If one were to break down the Presidential election into marketing analogies, John McCain would be the well-established, venerable brand everyone is familiar with, while Barack Obama is the new entry trying to swipe market share.
"It's one of those classic marketing dichotomies," says Ged Parton, CEO of the brand and communications practice at Synovate. "You can summarize these two brand strategies into 'you, you, you' and 'me, me, me'."
In Parton's analogy, McCain is Diet Coke--a well-known brand that focuses its communications on what it is, rather than features and benefits, leaving the consumer to figure out why he or she should like it. Meanwhile, Obama is Nokia, hinging itself to a few key attributes and how those attributes will benefit the consumer, and makes itself accountable to them.
"McCain's strategy is based on him, his experience and his service to the country," Parton tells Marketing Daily. "[Obama's] whole articulation has been about what he's going to do."
Parton breaks the two strategies down into a "me, me, me" vs. a "you, you, you" contest. If the polls showing Obama leading are to be believed, Obama's outer-directed strategy resonates more with Americans than McCain's "big brand" strategy, Parton says. The market research company polled 1,700 registered voters and discovered that Obama connects strongly on four issues: healthcare, the desire for change, the Iraq war and education. McCain, on the other hand, doesn't have a strong connection with voters on any one specific issue.
Naturally, marketing a politician has some nuances that marketing a brand does not. Parton agrees that people look for different attributes in politicians than they do dishwashing liquid. But there are some lessons product marketers can take from these two strategies.
If one is a venerable brand whose only strategy has been to focus on yourself, there has to be something tangible for consumers to latch onto to change opinion. "If you want to change perceptions in people's minds, you have to demonstrate how you're going to change things," Parton says. "It's the tangibles that legitimize mind changes. Without the tangibles, you're only asserting."
Lesser-known brands, however, can take advantage of that position by making assertions. Because consumers are less familiar with the brand attributes, it's easier to get them to try something and make up their own minds. "You can make assertions, and let the market decide," Parton says. "It's a much easier task than trying to deal with what's established and try to reshape it."