It is easy to ignore the role marketing plays in shaping nations. Marketing not only affects what people consume, but what is produced. Marketing, like it or not, shapes our political process. Marketing guides people's selection of politicians, and then impacts the way politicians govern once in office. The truth, is marketing can be more impactful than any legislation. Just look at how the financial markets react to a change in consumer confidence.
The brand of our government, the brand of our economy and the brand of the United States itself, has taken a beating in recently. What role can, will, or should marketing play?
As I mentioned in a past column, "John Locke To Al Gore: Tech Changes, Advertising Remains," in 1678 John Locke wrote: "He, therefore, that would govern the world well had need consider rather what fashions he makes than what laws, and to bring anything into use, he need only give it reputation."
Take a second to think about how we have seen this idea play out. Congress struggles to get legislation passed for higher MPG standards; meanwhile, celebrities start driving hybrids and "An Inconvenient Truth" sweeps across the nation, public perception begins to change, and people take action (even before gas prices went through the roof).
There is so much marketing can do to improve our political process, restore consumer confidence and improve the overall consumer experience. For much deeper thoughts than mine, I recommend "Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy" by John A. Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz. I listed this book in "My Reading List" a couple of weeks ago, but I think it's particularly relevant given recent events.
What does this have to do with Obama? Specific policies aside, the two candidates offer very different messages to the people. Both candidates agree that what has always made America strong is its people, who will be the reason America can pull through any adversity. If people are the greatest resource a nation has, then a primary goal of government is to inspire those people to do what is necessary to make that nation great. This is simply an exercise in the marketing of ideas on the grandest scale. While McCain might be a maverick who can help to clean up Washington, Obama is the candidate who has nailed the ability to communicate and inspire people to do more. Inspiring confidence and communicating with people may mean more than any bill either candidate can get signed into law.
And what does this have to do with Coca-Cola? Inspiring confidence and driving consumption is not just up to the government; as a matter of fact, marketers like Coca-Cola are head and shoulders better at the task. The task for marketers therefore is to explore more efficient ways to connect and listen to their consumers in order to reduce costs, while still maintaining a presence in the marketplace and connection to their consumers. It's possible that this economy will force marketers to innovate, and finally begin the shift of massive, high-waste, traditional media budgets into more engaging, measurable interactive marketing initiatives.
Marketing means a lot more than convincing people of a position. Think about the definition of marketing offered by the American Marketing Association, and then consider its potential role in government and our economy in the context of a Web 2.0/social media world: "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large." The question is, are you using marketing and today's Web 2.0 and social media technologies to build value, or just to deliver messaging?