 1984 ad (actually, I could make the argument that not many people outside the advertising world know anything about it). But, it’s something to consider. Is someone going to re-format your focused marketing for their own purpose?

Bottom line: You no longer have dominant control over messages. The best you can hope for is to guide the conversation. If you’re just now figuring this out, you’re in trouble.

Mud Duex

One last thought on my recent political marketing post/rant

Imagine a world where all marketing is conducted like political marketing in the final two weeks before the election.

“Starbucks has been where Americans get their daily cuppajoe every morning for the past few years. But have you looked at Starbucks record? A barista in Tulsa once spilled a mocha latte on a customer’s pants. Do we really want dirty pants for Americans? Paid for by Citizens for a Better Bean”

Which invokes the following response from Starbucks…

“Ol’ Dunkin is back at it again with wild stories about coffee stained pants. But did you know that Dunkin Donuts uses coffee beans harvested by child labor in a communist dictatorship? Starbucks….we’re roasting the American Bean. Paid for by the National Bean Committee.”

And back and forth.

The final weeks of these political marketing campaigns are like a poker game where the player has lost all his money and he’s placing his wedding band (the BRAND) on the table for the final hand. It’s all or nothing. Destroy the competing brand. And in the process..destroy your own brand image.

And while it’s not this bad in the “real marketing world”…sometimes businesses get close to that line. One of my prime marketing directives is to never attack…or even mention the competition in marketing. You should offer the best product and service that is possible and use all available methods to get the message to the consumer. That’s it.

Yes. Worry about the competition in business strategy. Make sure you know what they’re doing and what they’re planning…but never take the fight public and mention it in your marketing.

When you mention the competition, you’re acknowledging to the market (some that may not have even known you HAD a competitor) that you’re running defense. And it’s hard to score when playing defense.

Forgive me for the sports analogy….but I’m Chris Houchens and I approved this message.

tags::

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.

tags::