January 8, 2008

The classic marketing mistake Hillary Clinton now needs to avoid

I’m writing this Tuesday morning. It is widely expected that Hillary Clinton will get shellacked in the New Hampshire primary, and her campaign is searching for a strategy with which to rebound.

The temptation will be to make a classic marketing error: Excessive focus. And if they fall into that trap, they will lose.

If Hillary Clinton is to win the Democratic nomination, her campaign now has to simultaneously follow all (or at least most) of the following strategies:

January 8, 2008

John Edwards’ marketing problem

As I noted in a prior post, John Edwards’s main message now is “I offer change, just like Barack Obama.” This elicits an obvious response, namely “Great, buddy. So why should we select you when Obama is also available?”

This was an easier question to answer when “everybody knew” that Obama was too young and unqualified to be taken wholly seriously. But those days are behind us. Besides, having twice the Senatorial experience of your opponent isn’t all that impressive when you have six years and he has three. Certainly Edwards will get some support because he has a Southern accent, isn’t known to ever have snorted cocaine, and – dare I say it – is white. But those factors don’t seem to be enough for Edwards to prevail.

So what can Edwards do, other than wait around and hope to get lucky from an Obama gaffe? Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic primaries, Part 4 – is it a wise strategy?

As I’ve discussed in three prior posts, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign truly revolves around a message of “change.” This has obviously been a successful strategy for him. So does that mean his rivals are right to try to blur his message or steal his thunder?

I think so, for each of John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, albeit for different reasons. Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic Primaries, Part 3 – implicit messaging

When discussing strategic messaging, it is often useful to draw a distinction between explicit messaging (essentially, what’s said outright, in words) and implicit messaging (everything else). I outlined the explicit change messages of Senators Clinton, Obama, and Edwards in a previous post. Now I’d like to highlight some of their (presumably conscious) implicit messaging that supports – or contradicts – their explicit claims.

Again, Obama leads the way. He at least creates the appearance of using a variety of modern internet technologies to communicate with his supporters, and ties this into a pledge to use technology to make government more transparent and responsive to its citizens. The photo section of BarackObama.com focuses on showing him with a broad range of “ordinary” people. Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic Primaries, Part 2 – competing definitions

Barack Obama is running almost purely as the candidate of change, and has been for his whole political career. Accordingly, he has the most complex, multi-faceted, and well-developed change message of any major candidate in either party, even ahead of libertarian/survivalist Republican Ron Paul.

When I visited BarackObama.com on Sunday, the first three slogans I saw were

And it continues from there. Obama has been active in various return-the-government-to-the-people kinds of issues – campaign finance reform, a search engine of government information (which he presented on the debate as a big deal), and so on. His “Let’s be united, not divided” message is couched in terms of change. His recent book title “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” is full of words with connotations of change. He calls himself a “progressive.” He even compares himself to Martin Luther King. And his campaign hardly shies away from the suggestion that Obama’s very skin color would, if he were elected, represent dramatic change.

John Edwards’ message is similar, but at its core he’s pushing a narrower, classically populist concept of “change.” Read more

January 8, 2008

Marketing change in the Democratic Primaries, Part 1 — different approaches

At Saturday’s New Hampshire debate among four Democratic contenders – Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, and John Edwards – the central theme was change. All the Democratic candidates agreed on four basic concepts:

  1. Change from the Bush Administration is paramount.

  2. Change has something to do with helping the poor, the working class, and children.

  3. Change in Iraq policy – specifically, bringing US troops home from Iraq – is mandatory.

  4. Change in health care insurance is important.

No surprises so far – the first three are obvious Democratic positions, and the fourth has been a major Democratic theme since early in the Bill Clinton Administration.

But the debate also highlighted considerable disagreement and competition to further define what “change” entails. Read more

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