Politics aside, and I do mean that folks, whether you’re happy or sad this morning isn’t the point. We can all learn important marketing lessons from what we’ve seen in this presidential election.
At its most basic, marketing’s “moving parts” are: your message; how you deliver that message; and to whom.
The questions you need to ask about your message: does your audience care about your message (does it resonate?); do they understand it (clear and consistent); and does it “stick’ (can they describe you as you want them to)?
The McCain campaign’s message strategy was comparative; to focus on the weaknesses of his competitor. “The other product is too expensive, not reliable, whatever. . .not as good as our product.” He did this by focusing on different aspects of Barack Obama as the days and weeks went by (no experience, a celebrity, too liberal, he’ll raise your taxes, socialist, etc.).
The Obama campaign had a mantra: change.
It would be difficult to argue that the McCain message was clear and consistent and the Obama message was not.
How about on the issue of whether the audience cares about the message? I believe we care whether a candidate has enough experience, etc., (the McCain message) and whether the candidate will deliver change (Obama’s message). The election results would tell you we cared more about change, however, I believe the results speak more about the campaigns’ abilities to make their message stick. The results = Obama’s message stuck, McCain’s did not.
Why? Consistency and execution. . .which leads to my next topic
I made donations to both campaigns so as to become a target of their communications. I received text messages and emails from Obama. Obama used Twitter (110K+ following him) and Facebook effectively. I received a door hanger from the Obama campaign two days before the election with my polling place printed on it (think about the logistics of that!). The message was equal parts donate, volunteer, here is where I stand on this issue. McCain’s communications were primarily email based, although I received two letters. All but just a few asked for donations. None of which were personalized (Dear Friend or Dear Supporter versus Dear Hamilton). This surprised me, the lack of personalization (Marketing 101).
The other part of delivery: volume or frequency or reach or budget or call it what you want. Obama clearly won this battle.
Both campaigns did a good job communicating to their targets. The difference: the Obama campaign created a larger target audience. McCain was talking to his “base” while Obama targeted a much larger group.
In summary, I believe Obama won because he built a bigger audience and delivered his message more effectively (better execution). Again, please, apart from how you feel about the outcome, what can you learn? Keep your message simple and consistent. Execution is critical. And make sure you’re targeting a large enough audience.