Commentary

Media X: In Truth There Is No Beauty

In marketing as in life, there are verities. We ignore them at our peril.

Last week, we discussed how too many people in this country don't get that. Now let's talk about what it's going to cost you. This is about politics, which, suddenly, has become a marketing trendsetter instead of follower. Yes, I'm talking about Obama, the first digital-culture candidate.

He's run it perfectly. Positioning. Packaging. Communications channel plan. Hell, even his posture is post-partisan.

And marketplace conditions couldn't be riper for a contender brand. People hate the GOP doofus who runs the country. The economy's imploding. Two wars, and we're losing at least half of them. And the goddamn Chinese are stealing all of America's press.

So, naturally, the perfectly marketed presidential candidate is perfectly positioned to lose. Yes, I said it: Obama will lose. And not because his party couldn't find a clue with both hands and a flashlight. He'll lose because of marketing verities. To whit:

· You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. · In uncertainty, venerable brands win. · Fear works. The first tenet is obvious to anybody with a brain (that would be Europeans). This is a stupid country. This is a country that thinks Macaroni Grill is authentic Italian. A country that thinks the solution to its oil addiction is to drill for more. A country consumed by the question of whether Lindsay Lohan likes girls.

Jesus wept, people, these are the same consumers who bought George W. Bush.

Twice.

Which brings us to the second truth. When times get tough, as Unilever's CEO Patrick Cescau recently noted, consumers forgo experimentation and go back to known brands. This marketing verity is as old as the hills (or just younger than McCain), and just as durable.

Obama is a new brand. And he's got a disturbing message, all this talk of unity and coming together. Listen, that worked for Irwin Gotlieb when he merged Ogilvy red and JWT blue to create MindShare purple. It won't work with the citizenry, for whom red versus blue isn't just a rivalry; it's eugenics.

McCain, on the other hand, is the Roto-Rooter of political brands: familiar, comfortable and safe.

Who do you think those exurban Gen X assholes with their manicured lawns and pampered sons who play for the football team at the local Christian high school are going to vote for when push comes to shove?

Which brings us, inexorably, to fear.

Boy, does that sumbitch still work. Clinton used it. McCain's using it. Even my libertarian loon of an ex-wife used it when our son announced he was leaning leftward, hugging the kid and pleading, "Save your mama, don't vote for Obama!"

Remember one other, ugly thing: You get any market researcher or pollster drunk enough, they'll all admit that racism will play a far larger role in this election than anybody is willing to say publicly.

Marketing verities -- at the point of purchase or at the polls -- that's all you need to know, folks.

Oh, and if I were you, I'd learn Mandarin.

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