Lessons even from the State of the Union Address

Politicians are the best marketers.  Therefore, there are quite a few marketing lessons we can learn from tonight’s State of the Union address by the President and the GOP response.  (Just for fun, the left is the President’s State of the Union address, and the right is the GOP response in stylish word clouds.)


Both side clearly knew the audience and what’s driving them.  The audience is worried, and particularly worried about the future.  As parents (which many Americans are), their goals is to leave the world a better place for their children.  They want to give to their children the opportunities they never had.  As our economy struggles, this goal is seemingly more unrealistic as jobs disappears and savings swindles.  Therefore, both side focused on family and children, though with different spin.  To illustrate the fact, Wall Street Journal reported that the words “child” and “children” appear 15 times in Obama’s speech. “Future” also appears 15 times.  From the word cloud above, we can clearly see the focus on people, jobs, and the new year.  This clearly illustrates how important it is to understand your audience as you craft your message.

A bigger lesson lies in the GOP response.  The lesson here is how ineffective is negative marketing.  The President’s speech was positive and forward looking.  GOP, being in the position to oppose and to criticize, has to take the opposite approach.  However, the response appeared overly negative.  The negative tone undercut the message the Republicans may be trying to send.  The GOP may not have had a choice, since the response was meant to criticize and ignite a political discussion in a bi-party system.  However, in everyday marketing, it may be more appealing to avoid negative marketing.  It’s particularly true since it’s not a bi-party system.  Consumer is not picking either or.  They may buy Maybelline one month, Cover Girl the month, and Almay the month after.  So, instead of knocking them down, your advertising money may be better spent to build yourself up.  Instead of focusing on what the others is doing wrong, focus on what you’re doing right.  This takes the spotlight off the other party and places it squarely on yours.  This is particularly true if you’re on equal footing with your competitors.  If there is someone you’re clearly trying to steal shares from, such as the case in a bi-party political system, then you may want to take a shot squarely at your competitor.  The risk of negative marketing is that it can easily spin into a pissing match that leaves consumers confused.  Cellphone carriers have made this mistake.  Soup manufactures have done the same.  The result is always the same:  consumers don’t know who to listen to.  So, the trick to avoid all this is to find your own strength, and build your marketing campaign around that.  May the best man win!

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