Monday, April 7, 2008

Livin’ in the Future

I grew up in electoral politics. Those who knew me then might say I didn’t grow up much, but it is what it is. It’s touchy because I try to stay away from politics (here) because it gets in the way of discussing, you know, the whole Dominant Narrative Theory thing.

This is not a post about politics.

Still, politics is a great laboratory for marketers because the stakes are so high. Launch a new product in an existing segment and garner a 30 percent market share out of the box? You’re a star. Run against an incumbent city supervisor in Wabash Wis. And get 49.8 percent of the vote? You’re … what’s the word? Oh, yeah: unemployed.

One of the iron-clad laws of politics always has been to find the natural crowd. It’s like story of jumping to the front of the parade and then “leading” it. You go to the community council meetings. You go to the garden club. You hand out fans at the county fair (did that), wear the jersey of the neighborhood team (ditto) and generally CONTROL THE MESSAGE. Karl Rove (who is a genius) understood this. James Carville (who is a genius) understood this. You know this instinctively because you’re, well … you already know that

Here’s the new reality. It may be fortunate or unfortunate, but you no longer control the message. YOU do not own the brand.

THEY do.

Who are they? The people who relate to it, who participate in it and who share it with their friends and neighbors and colleagues and …

Sorry. Rant over.

You get to tell them what the message is, but then, as any copyright lawyer will tell you, the idea belongs to the world.

He may win or he may lose, but Barrack Obama gets it.

Does that make him a genius? No. A couple of people listed to the upper right of what you’re reading right now have been getting it for years. But it’s the way campaigns will be run in the future, whether they’re political campaigns or marketing campaigns.

Letting go isn’t easy and there absolutely will be mistakes.

Welcome to the future.

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