While there are similarities and differences between the passed House bill and the proposed Senate bill, the largest difference has been the message. The House debate centered largely on energy, the environment, and jobs, whereas Kerry announced his bill by first stating, "This is a security bill ..."
A security bill? At its core, this legislation is a climate change bill. Yet, Democrats have shifted their message away from "green" and toward "security." Moreover, as chair of the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, this was Boxer's bill to own. Still, in a symbolic gesture, she deferred to Kerry, who is more credible on security issues as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. It is instructive for communications professionals to observe this strategic marketing shift.
Despite intense lobbying by President Barak Obama himself, the House bill passed by a slim 219-212 margin, with 44 Democrats voting against. Democrats now realize that "green" votes alone won't pass the Senate bill. So Kerry is seeking to let the Democrats re-frame the bill in terms of security.
Consider for a moment that politicians sell products like any company does. Think of politicians as companies, or even products themselves, and think of voters as consumers. Just as Fortune 500 companies test-market their products and communications programs, so, too, do politicians. Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist behind Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" in 1994, has literally turned communications testing into a science, and now counts some of America's largest corporations as his clients.
So when John Kerry calls what is in essence a green bill, a security bill, there is good reason. He is reaching beyond the green consumer (i.e. voter) and reaching out to security consumers as well. One can be reasonably confident that his language has been well market tested.
There are several lessons here to be learned by marketing and communications professionals. First, think beyond green when pitching green products. What other value-added propositions exist for a product or service? How can you expand your consumer base? What environmentalists and politicians have learned is that there aren't enough green consumers out there to be successful. Politicians are also trying to sell their green products to pocket book consumers and security consumers.
Second, like it or not, the language used by politicians in the green space can be informative. Last year, Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spent more than a combined $1 billion on their campaigns. A good portion of that went to polling and market testing of their messages. Savvy marketers of green products and services can pick up on some of these trends, ideas and messages --- for no cost at all.