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McCain's Two Biggest Marketing Problems

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

Senator_mccain No, no - come back.  I'm not going to bloviate on McCain's "marketing to women."  That'd be a whole book.  He's got far more fundamental problems than how to reach us young/old/right/left/white/brown/angry/happy/soccer mom/Wal-Mart shopper/rural/urban/educated/rich/poor/etc. femmes.  (Hmmm...there's a not-so-subtle point about target marketing in there...)

Putting aside my personal feelings, in reviewing Senator McCain's campaign challenges from a product marketing perspective, here are his two BIGGEST problems:    

1. McCain is Very Old News. No slam intended.  He's been running for president for what seems like forever.  Whatever juice the "Straight Talk Express" and his maverick positioning once had has long since dried up.  No "new news" there.  This is a classic problem with product marketing.  How do you keep your customers (and get new ones) when your product has been around for umpteen years?  This is what leads companies to stupid brand tricks such as KFC's logo you can see from space; BMW's incredibly brain-dead ad; New Coke, McDonald's "adult" menu; and so on. 

Desperation Marketing is not a pretty thing to watch.  (Point 1.5:  He's looking and sounding increasingly desperate. People don't like buying from pushy salespeople covered in flop sweat. And, true statesmen don't do petty sniping and snarking.)    

Obama, regardless of what you think of him - is very, very NEW and HOT news.  First African-American candidate; melting-pot heritage; coming from behind success story; beating what many thought was an unbeatable candidate for the nomination...and he looks good in sunglasses.  There's so much juice in his story and "brand" - the media has gone a little nuts. I actually felt sorry for McCain this week; there he was talking to three people in a little market while Obama was standing in front of 200,000 wildly cheering people in Berlin.  Not a good week to compare photo ops...

2. McCain is Pitching A Meatball Sundae. (Seth Godin: A meatball sundae is the unfortunate result of mixing two good ideas.)

On one hand, he's pitching those long years of experience in Washington; on the other, he's the right (and left and the middle) candidate for change in Washington.

Whipped cream and meat combos simply don't make sense - no matter how many PR cherries they throw on top.  


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Joy Levin

I agree that McCain has these challenges, but they can also be viewed as opportunities. Like any other brand undergoing a positioning strategy need, he needs to figure out what his target audience values and how he can deliver it in a a way that is convincing, compelling, and unique. I'm not sure that I see any evidence of him doing any of this right now, but you never know what's going on behind the campaign scenes.

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