Today, with just 495 days before the election, I'm announcing my run for President of the United States.
I'm well aware that electoral politics have been transformed by the collision of semi-modern marketing techniques with the money necessary to implement them. The TV-Industrial complex demands ever more partisan politics, more tribal division, more vote-suppressing vitriol. As we've turned raising money into a game similar to box office returns (where quantity appears to equal quality), candidates have almost no choice but to sell themselves to the highest bidder of the moment, again and again and again.
Once you see this, it's hard to miss, even though candidates and the media work to conceal it with big promises and lots of apparently retail politics.
Is it any wonder that voters are cynical? Marketers and marketing made us that way.
My candidacy, on the other hand, will be marked by stunning transparency:
- I'm not promising to get anything done, anything at all, so there is no chance you will be disappointed.
- I'm selling slots in my campaign to the highest bidder, Google style. Digitally organized bidding makes it easy for any corporation or mogul to determine what something will cost, and real-time auctions will maximize the return.
- I'll just keep the money, because TV ads merely coarsen our political discourse, almost never leading to a more informed electorate.
- Most of all, once elected I'll stick to talk shows and other feel-good interactions, which is what the public wants most from its President.
Marketing has changed, but someone forgot to tell the inside-the-beltway power brokers. Brands aren't built the way they used to be, but politicians insist on the impatient churn-and-burn mass market awareness that even Procter & Gamble is choosing to leave behind.
Consider this: In the 2016 election, the candidates for President will together spend more money on advertising than any single US brand. That's never been true before--and it's because marketers today know something that impatient, self-centered politicians don't. Money isn't enough.
The brand of the future (the candidate of the future) is patient, consistent, connected, and trusted. The new brand is based on the truth that only comes from experiencing the product, not just yelling about it. Word of mouth is more important (by a factor of 20) than TV advertising, and the remarkability word of mouth demands comes from what we experience, not from spin or taglines or a campaign slogan.
Movements have leaders, but mostly, they have a place to lead to. And their leader can't stop, won't stop, has no choice but stay connected, keep raising the bar, continue to cycle forward.
So no, of course I won't be running (but I was a candidate for six paragraphs).
If the history of politics catching up with commercial marketing is any guide, I think that we're about to see a fundamental shift in how we talk about our leaders (and they talk to us), and perhaps (we can hope), the media will respond in kind.
And in the meantime, your brand, your campaign, your project, will benefit from what's happening now, which is marketing, not advertising, which is connection, not interruption. We've moved past the long-lost Mad Men era. Don't do marketing the way they do.