Psychology of Consumer Behaviour |

Sunday, November 9, 2008

In Need of a Hero- Old Soldiers- Intellectuals -Community and Change

There was a time before in the 1950s when America was in need of a hero. While your everyday American feared the Atom bomb, practiced air-raid drills and built a bomb shelter in his basement, science fiction movies showed detonated bombs destroying civilization. And Joseph McCarthy charged that the US government was filled with "Commies."

Political campaigns at the time were mostly about silly songs praising this candidate or that. Television was new and it was still being seen as if it were radio with pictures.

But admen realized this was not the same game at all.

Rosser Reeves who most everyday people would never have heard of was about to change the way American presidents were sold.

It was 1952 and the Republicans wanted America to elect someone who wasn’t a politician at all- Dwight D Eisenhower. Eisenhower (Ike) was a war hero, wore glasses, looked old and had an assortment of campaign messages. His rival Adelaide Stevenson came from a distinguished family in Illinois and was known as an intellectual and eloquent orator.

Rosser Reeves of the Bates agency was hired to repackage and sell a new Eisenhower. Reeves did not overestimate the intelligence of his audience. Noted for the idea of the USP- the unique selling proposition- a focus on one theme, Reeves believed that you needed to pick one overriding theme that your competition did not have and hammer it home. Repetition was a key and it often resulted in the most annoying of ads like one for Anacin, Anacin Anacin that worked FAST! FAST! FAST!

Reeves researched which one message would be most effective for Eisenhower and then he set about orchestrating how best to deliver the message.

The spots would target the undecided voters; they would be scripted so there would be no chance for the candidate to slip up and no chance for the Democrats to answer in the last three weeks. Reeves wrote about 20 spots, and had Eisenhower come to the studio for one day.

Eisenhower the old soldier did not like the idea that he was being orchestrated, but reluctantly went along. They didn't want him to look old so he was forced to read off large cards without his glasses. Eisenhower was told to look down to the right when answering and to end by looking directly into the camera. Reeves then went to find the typical Americans who would ask Ike the questions that went with the set responses. The typical Americans were told to ask the question by looking up to the right. The primitive spots were put together. They showed everyday people looking up to Ike the good ordinary American.

The Democrats were furious and complained that the Republicans had, "invented a new kind of campaign--conceived not by men who want us to face the crucial issue of the day, but by the high-power hucksters of Madison Avenue." (George Ball, Democratic speech writer). Others complained that they were selling the president like they would toothpaste.

Although he was a natural speaker, Adelaide Stevenson refused to pay attention to the medium of television. He didn't watch TV. He appealed to the intellectuals and journalists. While Eisenhower obviously had no political experience, he appealed to the common man especially after the work of Rosser Reeves!

Fast forward to 2008 and another cool intellectual Democrat is vying for the White House against an old Republican war hero.

The new medium is no longer TV but the internet. Americans are involved in wars in Afganistan and Iraq and have lived on a diet of fear for 8 years. Would there be a Rosser Reeves who would come in to package a new president? Who would it be?

Obama was criticized by the Republicans for being a “community organizer.” Isn’t it funny that that simple concept of "community" could be at least partially responsible for his win.

There’s little doubt that America was in need of a hero. But wasn’t McCain a war hero? What happened?

Firstly, the Product Life Cycle for the Republican brand was on the down-down downward slope. So whoever was to win was going to have to offer change. The Obama brand started with a change message and ended with a change message. He established his consistent message and maintained it along with his calm-in-crisis demeanor. Obama talked about the all inclusive “we.”

McCain talked about “I” and flipped and flopped from message to message never once staying on a consistent identity or theme. He appeared erratic and his message and choice of Vice President certainly showed it. He had no one unique selling proposition (USP)

What Obama and his campaign realized was that the game had changed. Much like during Rosser Reeves’ time when television was the new medium, the internet and social networking in 2008 lay in wait of a good community organizer.

Yes there were the usual television messages on theme and focused on the issues at hand. But who better to market you than the very people within the group and on the group’s home turf.

The Obama campaign attached themselves to social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. The campaign money came from so many of the everyday people.

It was a “We the People” movement who mobilized their own many communities. People met on the internet and outside the internet. It was all about community. Community 2008 style- user generated!

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