Clinton & Obama: A lesson of losing control of your brand

obama-hillary.jpgMany of my colleagues (Mitch Joel, Shel Holtz, Valeria Maltoni) and I frequently speak to members of PRSA, IABC, and advertising agencies explaining as best we can how consumers now own the brand. Good will increasingly cannot be bought and the political season is giving us striking examples of the mechanics of how “web 2.0” – “new media” – “social media” (choose your buzz) have changed the landscape of both business communication and brand marketing.

Frank Rich has this in today’s New York Times editorial page:

bq. The Hallmark show, enacted on an anachronistic studio set that looked like a deliberate throwback to the good old days of 1992, was equally desperate. If the point was to generate donations or excitement, the effect was the reverse. A campaign operative, speaking on MSNBC, claimed that 250,000 viewers had seen an online incarnation of the event in addition to “who knows how many” Hallmark channel viewers. Who knows, indeed? What we do know is that by then the Yes We Can Obama video fronted by the hip-hop vocalist will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas had been averaging roughly a million YouTube views a day. (Cost to the Obama campaign: zero.)

Ed. Note: Video inserted at the end of this post to save you a click-thru.

I have two points to make. First is to note the extreme shift in balance of power as to who controls your brand. Hillary is trying, some would say desperately (link has expired), to control her brand and essentially trick people into voting for her. She (along with Bill presumably) are convinced they are the best for the country. The country, increasingly, is demonstrative otherwise. She can spend money and stage “staged” events with planted questioners, but we have learned as consumers of media as well as of products, when someone is “faking it up.” (My favorite way to describe the traditional art of advertising’s dark side.)

Second, one of the best measurements of how well your brand is being received, is the way that people play with it. Are they promoting you or are they disparaging you? It is not that hard to tell these days.

The great opportunity for business is that we can learn from the political season. We can observe how losing control can be tragic, comedic, and/or a fast trip from relative obscurity to leader of the pack.

Footnote Observations
# It is still early on the date of publication of Frank Rich’s editorial (cited above) and there are over 500 comments already posted. People have opinions and they want to share them.
# My mom, a lifelong Republican, said she would consider voting for Obama before McCain because, “Obama has class.” In this age of communication transparency, things like class definitely can shine through all the traditional mud-slinging.