It’s Time for Change

With all of the euphoria of the New Hampshire win it seems that the Republican field and the “handlers” behind the current crop of candidates needs a digital marketing 101 refresher course. The election cycle; one of the biggest and most important marketing and advertising events of the last four years is happening in 2012…not in 1996. After having spent the bulk of my professional life working with marketers and media,I find it incredibly troubling that so many are so confused about the direction and focus of the campaign efforts being waged these days by the “teams” responsible for spending all of those campaign dollars.

Just this morning, I recieved an email from Reince Priebus; Chairman of the Republican National Committe urging my support so that the committee could achieve it’s $270,000 goal before the end of the month. The email asks for a donation of anywhere from $2000-$4000 as a “vital investment” in our country’s future. The copy in the email goes on to state that this financial support will help defeat Barack Obama. Frankly Reince; from my seat all of those “investments” need to be refocused big time…in a big way. I have never seen a group of brand marketers SO out of step with the realities of “selling a product” in the new millenium. News reports fresh out of New Hampshire indicate that Gingrich and Romney are readying “millions of dollars” in television commercials to blitz the voters of South Carolina. Meanwhile back at the White House, the brand leader; President Barack Obama has got to feel pretty good about his chances of retaining brand leadership.

How’s this for a history lesson. The popular vote from the last presidential tally in 2008 was Barack Obama- 69,456,897John McCain – 59,934,814. The President won the election by 9,522,083 votes. During the election cycle; brand candidate Obama maintained a team of over 100 professionals focused on building communities and supporters inside of this innovative new venue; the internet. In fact, Brand Obama took the field to school in his ability to leverage social media to not only build a robust community of potential voters; Obama and his team converted this social media passion and interest into real campaign dollars. The Obama campaign claims that they were able to raise over half a billion dollars from social media and internet channels.

As any smart brand marketer knows, the key challenge in growing market share and sales in a highly competitive marketplace against a market leader comes down to a keen understanding of the competitive field. Over the years, my teams and I have spent countless hours helping our customers disect the strategies and tactics of competitors with the intent to craft marketing strategies that will exploit competitive gaps. Our customers have come to rely on our expertise and dispassionate approach to understanding the achilles heals of competitors and creating plans that out maneuver the market leader thru a combination of more innovative tactics and compelling messaging. The kind of programs that exactly what is not happening today in the biggest brand battle in the last four years; the race for the White House.

Just in case you need a bit more evidence that points to the incredible strength that President and brand Obama currently maintains within the social media venue, here are some incredible public stats. My last look at this data was over 2 months ago…just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Two key areas that provide great insight into the relative strength of a brand within the social web are the # of facebook likes and # of twitter followers. Both of these metrics provide a sense for the affinity that consumers/voters have with brands.

As of January 11th – Facebook “likes”

Mitt Romney – 1,310,317
Ron Paul – 716,740
Michele Bachman – 459,757
Herman Cain – 383,062
Newt Gingrich – 227,823
Rick Perry – 180,535
Rick Santorum – 74,470
Jon Huntsman – 37,324
President Barack Obama – 24,430,618

The data is staggering from a brand positioning standpoint. As social media platforms continue to evolve and transform the way in which products of all types are being marketed; the folks managing the biggest brand marketing efforts for this political brands are being distracted with a focus on legacy old media. Consider this…in the last 60 days…the combined republican field has grown the number of facebook likes by a total of 457,648 likes. During that same period…brand Obama has grown his facebook like community by a staggering 478,177. Brand Obama has done better than the entire Republican field. What’s even more troubling for republican brand marketers is the fact that today…brand Obama has a 18.6 times larger facebook following than Mitt Romney. When you do the math…currently Obama…is “destroying” everyone else in the field at a higher margin.In fact…when you combine the entire facebook like community of all republican candidates; brand Obama has an audience of followers that is 7.2 times greater than the aggregate republican community.

As of January 11th – Twitter Followers

Newt Gingrich – 1414,840
Ron Paul – 310,133
Mitt Romney – 251,664
Herman Cain – 185,949
Rick Perry – 144,452
Michele Bachman – 130,613
Jon Huntsman – 85,657
Rick Santorum – 79,040
President Barack Obama – 11,845,303

Consumers continue to “follow” those brands that they have great affinity with on Twitter and within other social media venues. The news here for the Republican brands is equally as troubling and forboding. In the last 60 days the aggregate field of republican brands has increased their number of Twitter Followers by 560,711 followers. During that same period of time and despite the dizzying number of debates and air time provided to attack candidate Obama via broadcast television, newspaper and direct mail efforts, the Obama brand increased its Twitter followers by a whopping 873,954 followers. Today…Candidate Obama’s twitter following is 47 times greater than Mitt Romney’s, 38 times larger than Ron Paul’s and 8.3 times larger than Newt Gingrich. The distance between the rest of the field gets uglier as we move down the list.

Of course all of this data can be discounted by those who are in a state of marketing denial. You know the folks who believe that the internet and social media really don’t matter in the overall scheme of things. We have a bunch of those folks in the marketing community as well; we call them “losers”. Candidate Obama is sitting on a huge lead in one of the most important marketing venues of this campaign. Just four years ago, he and his team proved savvy enough to leverage new media and win the big prize when most legacy thinkers, polls and pundits doubted it possible. While the Republican brands in this battle continue to conduct brand warfare on legacy platforms; the Obama machine is gaining strength and steam….not losing it. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that when the time comes that the brand marketing teams supporting President Obama will turn the volume up on their massive marketing machine and tap into this incredibly large and growing universe online ? I wouldn’t bet against it. Any thoughts and/or ideas that the Obama brand base is weakening is wishful thinking and defies the very compelling data here.

If any or all of these brands were open and/or interested in truly making a run….the time for change is yesterday. Not sure what all of this investment in network television spots and local market penetration is really doing to stem the internet tide. The leading brand is driving an even greater distance between itself and the most ambitious “front runner” in this race. As the RNC and others continue to ask voters for their financial support to win this battle; my sense is that they better wake up to the fact that their dollars had better start being focused on the internet where the real election will be won or lost. It’s time for the brands; the candidates to rattle their staff’s cage for new ideas and strategies…before its too late.

There is still time to make a dramatic change….Just not alot. I plan on providing weekly updates to the shifts that happen within the social media world on a weekly basis. Stay tuned.

Al D

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