Is John McCain A Marketing Genius?

by Marianne Richmond on September 8, 2008

Ad Age wants to know, “Was it marketing genius for John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate?” According to their poll as of Day 1 (the poll ends of Friday), 67% of Ad Age readers that responded said “yes” John McCain is a marketing genius.

Well, McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis,  told the Washington Post that the election is not about issues but about personalities…”a composite view of what people take away about the candidates.” So, to paraphrase James Carville, “it’s her {personality} stupid.”

As any Account Planner or marketing strategist worth their Venn diagram will tell you, if you can capture the essence of your marketing message within an “it’s” and a “stupid” you are on your way to genius. I frequently call upon the Carville/Clinton analogy when trying to make the it point….borrowed genius.

The most recent USA Today Gallup poll puts McCain at 54% to Obama’s 40% anong those most likely to vote. The latest CNN poll shows Obama at 44% and McCain at 43% but this is a 4 point gain for McCain.  Are these numbers support for the marketing genius award? Is this the Palin effect?

Who do you think of when you think “marketing genius”? Steve Jobs? Howard Schultz? A.G. Lafley? (I am reading The Game Changer…highly recommended.) That’s who comes to my mind. And what do they have in common? The words innovation, different, change are usually applied when describing their brand of genius.

So is the choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate a stroke of marketing genius?

Well, if no other reason than that the current unpopular President is a Republican, Obama owns change but of course that is just beginning; his race, his age and he has made it his own. OK, the Biden choice was a bit off message but maybe reassuring to some.

McCain, despite George Bush’s uncomfortable satellite reference to disagreements with McCain, “I Know”is not only a Republican but as Obama reminds us, has voted with Bush 90% of the time. ( Some disagree.) And then there is that annoying enthusiasm gap.

Enter Sarah Palin. Definitely unexpected. Definitely different. Definitely change. Definitely a “personality” move. But what is “it” exactly?

I think Peggy Noonan nailed it with, “She has the power of the normal. And that is change in American politics and especially this year with the leader of the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits the only choice to put a woman in the White House. If you believed that there should be a woman president but just didn’t like Hilary Clinton you might have felt disloyal, or at least conflicted.

So, yes, by making normal the new change, McCain is a marketing genius.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

How Insane Is John McCain? September 8, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Well, he certainly thinks we’re stupid.

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